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Memories of new saints

Posted By April 28, 2014 | 12:00 pm | Featured Article #2
McManus Pope2WEB

One expects that bishops would have contact with a sitting pope. This week our
bishops tell stories of their memorable encounters with the men who are being named saints this Sunday. But the well-traveled Pope John Paul II, who is said to have preached to more people than anyone else on earth, also was very accessible to lay people. Some from our diocese tell their stories today and others will continue with more stories next week after the canonizations of our modern-day popes.

Encounter with a saint

reilly pope 0039WEBThe last time Bishop Reilly saw Pope John Paul II was in November 2004, a few months before the ailing pontiff died. Bishop Reilly had celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for a pilgrimage he was leading. Pope John Paul II was brought into the sanctuary on a carriage for the weekly audience. He had a paper with what he wanted to say, but was unable to read it aloud, Bishop Reilly said. “He gave a blessing at the end.” The encounters of others continue on Page 8.

Pope blesses fabric used for baptismal robes

By Florence Kuzdzal
Past president,
Pope John Paul II
Foundation of New England

05-02 florenceWEB    It was some 15 years ago that I made my first pilgrimage to Rome as president of the Pope John Paul II Foundation of New England.
During this trip I was privileged to have a personal audience with His Holiness. I carried with me a Christening outfit that I had designed and made for my granddaughter, as well as fabric — imported laces and netting to be used for future christening outfits and first Communion veils.
I walked up to His Holiness and knelt at his feet my heart was pounding rapidly and my words were slow in coming. The Pope took the outfit and tenderly laid it in his lap. His eyes were like stars that could reach into my very soul. I heard his voice so soft words that were meant for me alone. I gazed into a face full of unconditional love.
I asked for his blessings on this outfit and the child who would wear it when she was presented to almighty God in baptism. I asked for blessings for my family and friends.
There were no words to express the innermost feelings I had as I walked away. For this precious moment Pope John Paul II belonged to me alone and I would never be the same.
Years have gone by and many of my life’s events have faded from my memory, but the events of that day, the day when I knelt at his feet, remain vivid in my mind and I can recall every detail.
Every time I take a piece of the blessed fabric to create another christening outfit, his words echo in my mind. “Be not afraid”  and I share these thoughts with you today to honor his elevation to sainthood.


To face each new day — it is loaded with opportunities.
To be yourself — no one else is qualified for the job.
To take the time to pray — God is always listening.
To accept any pain and suffering — they are God’s tools to purify your soul.
To forgive your enemies.
To believe in yourself — you are one of a kind.
To make an honest commitment and keep it.
To fall in love — one of life’s greatest emotions.
To protect the unborn child within you — God is your partner.
To bring forth that new life, the hope for the future.
To teach the young ones in your care good moral values and guide them away from life’s evil ways.
To work hard to set women free from exploitation and domination.
To take a risk — it will strengthen your character.
When events become overwhelming — to say a prayer.
Get out of the way and let God take over.
To offer comfort to the grieving, the lonely and the frightened — words are not important.
To live your faith by example.
To defend your faith, your country and your ideals.
To stand up for your principles and take a stand against evil.
To unburden your soul with a good confession — there is no sin beyond forgiveness.
To grow mentally and spiritually.
To fail — failure is not fatal.
To accept the call to a vocation — you are one chosen to lead others to salvation.
To use your talents to the fullest —you alone possess these gifts.
To share your time, talents and treasure in proportion to what you have received from God’s bounty.
To embrace death with dignity — it is not the end but rather the beginning of your eternal life.
To use our newest saint, Pope John Paul II to intercede for our needs.
Even if all our physical hunger would be satisfied there lies the deepest hunger in our souls — that of salvation.

