Archdiocese mourns for pope
|Jennifer Supancheck of St. Anthony Parish in Omaha and her mother, Joan, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Omaha, offer their prayers during a prayer service at St. Cecilia Cathedral April 3.|
Photo by Lisa Schulte
|Archbishop Curtiss visits with Pope John Paul II in Rome on Thanksgiving morning in 2004. The archbishop said it was a privilege to have spent so much time with the pope over the last 26 years.|
Photo by L'Osservatore Romano
By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice
As news of Pope John Paul II's death spread earlier this month, an outpouring of grief and respect for the 84-year-old pontiff was seen throughout the world, including the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Church bells tolled and black drapes were hung above the entrance doors April 2 as mourners began to quietly file into churches across Northeast Nebraska, lighting candles and offering prayers.
At St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, nearly 700 people attended a prayer service with Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss April 3, and close to 1,000 came the next evening to celebrate the life of John Paul II at a Memorial Mass with the archbishop.
"His life example, his witness, everything he did showed us how to live and in the end, how to truly suffer and truly die," said Jennifer Supancheck, a parishioner at St. Anthony Church in Omaha, who attended both cathedral services. "He left us with a wonderful legacy of teachings and writings, apostolic letters and encyclicals and now he'll be able to help answer all of our prayers. He's truly one with us."
Parishes and schools honor pope
Parishes and Catholic schools across the archdiocese honored the pope with special Masses and classroom activities that highlighted the pontiff's contribution to the church and the world. Many had shrines of Pope John Paul II displayed for personal prayer.
Pupils at St. Boniface School in Stuart prayed a special rosary for the pope, while pupils at St. Michael School in South Sioux City created bulletin boards with news clippings from the coverage of the pope's death. At a special Mass at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, students participated in a candle-lighting ceremony and heard excerpts from the pope's messages to youth at various World Youth Days.
"He was a pope for the people," said Elaine Peczosa, a Polish parishioner at St. Lawrence Church in Silver Creek.
The pope was always there when people needed him, she said.
Archbishop's memories of pontiff
In an interview with The Catholic Voice, Archbishop Curtiss shared his memories of John Paul II.
One of his most proud moments was when the late pope met his mother and kissed her on the forehead.
"He spoke to my mother in Slovak and my mother just beamed," he said. "He lost his mother when he was very young and my little Slovanian mother touched him, too. He told me that my mother reminded him of his own."
Archbishop Curtiss met Pope John Paul II many times as bishop, archbishop and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Each time the pope spoke to him in English.
"He was very special to me," the archbishop said. "I knew that he was a saint and I thought when he died, what a privilege it was for me to have been able to spend time with him and to have known him in this personal way. It's a great gift."
Father Michael Gutgsell, moderator of the curia for the archdiocese, said the pope gave a face to the universal call to holiness.
"One of the unique contributions of the Second Vatican Council to the ordinary Catholic in the world was the universal call to holiness in the document on the church, 'Lumen Gentium,'" he said. "Pope John Paul had that contribution placed before the world in the repeated number of beatified persons and canonized persons, many of whom were ordinary believers in the world."
It was the pope's ability to touch so many lives that Father Greg Baxter, chancellor of the archdiocese, said he will remember most about Pope John Paul II.
"I've been amazed at the outpouring of affection for the Holy Father from people throughout the world, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The affection shown for him at the funeral Mass was an indication of the impact he has had on individual lives, as well as on the lives of nations and all peoples," Father Baxter said.
"He's going to have a profound affect on the church for decades and decades to come and his legacy is going to be unfolding in front of us," he said. "He's been a blessing to the church for 26 years and I thank God for the gift of John Paul to me personally, and to the life of the church and to the world."
Deacon Tom Valasek, past president of the Deacon Council, expressed appreciation for the pope's support of the diaconate community.
"He carried out the wishes of Vatican II in assisting with the development and continuing growth of the diaconate throughout the world."
Sadness and joy
Sister Jackie Thorn, OSM, director of the Consecrated Life Office for the archdiocese, had feelings of both sadness and joy at the loss "of such a great man."
"He was really a wonderful figure speaking out for the good of all human beings," she said. "It's a loss, but I'm sure he's in God's arms right now."
John Paul was not a man of one idea, said Father John Schlegel, SJ, president of Creighton University in Omaha. While embracing the whole dogmatic heritage of his church, he also embraced the issues of the modern world and in that he was theologian and diplomat, teacher and student, actor and audience, he said.
"John Paul had a tremendous heart, a great love of church, country and people, especially the youth of the world," Father Schlegel said. "This great love expressed in his 'culture of life' was manifested in his message of freedom, mercy, justice and peace, which he preached as universal pastor circumnavigating the world."
In an e-mail sent to The Catholic Voice from Omaha seminarian Andy Roza, who is studying at the North American College in Rome, Roza said he felt blessed to be in the Holy City during this historical event.
"Being in Rome for his passing has been an incredibly profound experience," he wrote. "I knew that people had great love for this pope, but seeing the mourning, the sobriety and prayerfulness of so many people has helped me to see better just how deeply this pope touched people, including even myself."
Roza wrote of John Paul II's influence on his vocation as a seminarian.
"John Paul II has been like a father in the faith to me and to so many of my brothers here in the seminary. Seeing his fidelity to the ministry God chose to give him, even through seemingly overwhelming obstacles, has been a constant inspiration to me in my studies."