A celebration of John Paul II
Diocese pays homage to pontiff at Memorial Mass
By Sarah Malcore
Catholic priests and laity came from around the diocese April 10 to celebrate the life of Pope John Paul II and to mourn his death.
Bp. David Zubik was the principal concelebrant for Sunday's diocesan Memorial Mass in St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay. Msgr. Roy Klister, rector, assisted him, and several priests concelebrated.
Bp. Zubik told about the personal meeting he had with the Holy Father.
"About 3 weeks after I was ordained Bishop, I went to Rome to pick up supplies I would need in my new ministry. On Wednesdays, the Holy Father would come to St. Peter's Square to address the audience, but a ticket was necessary to be a part of the audience. I tried to get one but wasn't able to.
"I even pleaded with one of the Swiss Guards to allow me in. It was raining that day and I was about to give up as I put my hand into my pocket and pulled out my zucchetto and the Swiss Guard noticed and allowed me in and then two more Swiss Guards motioned for me to follow," Bp. Zubik said.
"I had been out all day and was in my rain coat so my appearance was not of a bishop. I had not intended to end up in the front rows to enjoy the wonderful refection the Holy Father had to share. Afterwards, the Swiss Guard took all the bishops to his Holy Father so he could import his blessing.
"All the bishops were dressed up except myself. When I found myself face to face with the pope, a bishop of three weeks, I was filled with chagrin and apology. His Holy Father smiled and said, 'It is good to have you here' and put me at perfect ease. He accepted me for who I was right then and there, a Christ-like action of Pope John Paul II," Bp. Zubik said.
Pope John Paul II was a visible sign of the promise of God in our midst, Bp. Zubik said. "Jesus will accept you for who you are, it is a love without question. Jesus will always accept us for who we are, but will also always call us to be more."
At the end of Mass, Bp. Aloysius Wycislo, shared some anecdotes about John Paul II, who was a personal friend. "On my 75th birthday, I went to meet with the Holy Father to deliver my retirement letter. When I presented it to him, the Holy Father said, 'The Apostles never gave Jesus a letter'" Bp. Wycislo said. "He had a wonderful sense of humor."
In 1945, Catholic Relief Services sent Bp. Wycislo to Poland to assist with the relief effort for those who suffered because of World War II. While there he met the future Pope John Paul II - Karol Wojtyla - then a seminarian who would be ordained a year later.
They again encountered each other at the Second Vatican Council, where they often were seated near each other because their last names began with a W. A friendship blossomed and over the years they shared dinners, walks, discussions and rosaries.
Bp. Wycislo met him again on several of his U.S. visits. "In 1976, he came to the States to thank the U.S. for their help in Poland and we celebrated Mass together during that visit," reminisced Bp. Wycislo.
"I will never forget the night in October when my sister in law telephoned me from Chicago and said, 'Your bishop friend from Poland was just elected pope!' and making the arrangements immediately to attend the installation of the pope."
Bp. Wycislo's memories moved the congregation.
"We traveled to this Mass from Neenah and the comments by Bp. Wycislo more them made it worth the trip up," said Sherry Zyicky of St. Raphael Parish in Oshkosh. "This was our way to pay homage to our great leader, it is the closest we can get to the Vatican."
The Memorial Mass awoke emotions in even those not active in the church.
"The service was breathtaking with Bp. Zubik presiding and all the priests present," said Pat Styczynski-Woods. "I have been easing my way back into my faith and this Mass was magical, it makes me thank God for all we have."
"The Bishop does a wonderful job celebrating Mass, I enjoyed everything," said Joe Novitski, member of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. "It is hard to see our Holy Father pass on; he was a great leader and it is going to be hard to find a replacement for him."
The Memorial Mass allowed people to pay their respects and pray that John Paul is welcomed into Heaven.
"We are blessed to have had this man to bring Jesus to us," said Nancy Taylor of Holy Cross Parish in Kaukauna. "My son is currently a seminarian and Pope John Paul II is the only pope he has ever known, so this will be a big transition for us all, but we also know that the Holy Spirit will bring us a new Shepherd."
"The pope is a larger then life figure," Bp. Zubik said in his closing comments. "Pope John Paul II was a down to earth man who took his role seriously and did not take on the extra baggage. He was a good man with courage and people could always feel the call from the pope."