May 2, 2014

Local pilgrims say universality of Church evident at canonization

By John F. Fink (Special to The Criterion)

ROME—The universality of the Catholic Church was particularly evident to several members of the groups from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who attended the canonizations of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II.

“There were people from all over the world,” said John Carroll, a member of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis.

Among them, of course, were busloads of pilgrims who made the 14-hour ride from Poland. There were also young people from Nigeria who camped out near St. Peter’s Square despite rain during the night. Filipinos, who also camped out, were also noticeable.

“We also saw people from Australia,” said Carroll, who attended the canonization liturgy with his wife, Karen.

It was estimated that 800,000 people attended. Light rain fell before the Mass began, but heavier rain held off until afterward.

At least two groups from the archdiocese were present, led by Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, and Msgr. William Stumpf, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. Retired Father Robert Mazzola also attended, as did four students who were part of a group from Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, a school named in honor of St. John XXIII.

Msgrs. Schaedel and Stumpf and Father Mazzola had seats inside St. Peter’s Square and concelebrated the Mass that followed the canonizations.

Not all archdiocesan pilgrims were able to make it to St. Peter’s Square for the liturgy. A few members of the archdiocesan group were disappointed because they were unable to get close to St. Peter’s Square, despite leaving their hotel at 5 a.m. for the 10 a.m. ceremony.

Some of the group watched on large screens in Piazza Navona, across the Tiber River from the Vatican. Most of them, though, watched from about four blocks from the Vatican on the Via della Conciliazione, the broad avenue that leads to St. Peter’s Square.

Sylvia Rust, a member of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour, said that she was impressed by the youths. “They were amazing,” she said, “singing and dancing but also pious and devout during the Mass.”

Msgr. Stumpf said that he, too, was impressed by the youths who attended, many of them from Poland. John Carroll noted that some of the youths were students at a school where St. John Paul II once taught.

David and Tessa Milroy, members of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, commented on the number of young people at the liturgy. They said that there were 10 or 12 very elderly people from Poland in a make-shift barricade being protected from the crowd by some young people.

The two were also impressed by the universality of the Mass.

“The universality of the Church was brought home while we listened to the recitation of the Litany of the Saints,” David Milroy said, “with the inclusion of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II, with people from all over the world responding, ‘Ora pro nobis [pray for us].’ ”

Donna Defque, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, called the experience “the chance of a lifetime.” She said that it was exciting when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was shown on the large screens arriving for the Mass.

She and Rust were among those who watched the liturgy from the Via della Conciliazione. Defque said everyone there was given a program and a bottle of water. Also, she said, everybody was able to receive Communion from the 600 priests who were distributing the consecrated hosts.

After the Mass ended, Pope Francis rode in his popemobile all the way back to where the people were standing, she added.

Father Mazzola commented on how well-planned the liturgy was. The music, he said, consisted of songs the people knew and could sing.

Father Mazzola was particularly interested in the canonization of St. John XXIII because he was related to him. “He was my first cousin three times removed,” he said.

David and Jeannie O’Donnell, members of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, described the experience as “wonderful but harrowing” because of the pressure of the crowd.

Nevertheless, David O’Donnell said, it was a wonderful experience. “The pope’s words of canonization just gave me goosebumps,” he said.

Msgr. Stumpf said that he was particularly impressed by the presentation of relics of the two new saints to Pope Francis. “That was very touching to me,” he said.

Msgr. Schaedel commented that his seat for the canonizations was near where he sat for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. At that time, it had been raining, but the sun came out just before the beatification.

This time, he said, there had been a slight mist. “But just before the canonizations,” he said, “I swear that I felt the sun on my back.”

(John F. Fink is editor emeritus of The Criterion.)

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