Doctor honored to repay his gift with a service

05-02 dr addanteJohn Paul ii  WEBBy Tanya Connor

Both doctors had to “earn” their gifts. And that involved Pope John Paul II – up close. Dr. Joseph Addante, of St. Anthony Parish in Fitchburg, tells it like this.
With an uncle who was a Franciscan, “I always had a leaning toward the Church,” he said. “I used to shine all the priests’ shoes.”
He continued his “footwork” as an adult – as a podiatrist.
“In 1997 I lost two sons – within 10 weeks,” Dr. Addante said. His 38-year-old fell and hemorrhaged; his 42-year-old had a heart attack.
A friend who headed the school of podiatry at Sapienza University in Rome tried to console him by inviting him to teach there, he said. Having grown up in an Italian family in Fitchburg, Dr. Addante had been the interpreter when his friend came here for podiatry meetings. He accepted the invitation, spending a month in Italy three times a year. Sometimes his wife, Alice, joined him.
One day, after operating on a woman, Dr. Addante blessed her.
“You gave her the bishop’s blessing,” remarked her husband. He should know; he was a doctor at the Vatican.
“If I don’t see the pope, she’s not going to get better,” Dr. Addante said of how he jokingly “threatened” his patient upon learning of her husband’s position.
“He sent his driver, got me into the Vatican on St. Joseph’s Day at the audience” – March 19, 2003 – the podiatrist said. “I was right up with the cardinals, right at the major platform where the pope sits. … It was a thrilling day.”
Afterwards, he got to meet Pope John Paul II.
What did they say to each other?
“Not much, just a blessing and ‘You’re named after a great saint,’” Dr. Addante said.
“A few weeks later this doctor came with his sister-in-law,” to have him operate on her, he said.
“He called me later: ‘You have to earn what I gave you; His Holiness wants his nails cut,’” Dr. Addante said.
He said the doctor’s driver picked him up and took him – somewhere. There were enough corridors and stairs that by the time he got there, he wasn’t sure exactly where he was. Security wanted it that way, he figured. He didn’t know until he arrived that it was the pope whose nails he was to cut, he said.
“How do you think a man feels when he faces the pope?” he asked. He said John Paul II said something like, “I know you’re a good surgeon, and I hope this is not below you.”
It was a very quiet event, Dr. Addante said; “I did what I had to do and I got out.”
What does he think about Pope John Paul II being canonized with Pope John XXIII?
“I think these guys are very deserving of canonization,” he said. “They’re both popes of the people. We haven’t had that in a long time. We’re back to that.”

Student knew Pope was more than just a religious leader

By Tanya Connor

It was an honor for Lisa Villa, now a lector and commentator at Sacred Heart-St. Catherine of Sweden Parish in Worcester, to sing for the pope. Especially this pope.
“I went to St. Mary’s, which is a Polish school,” she said of the elementary school in Worcester where, as a student, she experienced the excitement when Pope John Paul II was elected. “When he was made pope, it was a huge deal. I think I knew as soon as he was elected pope how important he was. …
“And then as I got older and knew how he felt about life issues … Even in high school (St. Mary’s again) I was very concerned about abortion. He was all about life, against the culture of death.”
“I think we just knew he was not just a religious leader; he was a world leader,” she said. “I was very aware how special he was on so many levels.”
In 1989, as the Cold War was ending, thanks in part to Pope John Paul II, she was a student at the College of the Holy Cross. A friend invited her to join the choir’s concert tour to Italy, which included singing before the pope.
“When he first entered the auditorium he walked down the aisle,” she said. “Everyone was reaching out to touch him. He reached out and touched people back. You could just feel there was so much energy.”
When he had his photo taken with their group she was close enough to touch him, but she didn’t – out of respect. That respect went beyond the moment. She later named her youngest daughter, Caroline, now 9, after him.
Mrs. Villa said she thought they always knew Pope John Paul II would be canonized someday. Still, she said, “It’s amazing somebody from my time is being made a saint – in my time.”

