Church officials say Pope John Paul II is being beatified for how he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love.VATICAN CITY - As church officials keep emphasizing, Pope John Paul II is being beatified not for his performance as pope, but for how he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love.

When the Vatican's sainthood experts interviewed witnesses about the Polish pontiff, the focus of their investigation was on holiness, not achievement.

What emerged was a spiritual portrait of Pope John Paul, one that reflected lifelong practices of prayer and devotion, a strong sense of his priestly vocation and a reliance on faith to guide his most important decisions.

More than leadership or managerial skills, these spiritual qualities were the key to his accomplishments -- both before and after his election as pope in 1978.

From an early age, Karol Wojtyla faced hardships that tested his trust in God. His mother died when he was 9, and three years later he lost his only brother to scarlet fever. His father died when he was 20, and friends said Wojtyla knelt for 12 hours in prayer and sorrow at his bedside.

Couple’s married life has been one of service

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Maggie Banga during one of her earlier service missions in Honduras. She and husband Mark are currently in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of the Bangas)Toronto missionaries Mark and Maggie Banga arrived in Addis Ababa in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Ethiopia’s capital city where cars and minibuses crowded the streets and waves of the city’s 3.5 million people filled the sidewalks.

“The air is thick with exhaust and smoke. Our first days were really overwhelming, despite the fact that we have visited very poor countries before,” Maggie recalls in a blog post.

The Bangas left their jobs in Toronto to spend the early years of their married life as a missionary couple.

“The walk to our minibus is heart-wrenching. There are forgotten people everywhere, orphans, single moms, cripples, elderly and especially people in desperate need of medical care,” Maggie wrote.

Before heading to Ethiopia last year, the Bangas spoke to The Catholic Register about their call.

Elena Orrico’s efforts helped make St. Rita celebrations possible

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Elena Orrico poses with her statue of St. Rita of Cascia at her home in northwest Toronto. (Photo by Vanessa Santilli)TORONTO - In 1986, Elena Orrico was asked to organize and prepare the first feast day celebrations in honour of St. Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes, at Marylake Shrine. Twenty-five years later, what she made possible is still going strong.

Devoted to St. Rita of Cascia from a young age, Orrico said she was thrilled when Augustinian Father Cyril Smetana, prior at Marylake Augustinian Monastery in King City, Ont., at the time, asked her to take on this task.

“When I read the letter, I was so happy to hear I could help to keep the St. Rita tradition here in Canada,” Orrico told The Catholic Register. “I worked with all my heart for St. Rita.”

St. Rita’s feast day is celebrated on May 22.

Passion was for the Lord, not an engineering career

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Andrew MacDonald will be ordained a priest for the diocese of Charlottetown this spring. (Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Toronto)When he was six, Andrew MacDonald blessed himself like a priest following Mass one Sunday. At 31, he is now becoming one.

“The Lord was slowly opening my heart to the reality of the priesthood,” he said.

“I had no idea at the time, but that’s the case.”

God continued to gently lure MacDonald to the priesthood throughout his youth, when he attended a number of retreats in Prince Edward Island, where he was born and raised. Attending public school in a Protestant community, MacDonald was “blown away” by being with so many other passionate Catholics.

A decade of ignoring his call was wiped out in one Confession

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Eric Mah’s call was reignited after attending Confession after a 15-year absence. (Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Toronto)Whenever Eric Mah thought of the priesthood in his Grade 9 year of high school, he felt an “enduring sense of peace and joy and consolation.” But he spent more than a decade ignoring this feeling, however, before choosing to follow it.

While studying law in university, Mah was invited by his friend to a Lenten reconciliation service, where he had his first Confession in 15 years.

“After hearing the words of absolution, I remember feeling this huge weight lifted in my heart,” said Mah.

He was later asked by another friend to visit the seminary

Parents ground him in faith

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Ante Market will become a priest for the Peterborough diocese. (Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Toronto)Ante Market can still remember hearing gunshots from his childhood home in a violent Toronto neighbourhood. This didn’t stop him from also hearing the call to the priesthood at the age of seven.

