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St. John Paul II parishioners see patron made a saint

Posted By June 19, 2014 | 1:34 pm | Lead Story #2

By Tanya Connor

The pastor and pilgrims from St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge had St. Peter’s Basilica all to themselves after getting stuck in crowds for their patron’s canonization.
Despite pushy people, the April 27 canonization Mass in Rome was a Pentecost-like experience. And because the 17-member Southbridge contingent was kept back from a Mass the next day, they got to celebrate their own, complete with blessings for each.     Father Peter J. Joyce, the pastor, tells this story of their pilgrimage to the canonization of SS. John Paul II and John XXIII.
Both saints are significant for pastor and parishioners. While St. John Paul II is the parish’s patron, St. John XXIII is patron of a movement, for which Father Joyce is national spiritual advisor, which has a group in the parish. The movement came to the Worcester Diocese in 2007 through Father Joyce’s parish, then St. Mary’s in Southbridge, which merged with other parishes to form what is now St. John Paul II Parish.
Among those attending that canonization were many of Pope John Paul II’s countrymen. Father Joyce said their tour guide told them 1,700 chartered buses from Poland had been licensed to drive in Rome. There were also five chartered trains from Poland, and a cruise ship that sailed from Barcelona with Poles who’d settled there, he said.
Father Joyce said their group arrived at the road leading to St. Peter’s Square at 4 a.m. April 27, but could not get to the Square because of the crowds.
As they waited for Mass, a priest near them started the rosary in Portuguese and people answered in Polish, he said.
“We couldn’t talk about the weather,” he said. “We couldn’t talk about our families. … What united us was the ability to say the same prayers in our native tongue.”
At 10 a.m. that Divine Mercy Sunday, the Vatican broadcast  the Divine Mercy chaplet in five languages, along with pictures of the popes about to be canonized, on a jumbotron, or large screen, Father Joyce said.
When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI appeared the crowd cheered, as it did even more loudly when Pope Francis appeared, and again when he canonized his predecessors, Father Joyce said.
Later one of his parishioners looked at him as if to say, “I just had Communion at Pope Francis’ Mass,” he said. “She started to sob, because it was so overwhelmingly beautiful.”
Not everything was beautiful, though. At one point, nun in a habit started pushing, trying to get through the crowd, said Father Joyce, who was wearing his clerical collar.
“I said to her in Italian, ‘Sister, please don’t push,’” he said. She said in Spanish that she didn’t understand, so he repeated his request in Spanish. She said in Portuguese that she didn’t understand, so he tried again – in Portuguese. She finally admitted she had understood.
“Sister, just be patient – you’ve just come from Mass,” he said. He said she didn’t appreciate being challenged. But she stopped pushing.
At one point, overwhelmed by crowds, Father Joyce said, he wondered if it was stupid to have attempted this trip. He noted that he was not in the comfort of his living room, but he saw flags from all over the world.
“It gave me a unique experience of how Catholic our faith is,” he said. “Even when we couldn’t talk to each other, we are still at home in the Mass. Our faith in Jesus and this sacrament is a truly amazing bond.” At the sign of peace pilgrims each greeted others in their own languages, he said.
“What comes to my mind now is Pentecost,” Father Joyce said. “Everybody knew what everybody was saying.”
And he heard only what he was saying at one point the next day.
The Vatican’s traditional Mass of Thanksgiving the day after the canonization was scheduled for 10 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, he said. He and his parishioners were planning to attend an 8 o’clock private Mass that another group with their travel agency had arranged to hold in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica that morning. But they were late, because security held them back.
Their tour guide saw to it that they were compensated.
“She got permission for me to be able to say our own Mass as a private group” at any altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, he said. They chose one in the upper basilica where they had some privacy.
The basilica was to be closed at 9 a.m. in preparation for the 10 a.m. Mass in the Square, but security told the guide Father Joyce could take the time he needed.
During their Mass, he heard the guards telling other people visiting the basilica to leave, as it was being closed, he said.
“And then I hear the doors of the basilica shut, and then the only other sound in the basilica was my voice saying Mass,” he said.
A couple in the group had asked to renew their wedding vows, Father Joyce said. Since they weren’t being rushed out, he had all four couples in the group renew their vows, and he and the other pilgrims extended their hands in blessing over those on the pilgrimage without their spouse, over the widows, a celibate layman, parish seminarian Carlos Ruiz, and Sister Gloria Corriveau, a retired Sister of St. Joseph who was once principal of Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School in Uxbridge.
“At the end Carlos said, ‘We blessed everybody, but we didn’t bless our pastor,’” Father Joyce said. So the seminarian led a prayer for him.

