Canonization events coming to Lower Burrell, New Kensington parishes

| Saturday, April 26, 2014, 1:41 a.m.

Two new saints will join the ranks of Roman Catholic hierarchy on Sunday, and several local parishes plan to celebrate the festivities.

St. Margaret Mary Parish in Lower Burrell will be open at 2 p.m. Sunday for a presentation of Pope Francis recognizing Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II as saints, along with prayer and songs.

The Rev. Dan Ulishney organized a four-part Canonization Encounter event, conducted during the past three months at the four parishes where he is a parochial vicar: Mount St. Peter, St. Joseph and St. Mary Czestochowa, all in New Kensington, and St. Margaret Mary in Lower Burrell.

It concludes Sunday at St. Margaret Mary, where they will show a replay of the canonization on a flat screen in the church sanctuary. The actual canonization takes place at the Vatican at about 4 a.m. local time Sunday.

“I wanted to provide a forum for people of the four parishes to come together to meet one another and work together on this common experience,” Ulishney said, noting the event is open to anyone.

Ulishney said he borrowed the idea for the events from St. Philip Neri, who combined sacred Scripture with baroque music — the hip entertainment trend of the late 16th Century — to convey religious messages to the people of that time.

“That's what spoke to his culture of Rome,” Ulishney said.

During the events, parishioners from the four parishes presented writings from both popes and offered reflections of their own encounters with them. Additionally, they were able to examine items from both men's lives, including Pope John XXIII's vestments, displayed at the Mount St. Peter presentation, and a Pope John Paul II comic book, exhibited at St. Mary Czestochowa's event.

The Rev. John Szczesny, pastor of St. Joseph and St. Mary Czestochowa, said recently he met Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who later would become Pope John Paul II, decades ago while he was in training at the Orchard Lake seminary in Detroit.

“Because I was able to speak Polish, I had the privilege of serving him meals for the week while he visited,” Szczesny said. “I don't know if I'll ever have the privilege of shaking hands with a saint again.”

Lee Guida, a Mount St. Peter parishioner from New Kensington, said she caught a glimpse of Pope John XXIII when she visited Rome in 1960.

“He was very nice looking,” she said. “He looked like people from my father's village. My mother had a picture of Pope Pius XII hanging on the wall, but he was always so depressing looking. Pope John was smiling all the way down the aisle.”

St. Joseph's parishioner Marionne “Koko” Croake, 75, of Arnold, said John XXIII's legacy is that he convened the Second Vatican Council, which resulted in Mass being recited in English, not Latin. This enabled Catholics to pray and comprehend the Mass more fully.

“That decision was as important as the actual calling of the council,” Croake said. “People used to just say rosaries during Mass because they couldn't understand the words.”

Ulishney said his program demonstrated Popes John and John Paul were not only exalted leaders, but were also quite human.

“They show so well that sainthood is for everybody,” Ulishney said.”

Maria Guzzo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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