ROCHESTER — Christine Howland has three reasons to be grateful to St. John Paul II: Helen, 10; Lilia, 9; and Hugh, 6.
Howland was one of the hundreds of people who marked the Sunday, April 27, canonizations of Sts. John Paul II and John XXIII with a Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church that was celebrated by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano.
Howland said her devotion to St. John Paul II arises from an illness she had in her youth, which left her unsure of whether she would be able to have children. In 2003, she and her husband honeymooned in Rome and had their marriage blessed by Pope John Paul II. As she described this occasion, she pulled out her phone to show a picture of the future saint kissing her on the forehead as she wore her snowy white wedding dress. Not long after the trip, Howland and her husband found out they were expecting their first child, Helen, who was born on Christmas.
She said she believes she has the prayers of John Paul II to thank for her family.
"I have such a strong devotion to him and really attribute them to his intercession," Howland said.
St. Stanislaus celebrates saints
Sunday, she took a picture of her children in front of the Polish parish’s shrine, which contains a painting and relic of St. John Paul II. In his homily, Bishop Matano noted the deep appreciation Poland has for its newest saint.
"Pope John Paul II raised up his country under oppression and gave all he had to create a free society," said the bishop, who was making his first visit to the parish since his installation in January as leader of the Diocese of Rochester.
He said the church’s newest saints remind us that we are God’s church.
"They gave themselves completely to the church in service to Christ," Bishop Matano said, adding that they offer examples for us to follow in believing and passing that belief onto others.
"Are we all called to be saints? Yes," Bishop Matano said. "That’s our destiny. That’s our purpose in life: one day to live with God in heaven. That’s what a saint is: someone who returns home to God to live with him forever."
At the end of the Mass, the parish presented Bishop Matano with a basket of gifts to welcome him to the area. After Mass, children from the parish wearing traditional Polish dress narrated the lives of the new saints. Afterwards, the parish served lunch to all in attendance.
Participants in the Mass said the lives of the two new saints provide rich examples for people to follow.
"I believe John Paul II really taught us how to live," said Virginia Caulkins Henrietta, a parishioner of St. Marianne Cope Parish. "He suffered through so much."
Peggy Finucane, a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish, likewise said St. John Paul II’s final years of joyful suffering health were inspirational.
"He accepted his sufferings because he wanted to be an example for families," Finucane said of the pope who is believed to have suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.
She said she also felt connected to St. John XXIII because she saw him at the Vatican when she was in college.
"I was with college students at a rally," Finucane said. "It was very emotional."
Kathryn Burke, wife of Deacon Bob Burke and a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Greece, said she traveled to Rome in September 2013 and was able to see John XXIII’s incorrupt body, which was on display.
"It was so peaceful," she remarked.
Rose Moser, a parishioner of St. Mary Church in Canandaigua, said she felt a special connection to John Paul II because her parents were both refugees from Europe who sought freedom from oppression.
"I’m really happy and excited and grateful we were here," Moser said. "This was the most beautiful celebration of Holy Mass."Tags: Feast Days & Saints