Received cross

By Tanya Connor

“When we were growing up, you never dreamt you would meet a pope personally,” Bishop McManus said, reflecting on Pope John Paul II’s upcoming canonization. “Not only a pope, but a saint. And the privilege of being named a bishop by a pope who’s become a saint.”
Every time he was in Pope John Paul II’s presence, he would leave lifted up, he said. And it wasn’t just him.
He recalled going to Rome with a classmate and his classmate’s sister in the 1990s. Her husband had died and she was grieving deeply.
After Mass at Castel Gandolfo, they greeted Pope John Paul II.    “Where is your husband?” he asked the widow. Upon learning of his death, he said, “I will say Mass for your husband tomorrow morning.”
“It completely changed her whole temperament,” Bishop McManus said. “It was like a spiritual healing she received.”
He shared some of his own reactions to the beloved pope.
“The first time I ever laid eyes on John Paul II was October 1979,” he said. “I was just a year ordained.”
It was the new pope’s first visit to the United States, and priests of the Diocese of Providence were invited to join him at a prayer service for priests at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston or Mass on the Boston Common. The diocese was taking a train.
“We chose to go to the cathedral,” Bishop McManus said of himself, classmates and others. “We were lined up outside the cathedral. The place was jam-packed.”
The rector said the FBI had forbidden them to try to touch the pope.
The procession – with the pope in it – began.
“The place went wild!” Bishop McManus said. “We were standing on the pews.” He said he was amazed at himself – he was standing on the pews too.
“He’s grabbing everybody’s hands,” he said of the pope greeting those nearest the aisle. (He wasn’t one of them.)     “At that point they (the FBI) had lost all control.”
Bishop McManus said his mother was in Providence in a store’s television department and saw him on a broadcast John Chancellor was doing of the service.
“I’m going to stop speaking now so you can hear the priests’ response to the pope,” he told viewers, and afterwards was choked up, unable to speak, Bishop McManus said.
After the service, Bishop McManus said, he and other priests dashed through the rain to a restaurant. Upon boarding the train later, “We were all very … dry,” he said. Those who participated in the Mass were soaked.
The pope’s take on it?
“I love Boston, even in the rain.”
Bishop McManus saw more of John Paul II after that.
“I remember being so moved by the piety and the devotion with which he celebrated Mass,” he said of his days as a priest  studying in Rome in the 1980s.
For major papal Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica, requests for volunteers to distribute Communion were extended to priests.
“When we were Communion priests we would be given a ciborium and we would gather around the altar,” quite close to the pope, he said. “His deep interior prayer life – it was obvious. He was deeply recollected when he was celebrating Mass.”
In the 1990s he celebrated Mass with the pope in his private chapel in the Vatican two or three times, he said.
In 1998, Bishop McManus was appointed auxiliary bishop of Providence. Pope John Paul II was to ordain him and other bishops in January 1999, but his father was too sick to travel to Rome, he said. The papal nuncio said he’d better explain why he couldn’t accept the pope’s invitation.
In Rome, he celebrated Mass with Pope John Paul II, the only bishop-designate at that Mass. At the end he was told to come to the altar to give the blessing with the pope.
“It was an extraordinary moment,” Bishop McManus said.
Those present were invited to receive a rosary from the pope.
“I’m going to be ordaining you very soon,” the pope told Bishop McManus.
“No, Holy Father,” replied the latter, explaining that his father couldn’t come.
“You stay with your parents,” John Paul II said.
“He started hitting me in the chest: ‘Where is your cross?’” Bishop McManus continued.
“I don’t have one,” he replied. He said a bishop-designate would get the cross he would wear as a bishop from his own bishop, or someone else would give it to him as a gift. He hadn’t yet received one. So Pope John Paul II got one of the boxes with crosses given to bishops coming for their “ad limina” visits.
“He took the cross out and put it around my neck,” Bishop McManus said. “He slapped me in the face. ‘Be a good bishop.’”
Bishop McManus said he stood there in a fog as the pope greeted the others, then “he shakes his cane at me: ‘Coraggio!’” (Courage)
He later met John Paul II on “ad limina” visits from the Providence and Worcester dioceses. And he said World Youth Day with him in Toronto in 2002 was an “extraordinary experience.”
“There were a million young people on the field,” he said. “He presided at the prayer vigil.” The youth carried candles.
“You are the light of the world,” the pope told them. “Leave this place and set the world on fire with the love of Christ.”
“We bishops left the field,” Bishop McManus continued. “The kids slept in the field and it poured all night long.”
It was still raining the next day. Even under the canopy, vestments got soaked. Cardboard miters fared especially poorly. The pope’s vestments were blowing in the wind. As thunder sounded and lightning flashed, Bishop McManus said, he was sure someone would get killed. But, he said, “When the deacon got up to proclaim the Gospel, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.”
“So,” he said, “there are some great, fantastic memories” of time spent with Pope John Paul II.
And more than memories. The bishop recalled Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore telling stories of the late pope.
“I said to myself, ‘We’re dealing with a saint here, no doubt about it,’” Bishop McManus thought. But it wasn’t the first time he felt that; he’d already seen it in how Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass.

