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May 5, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA
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Young people from the Diocese of Oakland's Polish community wore traditional clothing for the Vigil Mass for the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on April 26.
josÉ luis aguirre/The Catholic Voice


A large crowd is seen in St. Peter's Square as Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass for Saints John XXIII and John Paul II at the Vatican April 27.
Stefano Rellandini/Reuters, cns

With the Cathedral of Christ the Light filled with the faithful celebrating the canonization of two popes, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, offered a Mass of Thanksgiving on April 26, the eve of the big day in Rome.

For many in the cathedral, the memory of Pope John Paul II was particularly personal. Not only was the pope, who died in 2005 after serving almost 27 years as leader of the Catholic Church, more contemporary, but he was considered a liberator.

Immigrants and their children — most of their generation was born in the United States — celebrated in ways colorful and vibrant, traditional and modern-day.

Two teenage members of the Polish Scouts offered prayer cards to those entering the cathedral. One had a choice of English or Polish, with Jan Pawel II and Jan XXIII.

"I think for all Polish people, John Paul II was really dear to our hearts," said Sophie Winkel, 16. "Everyone just loved him so much." Canonization was a day for the rest of the world to recognize his contributions as the Polish people do. "We're glad the world sees him the way we see him," she said.

"It's a bigger day for Poland," said Adam Warder, 15. "Everyone shared in the moment he became pope."

One who recalled that moment personally was Ryszard Urbaniak, a leader of the Polish Scouts. He was seated, in uniform, in the cathedral's front pews, amid families with children dressed in Polish costumes representing the nation's various regions.

"I was in Poland when he became pope," Urbaniak recalled. "Poland was a communist country. He brought us freedom."

Urbaniak, a member of the Solidarity movement, recalled the pope's words to those who were fighting oppression, "Don't be afraid."

A procession of nine deacons and 14 priests preceded the bishop, who told the gathering that the special celebration was in honor of Divine Mercy Sunday and to celebrate the canonization of two new saints.

Bishop Barber recalled being in third grade when Pope John XXIII died. "I remember the nuns crying at my school when they came around to tell us," he said.

Deacon Witold Cichon, who serves the Polish community at its pastoral center in Martinez, proclaimed the First Reading in Polish. Reading and intentions included a variety of languages.

In his homily, Father Raymond Gawronski, SJ, provided a scholarly look and reflection on the two newest saints. Noting that "saints come in all shapes and sizes," he said "the two saints we celebrate today certainly came in different shapes and sizes."

Noting their similarities in service to the church, as well as their differences, he noted that "both had a distinct mission to the church and world, given their particular times."

While John XXIII "started the greatest change in the church in 500 years," Father Gawronski said, "he was no revolutionary, not liturgically."

John Paul II "called the modern world to look at real freedom," he said. "In Poland, he effected a revolution. Many hold him as responsible for being one of the main factors in bringing down the whole communist system."

Father Gawronski noted that John XXIII was the first pope to visit a prison; John Paul II would later visit in prison the man who had shot him in 1981.

The gifts were brought to the altar by two lines of children who were wearing colorful, traditional costumes, rich with embroidery and beading, representing the regions of Poland. After Mass, the celebration continued in the Cathedral Parish Hall, where an overflow crowd enjoyed Polish food and dancing by the costumed children.


Canonization homily available
The Cathedral of Christ the Light was filled to capacity April 26 for the Vigil Mass in thanksgiving for the canonizations of Saints Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

The diocesan Polish community provided a great deal of support and a reception after the Mass. Rev. Ray Gawronski, SJ, gave an inspiring homily, which can be found on the diocesan website, www.oakdiocese.org/saints.
Left, Father Gawronski.

josÉ luis aguirre/
The Catholic Voice

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