An Answer to Prayer
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Five Years of Prayer for Pope John Paul II Culminates with Pilgrimage to Rome
BINGHAMTON — On Oct. 16, 1998, Father John Mikalajunas, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, and his parishioners prayed a petition for Pope John Paul II. For five years the parishioners at St. John’s joined Father Mikalajunas in praying that the pope would live to celebrate the silver jubilee of his election as the 264th successor of the Apostle St. Peter. Several times each year Father Mikalajunas told his parishioners that if the Holy Father was granted this blessing, he would travel to Rome in October 2003 to witness the historic event. When the date arrived, Father Mikalajunas and two of his parishioners, Sharon and Zebulon Clark, landed in Rome and proceeded to Assisi to pray to St. Francis and St. Clare for the pope and their intentions. They arrived in the Eternal City with the hope of attending the Jubilee Mass, the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and an opportunity to meet the Holy Father in person. Father Mikalajunas tried to call his friend the Rev. Msgr. Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Secretary for particular causes to Pope John Paul, but was unable to reach him.
Father Mikalajunas arrived at the Bronze Gate to inquire if tickets were being held in his name for the Jubilee and Beatification Masses. When learning there were no tickets available, he asked the gatekeepers to inquire as to whether or not Msgr. Mokrzycki might have them since Father Mikalajunas had made many requests for tickets. Father Mikalajunas was allowed to pass by the Swiss Guards at the gates and enter the papal apartments. Msgr. Mokrzycki was waiting for him and gave him the tickets for the Jubilee Mass, tickets for the concert to be held in the Paul Vl Audience Hall and red tickets for the Mass of Beatification for Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
“Msgr. Mokrzycki asked me if I was going to be at the audience that morning with Zebulon and Sharon,” said Father Mikalajunas. “I said Monsignor, I do not have tickets for the audience. Monsignor gave me a hand written note that allowed the Clarks and me an audience and photo opportunity with the pope.” “I called the hotel and told the Clarks to meet me at the columns by St. Peter’s,” said Father Mikalajunas. “With our note written by the pope’s secretary, we were allowed to take seats near the altar where the Pope would arrive for the audience. Following the audience we were led to the Holy Father. The Clark’s asked the Holy Father to bless the baby that Sharon was carrying in her womb. The Holy Father graciously fulfilled their request and blessed them as well,” he said. Father Mikalajunas told the pope that for the past five years, he had prayed that he would be in good health in order to celebrate his silver jubilee.
“The Clarks were overjoyed to be celebrating this historic occasion in the life of the church and their own lives, by having the blessing of the pope for a newly wedded couple,” said Father Mikalajunas. “They were also blessed to receive a papal blessing for their marriage at St. John the Evangelist Church with the personal signature of the Holy Father,” he said. Father Mikalajunas said that Pope John Paul thanked him for his five years of prayers. He also said that the pope was thankful to God that he had reached the milestone of his silver jubilee. Two days later, Father Mikalajunas and the Clarks had the privilege of being at the concert given in honor of the Holy Father in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall. World Mission Sunday was forecasted to be a day filled with rain in St. Peter’s Square that year. However, the sun brightened the day for the 400,000 pilgrims that attended the Mass of Beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “Having watched many canonizations and beatifications on TV is not the same as being in St. Peter’s Square witnessing the successor of St. Peter proclaiming to the world that the church has a new blessed,” said Father Mikalajunas. “We were blessed with the finest of weather and the Masses offered were for our parishioners at St. John the Evangelist, as well as Bishops Moynihan, Costello and Harrison and all of the people of the Diocese of Syracuse.”
Father Mikalajunas is currently offering another 11-day pilgrimage to Sorrento, Amalfi, San Giovanni, Lanciano, Rome and Paris in January 2005. Lanciano, Italy is the site of the first and greatest miracle of the Catholic Church of the past 12 centuries. The Eucharistic miracle took place during holy Mass in the 8th century. After the two-fold consecration, the host was changed into live flesh and the wine was changed into real blood. The host-flesh, which can be very distinctly observed today, has the same dimensions as the large host used today in the Latin church. In 1970-71 and again in 1981, scientific investigations took place and the results confirmed that the flesh is real flesh and the blood is real blood, belonging to the human species. Members of the trip can also look forward to an audience with the pope, enrichment through visiting the tomb of St. Peter and St. Paul, attending Mass at the cathedral in Naples, viewing the relics of Apostle Andrew in Amalfi and much more. Anyone interested in obtaining more information can call Father John Mikalajunas or Father Arthur Krawczenko at (607) 722-0493.