VOL 124 NO. 14
‘I Have Looked for You’
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Eastern Region celebrates Mass for Pope John Paul II
UTICA — Pope John Paul II was honored with more than one epithet during his life.
Along with the many references to him as the “most-traveled pope,” he was widely considered “the pope of the youth.”
Among the thousands who filled St. Peter’s Square in Rome last week, the youth were significantly represented.
From his deathbed last week, the pontiff uttered the now-famous words; “I have looked for you. Now you have come and I thank you,” to those gathered in the square.
The pope would have been pleased to see the nearly 100 students from Rome Catholic School attend a special Mass held in his honor April 7 at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Closing the service, Father Joseph Salerno, the host priest, said to the students, “John Paul II would have been so proud of you. You are his hope.”
Father Philip Hearn, who delivered the homily, made special mention of those youths that had gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
“It was wonderful. I taught at Rome Catholic many years ago, so I was very impressed with Rome Catholic and it’s always good to have the kids there. And the pope loved young people and that’s why it’s wonderful,” said Father Hearn, who is the pastor at St. Peter’s Church in Rome. “He reached out to the hearts of the young.”
Rome Catholic principal Chris Mominey explained that student interest in going to the Mass was “overwhelming.”
“We put the information slips out to the kids and they brought them back in the next day in droves. So we’re excited about it,” Mominey said.
The response had been considerable enough to warrant two buses for all of the students.
Mominey has used the occasion of the pope’s death to teach students about their religion. He added that the students’ participation in the special service broadens their awareness of being part of a religious experience that goes beyond the boundaries of their school or local parish.
“We’ve been trying to deal with the death of the pope and the [selection] of a pope on two levels, from a spiritual level and from an educational level,” Mominey said. “This was a wonderful spiritual experience with the local church and for the kids to get them to understand that they’re part of a bigger church. They don’t always see that when they’re just in school.”
Mominey noted that many of the older students at Rome Catholic had been involved in World Youth Day and that for all of the students John Paul II was a unique figure. That uniqueness made him a significant figure in their lives.
“For all of our kids, it’s the only pope they’ve ever known. So we’ve been teaching several lessons in religion class about his life a little more than we normally do,” the school administrator said. “He’s a significant figure in their lives and probably the kids won’t realize the impact he’s had on their lives until they’re much older.”
Roughly 15 priests from parishes throughout the Mohawk Valley concelebrated the Mass. Several priests from Eastern Orthodox churches in the area also participated.
Father Hearn addressed the matter of the pope’s life in some detail, cataloging his importance not only to the church but also to the world. To that effect, he stressed the pope’s role in helping to bring about the end of communism in Eastern Europe as well as his leadership in sustaining the Catholic Church’s traditional values.
“He was serving the church as well as the world. That’s why I focused [the homily] on his service to the world and not just to the Catholic church,” Father Hearn said.
The priest also heralded the pope as “a true man of God, a true man of faith, who lived his life to its fullest.”
Father Hearn explained that the Mass itself was as much a celebration of the pope’s life as it was an observance of his death.
“It’s a celebration of the resurrection and we wanted to celebrate the fact that we are resurrection people,” he said.