Who among us has not been touched in some small way by the late Saint John Paul II, has not seen on television his celebration of the Mass or read in the newspapers his statements about various current issues or simply heard news of his travels? He was, perhaps, the most visible pope the Catholic Church has ever had.
We are so blessed that this school has been given the name Saint John Paul II. He was an extraordinary Pope. Our first year was concurrent with the Pope’s 25th anniversary of his service to the Church as the Bishop of Rome.
Wherever he appears, he is greeted with the adulation normally accorded pop stars or royalty. Perhaps this is because he is “The Pilgrim Pope”, the most widely traveled pope in history of the papacy.
Speaking many different languages and motoring around in his “popemobile”, he was the first to bring the Pope’s love to people across the globe. He has travelled to over 120 nations.
He is a person we want to follow and emulate – an incredible teacher, humanitarian and preacher. He was a man of wisdom. He was gentle and caring. Daily, we witnessed his deep and abiding concern for the poor, his belief and love for young people.
He spread his message of peace so that all of us can make a difference. He was key in changing communism. He was the first Pope to go in to a mosque and a synagogue. He showed us his shining example as a man of prayer whose life was truly dedicated to God and God’s People.
We will always remember his incredible trip to Toronto for World Youth Day in July 2002. In 2003, we had the World Youth Day Legacy Cross in the atrium for our School Blessing.
He reminded us of the importance of saints. He canonized more saints than any of his predecessors. He told us that all Christians are called to holiness no matter what their back ground or education or social and economic status. We are proud of our athletic logo the SAINTS. It is most compelling and inspiring.
He was our beacon of hope and of moral courage.
We also witnessed his devotion to Mary. He told us that by praying to Mary it teaches us to have an open and trustful heart, as she did, able to say “Yes” thousands of times. Mary is presented as the model of a disciple, following Jesus, step by step, reflecting on the words of Jesus in her heart, reflecting Him like a mirror.
Wherever he travelled he took time to pray – especially the rosary. Each place he visited he consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We know that the Rosary was the Pope’s favourite prayer.
He was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18th, 1920 in Poland. As a child he loved the outdoors. He loved the arts and at one time wanted to be an actor. He was an excellent athlete. He loved to play soccer and hockey. He loved hiking and mountain climbing.
Pope John Paul II studied literature and drama in Krakow. During the Nazi occupation he worked in a stone quarry and a chemical plant. He began studying secretly for the priesthood in 1942 since this was not allowed during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
He was ordained in 1946, just after the war ended and then earned a doctorate in theology at the Angelicum in Rome. Afterward, from 1948 to 1951, he served as a parish priest in Krakow, Poland then spent a year studying philosophy.
From 1952 to 1958 he taught social ethics at the Krakow seminary, and he also served as professor at the University of Lublin.
He was consecrated an auxiliary bishop in Krakow in 1958 and he became an archbishop in 1964.
Following Vatican Council II, Karol Wojtyla was appointed cardinal in 1967.
As bishop and then as cardinal in Krakow, Karol Wojtyla provided inspirational leadership to Polish Catholics during the atheistic Communist regime, championing human rights and humankind’s need to ask and know God. His support of Solidarity and fervent opposition to Communism hastened its downfall in Europe.
Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope on October 16, 1978 – the first non-Italian Pope in more than four hundred years. To emphasize his commitment to continue the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he took the names of his predecessors: John, Paul and John Paul. He was the 262nd successor of Saint Peter. As Pope, Saint John Paul II travelled around the world to meet and teach and minister to millions of Catholics-in locations as diverse as cathedrals, baseball stadiums, schools, and soup kitchens.
But Saint John Paul II was much more than a jet-setting celebrity. During the course of his papacy he has emerged as perhaps the world’s most important moral leader, unafraid to testify to the truth in both word and deed. He has written and spoken so much, emphasizing the sacredness of life, the splendour of truth, and the love of God, as the selections in this collection demonstrate.
But what made Saint John Paul II such a beloved leader is the constancy of his example. He spoke what he knew to be true, whether he was saying Mass at Downsview arena or addressing the General Assembly at the United Nations.
And he has demonstrated the true meaning of love, having forgiven the man who wounded him during an unsuccessful assassination attempt. Thus when he asserts, “Jesus is a demanding friend”, or explains, “Love is the gift of self”, or advises “Be faithful to your daily prayers”, or exhorts, “Do not be afraid!” it is clear that his are not empty words, for they arise out of his lived experience. And trusting these admonitions, we come to trust the Pope’s greatest message, words so many find so hard to believe: “God loves you”. It is the message, so eloquently and often expressed, that has enabled him to touch the hearts of millions.
On April 2, 2005 the entire world mourned when he died at the age of 84. He was beatified on May 1, 2011.
At Saint John Paul II CES we live the message that he shared often with the youth,
“Live from now on as children of the light”.