According to the archbishop, John Paul II restored mystery to the Catholic Church.
“First and foremost, he restored to us during a time of materiality, in a time of secularism, in a time of relativism, he restored to us a sense of mystery,” he explained. “Now, that may not sound important, but it is real important for people who believe and turn themselves over totally to a God who is talking directly to them. He was so euphoric about that message, that God works his plan, that providence is a part of everything that we do, that God is with us.”
Emphasis on dignity
Restoring “a sense of dignity to Mary, Our Mother,” was also a great accomplishment of John Paul II.
“In a real sense, he understood the importance of Mary in the life of the church. He understood the importance of Mary as she gave herself over and completely to God, and how she will become simply a model for us.… Mary was given back to us in a proper perspective,” he said.
Pope John Paul II allowed many Catholics – some perhaps for the first time – to understand completely the importance and the dignity of the human person, according to Archbishop Listecki.
“You cannot begin to talk about John Paul II without talking immediately about the dignity of the human person,” he said. “John Paul II saw a need, the need to defend rights here and now. The Christian challenge, the Catholic challenge, to understand the importance and the dignity of human life from its very beginning to its natural death.
“There is no doubt he canonized more saints than all of the popes in the history of the church, and when you’re talking about more than 250 popes, this man canonized saints on a weekly basis. But you know what he said? That the life of holiness belongs to all of us, and to celebrate that in our lives, and that there are saints among us right here in this church, right here and now, there are people who are bound for holiness, and we celebrate those lives and those commitments,” the archbishop added.
Inspirational in many ways
Timothy Jurkowski from St. John the Evangelist Parish, Greenfield, said the late pontiff had a deep impact on his spiritual life.
“Inspirational,” he said when asked what traits of John Paul II stood out. “Inspirational as in keeping the faith, keeping up with the faith.”
Jurkowski’s friend, Jean Zuzelski, from St. Paul Parish, Milwaukee, will never forget the pilgrimage they made to Rome in June 2003 with former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan.
“I fought my way to be up in the first row so that we could see everything that went on that Wednesday afternoon when we were there with Archbishop Dolan,” she explained with a smile. “That has always been in my mind and in my heart, that day with him … He’s always been my favorite.”
Ronda DeAngelis from Holy Apostles Parish, New Berlin, came to know John Paul II when she was a child, and has loved him ever since.
“We came because our family has a bond; we just had a love for him and just followed him and respected him,” she explained about why she came to his Mass of Thanksgiving. “I just think his kindness and compassion, I think it was so wonderful as a follower to have someone so proud to look up to.
“I just think that in this day and age, we’re yearning for such good to look up to. He was just so kind, and we just loved him for that. His demeanor and his passion for his faith, we followed that,” DeAngelis added.
Ed Danowski from St. Lucy Parish, Racine, went to Rome in 1984 to see the pope, and was “privileged” to have touched his hand during one of the pontiff’s many public appearances.
“The neatest thing I think is the impression he’s made on me and my family,” he explained. “I think I learned a lot about the spirituality aspect though; and I talk a lot about that. This is one really spiritual guy. You could see that; you could feel that when you’re with him. I think that was very important to me, plus the St. Faustina thing and the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. There’s a lot there,” Danowski added, naming a saint canonized by the late pope and the prayer that he promoted. He also designated the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Can’t forget the smile
“I feel very blessed as a generation of baby boomers,” said Ramona Rivas, a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Milwaukee. “I will always remember his smile. He had the most beautiful smile and he had the most beautiful eyes. He really had love; he really had a love of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“I cried and I’m still crying,” she said, describing her reaction when she heard that John Paul II was to be beatified. “I’m so happy because he will be a saint and he will be a beautiful saint for the next generation of children that will reflect on his beautiful smile and remember his beautiful eyes.”