Alle-Kiski Valley Catholics share in canonization of newest saints
Carol Schwartz stood an arm's length away from Pope John Paul II as his car inched through a huge crowd in Vatican City.
It was April 1, 1998 — almost seven years to the day before he died. Although the Vatican had yet to confirm that John Paul II had Parkinson's disease, Schwartz said its effects had taken a distinct toll on the Polish pontiff.
But on this day, the man venerated by many as one of the most influential leaders of the Roman Catholic Church exuded a radiance unlike anything she said she'd ever witnessed.
“I only took one picture, because I couldn't take my eyes off him,” said Schwartz, 67, of Lower Burrell, a longtime parishioner of St. Margaret Mary Church. “I just broke down and cried. I knew right then that I had just looked into the eyes of a saint.”
Schwartz's vision materialized on Sunday when Pope Francis canonized former pontiffs John Paul II and John XXIII in an unprecedented dual ceremony. About 800,000 people gathered in the area around St. Peter's Square to witness the two men being elevated into sainthood.
In Lower Burrell, a crowd of about 50 amassed at St. Margaret Mary Church to view an afternoon replay of the ceremony and share their feelings on the former pontiffs.
It was the final installation of a four-part series put together by the Rev. Daniel Ulishney, who came to St. Margaret Mary in June as the regional parochial vicar. The series, he said, focused on the lives, papacies and canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII while bringing together parishioners from St. Margaret Mary and the three New Kensington churches he serves.
“This series gives the people in the area an opportunity to connect with one another and encounter our new saints,” said Ulishney, 27. “These two popes were very human. People made very strong connections with them. They still remember them in life, and I think that makes it even more personal on this important day in the Catholic Church.”
The events preceding Sunday's screening featured readings of the popes' personal lives, faith and service to the church. Each event, Ulishney said, was designed to reflect the history and the culture of the hosting parish.
The ceremony at St. Mary of Czestochowa Church in New Kensington, for instance, focused largely on the life of John Paul II to reflect the large Polish population within its congregation.
The former pontiff, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, experienced the Nazi occupation of his native country before becoming the first non-Italian pope in more than four centuries. He is largely credited with helping the overthrow of the communist regime in Poland, which contributed to the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Since his 2005 death, conservative Catholics have revered him for his devotion to a more rigid Catholicism than what was practiced under John XXIII.
Ulishney's series touched on the life of John XXIII this year at Mt. St. Peter Parish, also in New Kensington. That church was chosen, according to Ulishney, because a former pastor there was well-acquainted with John XXIII before his death in the 1960s.
John XXIII, who was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in 1881 at Sotto il Monte, Italy, was elected pope in 1958. He cemented his legacy a year later by creating the Second Vatican Council, which would reconsider church practices in response to cultural changes.
Between 1962 and 1965, the council established more liberal positions concerning education, the media and other Christian denominations. Perhaps most notably, the council allowed for languages other than Latin to be used during Mass.
Bill Cogley, 59, of Allegheny Township said he remembers being an altar boy at St. Mary Church in Freeport when his pastor started using English through the entire service.
“That was big for me,” he said at the screening in Lower Burrell. “I finally knew everything that he was saying, and I took a lot more away from Mass that way.”
Cogley, who remains a parishioner at St. Mary's and teaches eighth-grade religious studies there, said he also is fond of John Paul II.
In 1993, he was one of about 400,000 people to see the pope speak at a religious convention in Denver. He was so far away, he said, that he “could only make out a small figure in white robes.”
“But it was still very unique and meaningful,” he said. “You just felt like you were in the presence of something special. You can't really explain it.
“Both of these guys meant so much to the Church. It's a day of great joy for us.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Out-of-control car strikes four vehicles, building in Verona
- Allegheny Township home destroyed by fire
- New Kensington Council names new police chief
- Experts calling for late fall foliage bloom in Southwestern Pa.
- Man found dead along Kiski Township trail
- ‘Restaurant: Impossible’ tackles New Kensington eatery
- Upper Burrell to review minimum distance between homes, gas wells
- Vandergrift, East Vandergrift sewer separation projects near completion
- ATI claims operations, production meet expectations; workers refute statement
- Deceased man identified in Murrysville wreck
- Alle-Kiski Valley PSSA assessment scores higher than state standards