In October of 1978, I was a
young priest working at the University of Notre Dame. I wasn’t
even 5 years ordained. Like the rest of the World, I was
transfixed to the news—and with Catholics around the world, I
was united in prayer—as we mourned the loss of two popes in just
two months—Paul VI and John Paul I.
And like the rest of the world, I was shocked when the Dean of
the College of Cardinals announced the name of the new
Pope—Karol Wojtyla from Poland. I shared the excitement of every
other Catholic on earth—and as my father was born in Poland, I
had a special pride that the first non-Italian Pope in 500 years
was a son of Poland. Since I was rector of the main church on
campus, I took the liberty to peal the 14 bells in the steeple
for almost 8 hours straight. It was a day to celebrate!
Pope John Paul II was a gift for the Church, helping each of us
to face the challenges of the modern world with courage and with
love. His accomplishments are too many to list. I suspect that
each of you have a special “John Paul II” story to share – some
personal way that he directly changed your life or the lives of
your family and friends. His writing and charismatic
evangelization will resonate for centuries. And the papacy of
his dear friend and successor, Pope Benedict XVI is in many ways
a continuation of the vision of John Paul II.
However, as we gather these days to celebrate the dedication of
a new center for campus ministry, I am reminded of the ministry
of the young Father Wojtyla as he worked with the youth in
Krakow. Father Wojtyla was a brilliant scholar and a tough
professor. Yet, as he met with young people, he put aside
philosophical and theological argument. In his own words, he
would “journey with” them through their spiritual questions and
vocational discernment. Through camping trips, plays, and long
walks in his beloved mountains, Father Wojtyla invited these
young people to journey with him, as a brother in the Lord, so
that together they might be members of the family of God.
What Father Wojtyla did with the youth of Krakow, Pope John Paul
II did as our Supreme Pontiff. He “journeyed with” us, unafraid
of the challenges of the new millennium. As we dedicate a new
center of campus ministry this weekend, it is my greatest prayer
that this spirit of Pope John Paul II will pervade this building
and this ministry.
I also am reminded of a story my Chancellor, Patricia Gibson,
told me when she visited Sister Silvia and Sister Sara last July
when the construction project was being completed. She said at
the end of their meeting both she and the Sisters all shared how
they felt something was still missing at the Newman Center. They
all knew the Newman Center needed some special dedication to
something or someone who could continue to guide the good work
being done there.
Mother, I know how much Pope John Paul II has meant in your
personal life and in your inspired work to found the community
of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. I am incredibly
grateful that you have sent us sisters to serve the students at
Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan. Not only do
they share your zeal for souls and deep love for the priesthood,
but Sister Silvia and Sister Sara beautifully carry on the
vision for ministry given to us by Pope John Paul II. With
Father Kevin, a priest of the John Paul II generation, they
truly “journey with” their students, inviting them to be
courageous, zealous and loving members of the Family of Jesus.
Mother, Sr. Ana, and all of our special guests, in recognition
of all that Pope John Paul II has meant in your lives and
praying that his example will inspire new generations of
ministers and entrusting the students of ISU and IWU to his
heavenly protection, I am very happy to announce for the first
time publicly, that effective immediately I decree that this new
center for Catholic Campus Ministry should be called the John
Paul II Catholic Newman Center.
Pope John Paul the Great – PRAY FOR US!
Mother, here is a photograph of what the new sign will look
like over the entrance to the John Paul II Newman Center.
Sister Silvia, as a personal gift to the new John Paul II Center, I
want to give you a gift I received from Pope John Paul II. As a
young bishop I met John Paul II on my first ad limina visit and he
gave me this pectoral cross which I am happy to give to you and the
students as a second class relic.
articles on these events:
-- Newman chapel dedicated; center renamed for
Pope John Paul II
Chapel at ISU dedicated; Newman Center renamed
ISU and IWU dedicate
renovated Newman Center
New Chapel at Illinois State University
Solemn dedication of the New St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel and the
John Paul II Newman Center in Illinois State University
Consecration of Nazareth House Retreat Center to the Pierced Hearts