Attending canonization a ‘double blessing’

By Tanya Connor

Two local members of a movement named for a new saint got to practice their faith at his canonization. But not always in ways they would have liked.
Magdalena Soto and Alejin Del Valle were the Worcester Diocesan representatives of the “John XXIII Movement of Parish Retreats” at the canonization of SS. John XXIII and John Paul II.
Ms. Soto, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Worcester, is treasurer and choir director for the movement in the Diocese. Mrs. Del Valle, a member of St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge, is the movement’s diocesan secretary. It was her husband and a fellow-parishioner who brought the movement to the Diocese in 2007.
The women said they joined 29 other movement representatives from four other dioceses in the United States and Puerto Rico to go to the canonization in Rome in April.
There they saw the movement’s founder, Nelson Rivera Beauchamp, and other movement members from Puerto Rico.  But because of the crowds, they were unable to get together with their national spiritual adviser, Mrs. Del Valle’s pastor, Father Peter J. Joyce, who was leading a pilgrimage of St. John Paul II Parish members.
Being a member of the parish named for one new saint and the movement named for the other was “a double blessing,” Mrs. Del Valle said.
The 43-year-old said she knew of Pope John XXIII through the movement, and John Paul II was pope during her lifetime. She said she keeps thinking of how Pope Francis called St. John Paul II the pope of the family, and she prays to him more and thinks about her family more now.
These popes, who “lived during our time” and were “like us,” showed that “anybody can be a saint,” she said. “They were just living God’s love and we can do the same. There is no book that says, ‘To be a saint you need to do this, this and this.’ If you truly let God live in you, others will see it. You’ll never see it, because it’s, like, natural.”
They tried doing that in Rome, in the midst of challenges to saintly living.
“We started to camp out at 10 p.m. Saturday,” Mrs. Del Valle said of April 26, the day before the canonization. “It was pretty easy moving around. It was crowded. About midnight was the first big push. I’ve never experienced anything like that. At one moment it was so overwhelming that I said, ‘We need to pray. … I needed a little bit of peace … We’re all there for the same reason.’”
“I thought I was going to die there,” said Ms. Soto. She said she asked why people felt they had to push others out of their way – this was supposed to be a religious event.
Security had moved pilgrims who arrived early out of St. Peter’s Square to get it ready for the canonization Mass, the women said. Ms. Soto said that when the Square was reopened she wanted to get out of the mad rush; she didn’t want to be with people acting like animals. But they were carried along by the crowd and their group was split up.
Ms. Soto said that at one point she told her group they were not going to act like the pushy people; they had to prove their faith.
“We started to pray real hard,” she said. She said they also sang and prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Spanish. Others joined in and asked them to pray it again after they finished.
They helped people who passed out, telling others to take off the jacket or give space to women who couldn’t breathe, she said.
Mrs. Del Valle said some people cut through the crowd and others got angry, so she shared food she had, figuring they were hungry. Then everyone became calm.
The priests with the John XXIII movement were delighted when, the day before the canonization, they received permission to concelebrate the Mass with Pope Francis, Ms. Soto said.
Mrs. Del Valle said she saw the Mass on the large screen, but couldn’t see Pope Francis in person until he came close to her in the popemobile afterwards. After receiving the Eucharist she knelt and held hands with the stranger next to her, a woman who spoke a different language, she said.
“You could just feel this overwhelming presence of the Lord,” she said.
“I’m not the same as I was when I left here,” she said. “I don’t take things for granted. I look at everything as a blessing.”