Baked brownies

Sister Gemma and Pope John Paul II

Sister Gemma and Pope John Paul II

Sister Gemma DeBaggis of the Little Sisters of the Assumption and Pernet Family Health Service who now lives at St. Anne’s Convent, Marlboro recounts attending Mass at Castel Gandolfo on August 15, 1982 with a group of sisters who had been invited to attend. The Sisters brought a gift for the Pope and it was a basket of baked goods made by the sisters.  She herself was asked by the Italian nuns to bake brownies for the basket because the Italians had never had American brownies before. So her American brownies lay at the heart of this gourmet basket of goodies. Sister spoke with John Paul, shook hands with him and they spoke together about her hometown of in Philadelphia.
The Rev. Dr. Paul Kennedy is the retired pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester. He was in Rome about 15 years ago and he and his wife went to the Vatican for an audience. Pope John Paul II was coming down an aisle and was reaching out to the throngs on both sides of the aisle. Rev. Kennedy says that when he was close enough he reached out and the Pope in turn reached out to him.
“It was a thrill of my life,” said the pastor, “one of the highlights, actually.”
The Pope was in good health then. “And so we shook hands and made the contact. And it stays with me still.”

Sang for pope

By Tanya Connor

She held a saint’s hand – and he helped make her the person she is today.
web-CathyThat’s the claim made by Cathleen Grant, a choir member, religious education teacher, Ladies’ Guild secretary and all-round active member of Sacred Heart-St. Catherine of Sweden Parish in Worcester.
“In May of 1997 I toured Italy with the Worcester State College Chorale,” she say, The chorale was made up of students and alumni. She had joined while a student  and continued singing with the group afterwards. “We got to sing in St. Peter’s Square at the Wednesday audience” for Pope John Paul II and the crowd. They sang the Biebl “Ave Maria” and “Shenandoah,” she said.
A news article from the time says Joseph Hagan, then president of Assumption College and a Gentleman-in-Waiting to Pope John Paul II, helped arrange for them to sing for the pope.
“We had wanted to meet the pope, but we could not get permission,” she says. “After we sang, our tour guide approached the pope’s security and asked permission for us to meet the pope. Permission was granted.
“The pope came over and greeted a couple people in the chorale.” A Worcester State student named Kinga Slovinska spoke to him in Polish.
“And then he took my hand,” recalls Ms. Grant. She was the only one in the group he did that to, she says. In English, he asked her how the weather was, how the group liked Italy so far and where else they were going.
“I think I was in a state of shock,” she says. “I answered him and then he turned and had his picture taken with the chorale. And that’s the picture I have.
“After he moved away I was very emotional. I kept staring at my hand. I just kept thinking, ‘I just held hands with the pope!’”
The following fall, her friend Karen Tweedly made her a scrapbook of her 50th birthday, Ms. Grant says. In it was a copy of the photo of Pope John Paul II holding her hand. Her friend wrote, “Remember who guides you.”
“I don’t know if either one of us knew how true and prophetic that was,” Ms. Grant says now. “It took awhile for me to turn my life around, but, boy, he does lead my life.”
She says she noticed an aura about him when he first came around in the popemobile: “How powerful! What a presence we were in.”
She also noticed how frail he seemed; he wasn’t able to stand totally straight and his hand trembled the whole time he held hers, she says.
How does she feel about his canonization?
“I’ve been thinking about that – the fact that I touched a saint,” she says. “He is part of the reason I am who I am today.”
She says her life started to become clearer after she made her Cursillo weekend – because of Cursillo, because of a Steubenville East high school youth conference she helped chaperone and because of the man now known to the world as Saint John Paul II.