Market’s parents and their Croatian heritage, he says, gave him a solid grounding in the faith at a young age. His mother died only three years after his father did, when Market was 18. He says their influence and prayers are why he felt the call to the priesthood.

“(My mother) never shared with me who she was always praying for,” said Market. “I am convinced that the silent prayer of my mother is the reason why, God willing, I will be a priest.”

Pain leads to path to formation

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Bradley Markus hopes to lead the faithful in Hamilton to the joy and peace found in God. (Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Toronto)Bradley Markus’ vocation to the priesthood began 25 years ago, at the age of one, when his father passed away on Good Friday.

“In the midst of this world of suffering and pain, my vocation, my path in life was formed,” he said.

“I was schooled in what I think is the most important lesson in life — the lesson of what it means to truly love and the lesson of what it means to suffer with others.”

But until he was 17, Markus was unaware of this call. After spending a number of years in foster care and being uninvolved in the faith outside of First Communion and Confirmation, Markus began “searching for a greater meaning in life, something beyond drinking and partying and going out with friends.”

Evangelical counsels today are more relevant than ever

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Many Catholics are only vaguely aware of the evangelicals among them — the religious brothers, sisters and priests whose lives are shaped by three vows.

The insiders know the vows as the “evangelical counsels.” They commit every nun, brother and religious order priest to poverty, chastity and obedience. Every religious community interprets these three vows through their own charism — the founding spark or reason for their order’s existence.

The vows do not apply to secular priests, that majority of priests who were trained and ordained by their diocese.

Though some religious communities have grown smaller over the last half-century, Dominican Father Francois Mifsud insists that the evangelical counsels are more relevant than ever.

Misery came in accounting, leading to his joyful call

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What he once thought would be a miserable way to live life is what Allyn Rose has chosen to do with his: become a priest. He will be ordained next month for the archdiocese of Toronto. (Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Toronto)When Allyn Rose was younger, he was always under the impression that life as a priest would be miserable.

That thinking changed so much over the years that now he is about to enter the priesthood.

Born in Orangeville, Ont., Rose was the middle of three children. He studied accounting at Sheridan College and the University of Windsor. All along, however, Rose volunteered in various capacities, including youth ministry, at St. Timothy’s parish in his hometown.

“Over time I was finding more happiness and fulfilment working as a volunteer in parish ministries,” said Rose, “and I was even more miserable working for a good salary at the chartered accountant firm.”

Seminarians must exercise Christ’s authority in priesthood

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Fargo, N.D., Bishop Samuel Aquila, centre, told seminarians that it is Jesus who teaches them how to be shepherds of their flock. (CNS photo)PHILADELPHIA - Seminarians must not be afraid to exercise the priestly authority of Christ upon their ordination to the priesthood, Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, N.D., told an assembly of seminarians in Philadelphia.

“Jesus is the shepherd who teaches us, as bishops and priests and future priests, how to shepherd, how to live His own pastoral authority bestowed upon us by Him and the Holy Spirit on the day of our ordinations,” Aquila said at a recent 10th annual Symposium on the Spirituality and Identity of the Diocesan Priest.

The symposium was sponsored by the Institute for Priestly Formation and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Philadelphia archdiocese.

RCIA program reminds co-ordinator of the power of faith

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A group of catechumens who have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults prepare to enter the Catholic Church. (CNS photo) AJAX, Ont. - By being a witness to the calls of those he serves daily, Mike Hyland is reminded of his own call to service as a co-ordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

“I really got transformed by the experience,” he said. “(I saw) how rich our faith is and how wonderful the Church is.”

The RCIA program is the process of introducing and welcoming new Catholics into the faith. Hyland has been co-ordinating this four-part process at St. Francis de Sales parish in Ajax, Ont., for almost seven years, where he has guided more than 70 people into the Catholic faith.

“Their call is my call too,” he said.
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