Diocese welcomes John Paul II beatification news

The Jan. 14 announcement that the late Pope John Paul II will be beatified in Rome on May 1 was met with excitement throughout the Diocese of Peoria.

“I agree with all the people who call him John Paul the Great,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, in an interview with The Catholic Post this week. “There have been many holy and wise popes and popes who have changed history, and he clearly was a pope who changed history.”

The bishop said Pope Benedict’s approval of a miracle through Pope John Paul’s intercession that cleared the way for a beatification ceremony in Rome on Divine Mercy Sunday of this year “means a great deal in this diocese.”

The joy is perhaps most profound at the place Bishop Jenky just two months ago renamed in honor of the late pope — the John Paul II Catholic Newman Center serving Illinois State University in Normal.

“We are thrilled,” said Sister Silvia Tarafa, SCTJM, director. “Everything we are doing at the center is trying to live out what he so beautifully taught,” especially in the areas of friendship with Christ, love and responsibility.

For example, students from the Newman Center will attend the March for Life next week in Washington, D.C., while others are making plans to journey to Spain in August for World Youth Day, of which Pope John Paul II has now been named patron.

Father Kevin Lucas, chaplain of the John Paul II Catholic Newman Center, will attend the beatification. In addition, the Newman Center will host an evening dedicated to Pope John Paul II near the April 2 anniversary date of his death in 2005. On the May 1 beatification date, a thanksgiving dinner is planned.

“Hopefully we’ll have taped the ceremony and we will watch it together,” said Sister Silvia.

Also planning to be there for the beatification is Sister Norberta Piekos, a native of Poland who is now serving in pastoral care in the LaSalle area. Calling the late pope “my hero” and saying the beatification is “a lifetime event,” she plans to lead a group traveling April 25 to May 5.

Bishop Jenky, recalling his own visits with Pope John Paul II, called him a “holy man, zealous” but also with “a lot of humor.”

“I think his zeal for the Second Vatican Council was enormous,” said the bishop. “He clearly was a son of that council and all of his pontificate worked for its implementation.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Has your life has been particularly inspired by the teachings and example of holiness of Pope John Paul II? Do you know someone whose faith journey has been connected with the late pope? Write us at cathpost@cdop.org or call 1-800-340-5630 for inclusion in a possible future story.

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