Local parishes gear up for Pope John Paul II beatification

  • April 20, 2011
In this Register file photo, Teresa Berezowski, president of the Canadian Polish Congress, stands beside the Pope John Paul II statue on Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto. (Photo by Vanessa Santilli)TORONTO - From prayer vigils and film viewings to special devotions and Mass, communities — Polish and others — across the Greater Toronto Area are joining the celebration of Pope John Paul II’s May 1 beatification.

St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in Mississauga, Ont., will be holding a prayer vigil for Pope John Paul II from 8 p.m. to midnight on April 30, said Fr. Pawel Nyrek.

“We’ll finish it with Holy Mass at midnight in thanksgiving for the beatification of Pope John Paul II,” said Nyrek.

Then, on May 2, the parish will be holding another thanksgiving Mass at 6 p.m. The Polish ambassador to Canada, the consul general of Toronto and representatives of the Canadian Polish Congress will be among those in attendance. Even Stephen Harper was expected to attend, before it conflicted with election day, Nyrek said.

St. Casimir’s parish in Toronto will be holding a special evening devotion before the statue of John Paul II that stands at the corner of Roncesvalles and Fern Avenues, said Fr. Marian Gil.

“The faithful are invited to bring their own candles which will be lit during the devotion as we pray a decade of the rosary and a litany,” said Gil. “On this day, we invite all people to mark this very special day by wearing white.”

At the John Paul II Polish Cultural Centre in Mississauga, celebrations will start at 4 a.m. Including a live transmission of the beatification, some of the other events will include an exhibit of Pope John Paul II stamps, posters and photos, a film screening of The Polish Pope and a papal parade from Meadowglen Park to St. Maximilian Kolbe parish for 11 a.m. Mass.

And with the beatification just around the corner, there’s an incredible feeling of pride in the Polish community, said Teresa Berezowski, president of the Canadian Polish Congress.

“Certainly the hope is that he will become a saint very soon — and that’s something that all Poles believe in,” said Berezowski.

At St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, the oldest Polish parish in Toronto, the church will be decorated with flowers along with a papal flag and portrait of the late pope, said Mary Samulewski, chair of the parish pastoral council.

During its 11 a.m. Mass, students from St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish School, a heritage language Saturday school, will be presenting highlights of his life and reading some of his poetry. Following the Mass, there will also be a presentation on Pope John Paul II, showing pictures of his life along with special prayers for his beatification in the parish hall.

Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins will be going to Rome for the beatification, said Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the archdiocese of Toronto, along with MacCarthy himself.

“What we’re hoping to do is provide insights on the archdiocesan blog and Twitter, using social media… to bring the experience to people who are unable to attend,” said MacCarthy.

While the predominant focus is on the Polish parishes in Toronto, there are other parishes taking part in the celebrations, said MacCarthy.

“St. Benedict’s parish in Etobicoke is doing a holy hour. They’re going to watch the beatification on television,” he said. “In the afternoon, they’re having a big Polish party with perogies and Polish sausages.”

At Pope John Paul II Catholic Secondary School in Toronto, staff and students will be celebrating the beatification with Toronto Bishop Vincent Nguyen, said chaplain Kathleen McGill. Along with meeting the entire student body for an assembly about Pope John Paul II’s life and beatification, the bishop will be blessing the school.  

The beatification has given the school community a chance to better understand what beatification is, said McGill.

“And it’s been a really nice chance for all of us to celebrate who this man was,” she said.

At Pope John Paul II Catholic Elementary School in Bolton, Ont., Pope John Paul II prayer cards will be given to representatives of the school community during Masses at their parish, said principal George Consitt. Those cards will then be given to students during a Liturgy of the Word being celebrated at the school the following week.

As well, the Catholic Youth Studio is presenting a gala concert, “Totus Tuus,” in honour of Blessed John Paul II and St. Eugene de Mazenod at Roy Thomson Hall on May 8.

For more information on beatification celebrations in the archdiocese of Toronto, see www.archtoronto.org.

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