May 18, 2014

Local parishioners celebrate recent canonization of St. Pope John Paul II



Story and photos by Julie Beaulieu

CHICOPEE – More than 500 worshipers from around the Diocese of Springfield gathered at the St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Basilica, here, the afternoon of May 18 to celebrate the canonization of St. Pope John Paul II on what would have been his 94th birthday.

One of two of the Catholic Church’s newest saints, he was canonized April 27.

Coventual Franciscan Father, Mieczyslaw Wit was the Mass presider. He was accompanied by a dozen concelebrants.

Coventual Franciscan Father James McCurry, minister provincial of the newly-formed Our Lady of the Angels Province, gave the 30-minute homily.

“The parish and Basilica of St. Stanislaus invited me to give the homily at the Mass and the talk at the banquet because they knew that I had met Pope John Paul II several times,” Father McCurry said. “We had private conversations. They thought it would connect the people with the new saint if they could hear from somebody who had known him and had spoken with him.”

In his homily, Father McCurry spoke about the pontiff, who was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland.

The Mass also consisted of songs and readings in English and Polish. The prayers of the faithful were offered in six languages, and the Mass also featured a performance by members of Springfield’s Immaculate Conception Parish Polish Language School who were dressed in historic Polish costumes. The congregation was also blessed with relics of St. Pope John Paul II.

“We had two relics on the altar,” said Father McCurry. “One was hairs from his head that had been saved by his barber. We consider them first class relics because they came from his living person. The other was the zucchetto, or, white skull cap, that he wore on his head as Pope, and that he gave to our friars in Rome.”

Father McCurry was also amazed at the turn out for the service. “A brilliant turn-out,” he said, “an extraordinary number.”

“I think that many of the people who would’ve loved to go to Rome for the canonization, and couldn’t travel across the sea, came here to St. Stanislaus today,” he said.

John Krzeminski, a St. Stanislaus parishioner, was host and master of ceremonies at the banquet, which followed the Mass at the parish center.

“There was a committee formed of parish members who worked very hard to bring all of this together,” Krzeminski said. “It was a labor of love because they are so happy that the Pope (John Paul II) had been beatified and then named a saint.”

“This parish is a basilica, and it was named a basilica (minor) by Pope John Paul II, so there’s a natural affinity there. He was the first Polish pope. There are a lot of people of Polish heritage at this parish,” added Krzeminski.

About 300 people attended the dinner, which included a performance by the San Damiano Youth Group.

For a video version of this story, tune in to an upcoming edition  of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.