May 9, 2014

Archdiocesan priest, seminarian take part in canonization events

By Sean Gallagher

In their years of priestly formation and graduate work in Rome, seminarian Anthony Hollowell and Father Martin Rodriguez have witnessed great historical events up close.

Last year, they were present for the last days of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, the first bishop of Rome to resign in centuries, and for the election of Pope Francis, the first pontiff from the Americas.

On April 27, the pair witnessed Pope Francis, in the presence of retired Pope Benedict, solemnly declare as saints two great popes of the 20th century: Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

Father Rodriguez, who was ordained in Indianapolis last May, returned to Rome to do graduate work in liturgy, which he is completing this spring.

Hollowell is completing his second of four years of priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

The night before the canonization, Father Rodriguez received a ticket to serve as a Communion minister at the Mass. He ended up giving Communion to Catholics from South America and Italy standing near the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

“The canonizations brought people from all over the world, and I felt that the Church was young and alive,” Father Rodriguez said. “The experience of faith of the pilgrims was strengthened by the lives of these two popes since both of them tried to bring the Gospel of Jesus closer to the people in their own ways.”

Hollowell spent a lot of time prior to the canonization and during the liturgy itself with a group of pilgrims from his alma mater, Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, which is named after St. John XXIII. Included among them was his father, Joseph Hollowell, the school’s president.

But the seminarian also took to the streets of Rome on the night before the canonization and visited a number of churches where various national groups were holding prayer vigils. He also saw groups of people walking the streets the night before waving national flags, singing and praying, all while making their way to St. Peter’s Square.

“This is really the fundamental good of an event like this: to see the universal Church alive and thriving,” Anthony Hollowell said. “The city was filled with many souls from all over the world, and they too were attracted to and impacted by the lives of these two saints.

“It was very special to celebrate this moment with many other people who I have never met but who are still part of the Catholic family, and it was a reminder of the universal scope of God’s gift of salvation to the world.”

Hollowell was also drawn to the canonization of Pope John and Pope John Paul because both of these men began their ministry in the Church as diocesan priests—which is what he is in formation for as well.

“Though they were both great popes, their identity and work was one of a [diocesan] priest, and it was by staying faithful to their duties assigned to them that they fulfilled God’s will for them,” Hollowell said. “Their fidelity to their vocation to the [diocesan] priesthood, combined with a great enthusiasm and zeal for this vocation, is an inspiration to me.”

Although the events surrounding the canonization were the thrill of a lifetime, Father Rodriguez looked to the next life in the middle of it all.

“The fact that many pilgrims were in Rome from all over the world reminded me that we are all pilgrims toward the heavenly Jerusalem, where there are many saints waiting for us, including St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII,” Father Rodriguez said.

“It also reminded me that we are not alone. We count on the help of the Church in heaven, and now we have two more great saints that intercede for us who are still on our way there.” †

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