U.S. Church Groups Plan for John Paul II's Beatification

Celebrations in America to celebrate the occasion.

DENVER — Since many cannot attend the beatification of John Paul II in Rome, tributes around the country are planned to help everyone commemorate and celebrate the beloved Holy Father.

Some events are focused on the beatification day of May 1, while others begin during the week leading up to the event. Here is a sampling of what’s going on:

On the day of May 1 itself, the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., holds its annual Divine Mercy celebration. Up to 20,000 people are expected to attend this celebration, as usual. According to the shrine’s events office, to coincide with the beatification, the shrine will hand out prayer cards for his canonization cause.

In the morning, highlights of the beatification will be broadcast on a large screen outdoors, and the Polish Cultural Foundation from Boston will be on hand with a photographic display. Some personal items from John Paul II will also be on display, including his zucchetto.

The Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Conn., is holding a special exhibit entitled “Blessed: A Tribute to John Paul II.” It runs through June 30 and features some of John Paul’s personal effects, plus mementos of his apostolic trips to North America.

“We have some magnificent artifacts, including his cassocks, red cape and red shoes, and his miter and crosier,” museum director Larry Sowinski said. Also on display are gifts given to the Pope and paintings by Italian artist Francesco Guadagnuolo. In these paintings, which were exhibited at the Vatican as part of a 2010 symposium by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, the artist captured the Pope in the last years of his pontificate to show his hope-filled witness during his infirmities.

In Bloomingdale, Ohio — in response to John Paul II once saying, “I want to go to everybody. … I want to cross the threshold of every home” — the Apostolate for Family Consecration is offering free, upon request, DVDs entitled Musical Tribute to John Paul II as its remembrance of his legacy of hope. The DVD highlights his papacy through photographs and footage. Along with it comes a bonus booklet or CD on Reparation and the Dual Dimension of Pope John Paul II’s Consecration. It’s the apostolate’s free gift to anyone for the asking. (See Familyland.org)

The Archdiocese of Denver will remember John Paul II in a special way also. The Holy Father inspired tens of thousands of young people who saw and heard him there during World Youth Day in 1993.

Tracy Murphy, archdiocesan associate director of communications, explained that there will be a special tribute to the late Pope at Archbishop Charles Chaput’s regular 6:30pm Sunday liturgy in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. A 24-inch by 36-inch photo of John Paul II taken during the week of World Youth Day by the archdiocese’s own photographer James Baca will be on display. The photograph captures John Paul, eyes closed in prayer, leaning against his crucifix-topped crosier.

The archdiocese’s Archives Office has a tribute to John Paul II already on display outside the Cardinal Stafford Library of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. The photos and mementos recall his visit to Denver for World Youth Day.

“We have his gold vestment and his silver chalice with papal crest he used at Mass at World Youth Day,” noted archivist Karyl Klein. Among other items are “the unique items of a set of towels and blanket with the papal crest brought with him. We have a signed missal he gave to one of our priests who helped out and commemorative things from over the years, like coins and medals with his likeness.”

In the Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., Pope John Paul II Catholic Church in Pagosa Springs was dedicated in 2009. Bishop Emeritus Arthur Tafoya suggested the patronal name, according to current pastor Father Carlos Alvarez. (The church is in the process of getting special Vatican permission for the name.)

John Paul II Church, which is part of a single parish with its historic mother church, Church of Immaculate Heart of Mary, will commemorate the late Holy Father with a Mass on May 21, to be celebrated by current Pueblo Bishop Fernando Isern. Sure to be there are the church’s current Polish parishioners who were confirmed by John Paul when he was archbishop of Krakow.

With more than 50 churches in the Archdiocese of Chicago celebrating Polish Masses weekly or having large number of Polish parishioners, there are local tributes galore. At least nine churches and shrines will have tributes, some lasting more than one day.

Dianne Dunagan of the archdiocese’s Department of Communications points out three major ones.

On April 27, Holy Name Cathedral will have a prayer service with a Polish choir singing all the favorite songs of John Paul II. According to Dunagan, Cardinal Francis George will be present for this service and tribute.

Chicago’s St. Hyacinth Basilica, with its huge Polish population, will celebrate with Masses each evening at 7pm April 26 through April 29.

The homilies at each Mass will be recorded homilies of John Paul II, notes St. Hyacinth’s pastor, Father Michael Osuch of the Congregation of the Resurrection. Each evening after Mass, videos of John Paul’s pilgrimages to Poland are to be shown.

On April 30, the tribute lasts all night. After the 7pm Mass, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will give a concert in memory of JPII; the Paderewski Symphony Orchestra will present the music John Paul listened to and sang.

There will be all-night adoration for the parish. The basilica’s different prayer groups will each be present for an hour of adoration.

“Then we plan on showing the beatification ceremony live on giant screens,” Father Osuch said. “On Sunday after each Mass we will go in procession to the big monument of John Paul II by our church and finish with prayer.” The huge statue depicts him in his miter, holding his crosier, and standing near a shield bearing the inscription “Totus Tuus.”

Also in Chicago, the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, with 4,000 Poles coming every weekend, will also have an all-night Saturday vigil. The celebrations actually begin on Thursday and Friday with “Two Evenings With the Pope.”

According to Jesuit Father Stanislaw Czarnecki, the pastor, the shrine will view a film about John Paul after Thursday’s 7pm Mass and follow it with a discussion. After the Friday evening Mass, the program for the evening features recitations of poetry dedicated to JPII plus the Holy Father’s own poetry.

The pastor added, “There will be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, John Paul II’s recorded Rosary — so people will pray the Rosary together with him — and then one hour of youth singing songs that JPII loved, like ‘Black Madonna.’”

The shrine will again celebrate the Mass at 1am before showing the live transmission of the beatification from the Vatican.

“And because this will be Mercy Sunday,” reminded Father Czarnecki, “we will finish with one hour of prayer and the Koronka [Chaplet] of Divine Mercy.”

Surely, that will have John Paul II smiling his trademark broad smile from heaven.

Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.