Father Joyce heads national group

By Tanya Connor

A local pastor and his parishioners recently returned from the canonization of the patrons of their parish and a group within it. He now serves – nationally – the movement that group is part of.
Father Peter J. Joyce, pastor of Saint John Paul II Parish in Southbridge, took 16 parishioners and people affiliated with the parish to the canonization of SS. John Paul II and John XXIII in April.
Bishop McManus appointed Father Joyce U.S. national spiritual adviser for the “John XXIII Movement of Parish Retreats” in January. Canonically, this movement is called a private international association of the lay faithful, Father Joyce said.
The movement has Spanish-speaking members in his parish and other parishes in the Worcester Diocese, and in more than 60 other dioceses in about 10 countries, those involved said.
Leaders in the United States are about to share what the movement offers – for the first time – in a language other than Spanish, Father Joyce said. English-language retreats are to be held this year and next.
Local leaders said the movement came to the Worcester Diocese in 2007 through members of Father Joyce’s previous parish, St. Mary’s in Southbridge, which later was merged with other parishes to form St. John Paul II Parish.
Father Joyce told The Catholic Free Press the following about the movement’s history and purpose.
The founder, Nelson Rivera Beauchamp, a Methodist who converted to Catholicism, found that young people in his area in Puerto Rico were abusing drugs and alcohol and not attending church.
On March 27, 1970, unable to attend a Good Friday service, Mr. Rivera watched a movie of St. Francis of Assisi, to whom Jesus said: “Rebuild my Church.”
“Nelson felt that as a personal call to him as well,” Father Joyce said.
His response eventually led to the movement’s first retreat, held July 13-15, 1973 for 24 young people, most with drug addiction problems. Many who led that retreat are still leaders in the movement, Father Joyce said.
When Mr. Rivera’s spiritual director saw the potential for this ministry to spread beyond the parish, he suggested choosing a name not specific to the parish, Father Joyce said. John XXIII was chosen. The late pope was still popular as a charismatic personality who had called Vatican Council II, which further opened the Church to lay involvement.
The John XXIII movement seeks to help bring about conversion, Father Joyce said; the baptized living in sin need it, and those living their faith need to be converted on a deeper level. Living out the faith takes different forms, he said. For one person it might include praying the rosary daily; for another, giving up drinking; for yet another, finally making a commitment to attend Sunday Mass.
The idea is to get people involved in their parishes, Father Joyce said; the movement is to help the Church in its mission of salvation.
To become part of the movement, one first makes the initial retreat, which includes eucharistic adoration and leaders’ talks interspersed with personal testimonies, he said. One then attends weekly meetings, which involve teachings and socials.
The movement came to the Worcester Diocese through Julio Del Valle and Pedro Espino, who had made the retreat in Puerto Rico, Father Joyce said. As his parishioners at St. Mary’s in Southbridge, they asked if they could hold the weekly meetings there, rather than travel to Springfield for them. They also wanted to encourage local Catholics to make the retreats in Springfield.
Later they asked Bishop McManus for permission to hold the retreats in the Worcester Diocese, Father Joyce said. He said the first one was held in March 2007 at what was then St. Bernard Parish in Worcester, now Our Lady of Providence Parish.
Now retreats are held at St. John Paul II Parish, St. Joan of Arc Parish in Worcester and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Fitchburg, he said. Meetings are held at St. Francis, St. Joan of Arc, St. Peter and St. Paul Parishes in Worcester, St. Luke Parish in Westborough and Holy Trinity Evangelization Center in Leominster.
There have been 37 retreats in the Worcester Diocese, resulting in 1,198 movement members, according to Magdalena Soto, of St. Joan of Arc, treasurer and choir director for the movement in the diocese.
Representatives from the Worcester Diocese are to be among those helping lead the first English-language retreats, to be held late this year and early next year, one in Philadelphia, one in Orlando, Father Joyce said. The hope is to have each diocese send representatives, who can return to their diocese and train others to lead English-language retreats locally.
The idea is to blend “Latin piety” with retreats and teachings in English, Father Joyce said. One of the concerns in the United States is that Hispanic youth are not getting involved in the movement; many are more fluent in English than Spanish. So permission was sought from the international board for use of English.
Father Joyce said he re-translated the movement’s previous statutes into English, and when the Vatican approved the current statutes in 2012, he translated those.
He said part of the reason he, a bilingual non-Hispanic, was asked to be national spiritual advisor was because the bishops in the United States speak primarily English, unlike in the other countries where the movement is located.
Mr. Rivera met with him in Southbridge last November to ask him about taking the position, and he asked for time to pray about it, he said. The answer came very quickly that God was asking him to do this, he said, but he had to be appointed by Bishop McManus.
The bishop’s approval came while Father Joyce was on sabbatical in Rio de Janero, Brazil, earlier this year. The national office informed him and invited him to attend the international board’s annual meeting in Bogota, Colombia.
It is not typical to have national spiritual advisors at these meetings, but the international spiritual advisor could not be there and Mr. Rivera wanted him there, he said. So he and the Colombian spiritual advisor worked together.
July 25-27 he plans to attend the annual meeting of national leaders in Orlando, which includes an annual report from each diocese on the movement’s state financially, spiritually, pastorally and apostolically, he said.