Blessed John Paul II Parish in Lake View will observe a rare occasion April 27, when its patron is canonized. In honor of the much-loved pope, the parish will celebrate with prayer, music and fireworks.
The three-day festival begins Friday, April 25, with a concert by the Canisius College Chorale at 7:30 p.m. The concert is open to all, but tickets are required. A fireworks display will follow.
"That really is meant to kick off the celebration for the whole weekend," said Father Peter J. Karalus, pastor. "John Paul, himself, was a man devoted to the arts, so we wanted to do something that reflected his passion for the arts. He was a playwright. He was on the stage as an actor before becoming a priest. The Church is still, and should be a patron of the arts."
On Saturday, April 26, at 7 p.m., a World Youth Day reunion and vigil prayer will be held in conjunction with the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. This will unite those who have participated in the international Catholic gatherings started by John Paul.
"We wanted that to be something that was more for the entire diocese and focusing on John Paul, the founder of World Youth Day, focusing on this New Evangelization," Father Karalus said. "We've had people in our diocese go to World Youth Day going back to Denver in 1993. Those people are no longer teenagers. They're young adults. Maybe they're raising families already. We want it to be an opportunity for all the people who have gone to World Youth Days that are now young adults, maybe to rekindle the passion, rekindle the flame of faith that they experienced at those events."
At the gathering there will be reflection on John Paul's message and witness talks from pilgrims. Boy Scouts will host a bonfire with hot dogs and refreshments.
On Canonization Day, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, the parish will host a special Mass of celebration at noon. During the Mass, five specially commissioned wood reliefs of historic moments in John Paul's papacy, installed in the sanctuary, will be blessed and dedicated. Father Karalus hopes to read a copy of the proclamation declaring John Paul a saint. Parishioners will do readings in Polish to give the flavor of John Paul, but not distract from Mass.
"We want Mass to focus on the Eucharist, John Paul's passion and love for the Eucharist," Father Karalus said. "We didn't want to take the emphasis off of that."
A parish reception will follow.
What makes Blessed John Paul II's canonization exceptional is the speed at which it happened. Immediately after his death, faithful followers held up signs begging that he made a saint now. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI waived the standard five-year waiting period. St. Anthony of Padua was canonized just a year after his 1231 death, but John Paul holds the record for fastest canonization is the modern era, earning the title of saint just nine years after passing. The previous record holder was St. Teresa of Lisieux, canonized 28 years after her death.
"There's still this living memory of (John Paul) being with us, and now he's being canonized. This is a unique moment in Church history that so many people have a living memory of, someone becoming a saint," said Father Karalus.
The former Karol Wojtyla served as successor to St. Peter for 27 years, the second-longest reign of any pope. He became a major figure in late 20th-century politics and culture, supporting Poland's Solidarity movement.
"For so much of my life John Paul was the only pope we knew," said Father Karalus. "He was elected in 1978, so I was 9 when he was elected. And I was ordained a priest for (nearly) a decade (before) he died. So, for me personally, my faith was under John Paul. Like the people who went to World Youth Day, so much of it, John Paul was the only pope that we knew. I have a vague memory of Paul VI when he passed away. I have a vague memory of John Paul I because we were off from school. I think I am an example of what some people call the John Paul II generation because our faith, our experience of the Church, and the stability; because he was pope for so long he was the image of the Church for us. So much of that formative part of our lives as children, as teenagers, as young adults, for my generation, was John Paul. He was not only pope, but he was our spiritual father and became our spiritual grandfather as he aged. We grew and developed under his inspiration."
Rose Magyar, canonization celebration committee chairperson, has traveled to Poland for a pilgrimage and saw the love that country had for John Paul II.
"It was amazing to see that," she said. "They wanted us to know that. They wanted us to know the history of what they had been through."
The parish has already begun the process of changing its name to St. John Paul II. A new sign and letterhead has been ordered, and a commemorative coin has been minted for the students of Southtowns Catholic School, the First Communion class and confirmation class.
"Everyone wants one," said Father Karalus. "We wanted to do something for our schoolchildren who are here every day. They're a vital part of the community. They're at Mass every Friday. To give them something that maybe the second-graders or the first-graders will not remember, but in years to come they will have a commemorative coin remembering that they were part of it."
For more information or to order concert tickets call 716-627-2910.