Author: Ania Navas
Karol Wojtyła who became Pope, was without any doubts an extraordinary man. His intelligence, kindness, as well as deep faith and devotion to God undeniably influences all who had the privilege to know him. For millions of believers around the world, already as Pope John Paul II, he became a spiritual leader, an example to follow. His attitude and involvement in human right fight contributed to communism fall in Europe. By His generation, He was called as John Paul the Great. When nine years after His death, on April 27, 2014, He was canonized and declared a Saint of the Catholic Church, His fame and miracles which happened as a result of all prayers made through His intercession, became well known in every corner of the globe. Saint John Paul II became the best known Pole in the world. Countless pilgrims from around the world are going to places where He lived and worked. Faithful people are waiting for months to have a Mass celebrated in a special intention by His tomb at the St. Sebastian’s Chapel, in the St. Peter Basilica in Vatican. Many of them received graces of healing, the gift of motherhood, or experiences changes in lives thanks to the intercession of St. John Paul II.
However, not everyone can go for a trip to Poland or Vatican to pray at places especially saturated by the spiritual presence at which Saint John Paul II lived. Thus, for Faithful people relics are so important. They are a part of very important spiritual heritage of Christian culture. They are witness of sainthood and makes, in a way, a monument of faith; an element which is adored by faithful people which brings them closer to the particular saint; a symbol of his/her presence among us, who are still on earth. Contact with relics of adored saint brings to people of faith, a great amount of spiritual emotions, reasserts in prayers, via prayers allows to receive special God’s graces through the intercession of that particular saint. For Poles, especially those who are living far away from their homeland, an option to be so close with the relic of their bellowed Pope is an extraordinary experience and by all means bringing them closer to God. Thus, with a great joy, Polonia who lives in Florida heard the announcement about permanent presence of the relic of the first degree (in this case a drop of blood) of Saint John Paul II at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Church in Royal Palm Beach.
The relic was brought to Florida thanks to the effort of the John Paul II Foundation Chapter in Florida for which Ania Navas is the President. In fact, thanks to her request, in January 2016, Fr. Krzysztof Wieliczko, Administrator of the John Paul II Foundation, brought this priceless relic from Vatican. The Foundation was established by the Holy Father John Paul II with the Papal decree in 1981. It was a few months after the assassination. The Pope survived, but this situation permanently marked His life. It contributed to the desire to preserve his teachings for the future generations. He decided to establish a Foundation which could continue His deed after His death. The main intention of the Holy Father was to rebuild intelligence in the Eastern Europe. It was mainly to educate poor young people and agitation of the spiritual and intellectual potentials in them. The Foundation has also the evangelization mission. The tasks of the Foundation include, among others: collection and dissemination of the St. John Paul II teachings, cooperation with the centers of Christian culture around the world and their support which is so urgently needed especially in these so difficult for the Catholic religion, geopolitical situations.
Preparations for a worthy welcome of relics at the Our Lady of Apostles parish were ongoing for over a year. The parish has 2, 200 families with international roots. It is very important for the message of St. John Paul II to radiate also outside of the Polish community, to be well known to other nationalities, to unite all believers of Christ. A Pole, Rev. Andy Rudnicki is the Pastor at this wonderfully run parish in Royal Palm Beach, Florida. It was thanks to his efforts that this beautiful church was built seven years ago. Also thanks to him, necessary renovations were made which allowed to put the relic in the specially prepared niche, where the figure of St. John Paul II is also standing. On the wall, next to the relic, an image of the Saint which was donated by Ms. Krystyna Wilson, a member of the Florida Chapter, was installed.
Krystyna Wilson: “This beautiful portrait of John Paul II reflecting a unique warmth and charisma of our great Pope has been with me for years, and often was used for decoration during various celebrations in memory of the Holy Father at the meetings of the local Polish community at the church in Lantana. My relationship with the picture is strong and unique. Always, when I was coming back from meetings, this picture was next to me at the passenger seat and I felt as if the Pope was riding with me…It was giving me an incredible heavenly feeling of calm, which I will never forget. I’m a member of the board of the Florida Chapter of the John Paul Foundation and a long time ago I decided to offer to the Church this special to me image. Right next to the relic and statue of the beloved John Paul II, there is a place to install this image. For me, it is an event that fills my heart with extraordinary joy and peace. I wish that this panting will remain there forever and the image of the Saint will bring so much joy and hope to others as it did in my life.”
The relic unveiling ceremony took place on March 5, 2017 during a special Mass celebrated by seven priests and the crowd from Florida as well as others who came from other parts of the United States. Rev. Andy Rudnicki was the main celebrant of the Mass. The specially prepared for this celebration homily was delivered by Rev. Dr. Tomasz Seweryn who came from Michigan. It is worth to mention that he also wrote his doctoral thesis on St. John Paul II and is also the author of the book: “The Marian dimension of the spirituality of a priest in the teachings of John Paul II.” Rev. Dr. Tomasz Seweryn is trying to save the existing for over 130 years, the seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan, which is the real mainstay of Polonia’s history in the U.S. He came a few years ago from Poland and is a candidate for the chancellor’s position and at the same time also the rector’s position of the seminary. His presence at the ceremony introducing the relic of the Polish Pope and beautiful, deeply thoughtful homily about St. John Paul II was very important for the Polonia in Florida.
Polonia did not disappoint. A large group of St. John Paul II dressed in white and red attended the ceremony at the Church in Royal Palm Beach. Thanks to the efforts of Malgorzata Borkowska-Misztal, a member of board of the Florida Chapter, there were also children from the Nicolaus Copernicus Polish Saturday School operating at the Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in West Palm Beach, where Rev. Tomasz Makowski is the Pastor. Children were dressed in traditional reginal Polish costumes. The school Principal, Ms. Katarzyna Konopka and vice-director, Ms. Edyta Szumelda came to the ceremony with their families. The girls in the regional costumes from Krakow: Olivia and Claudia Wojewnik are the daughters of Ms. Katarzyna. The youngest representative of Polonia, Robert Szumelda, the son of Ms. Edyta, was also dressed in the costume from Krakow’s region. Young people presented themselves in a beautiful way, for example, dressed in costume from highland region, Maya Swiderski, the daughter of Malgorzata Misztal. Parents and children proudly presented Polonia. Also, presence of members of the “Knights of Columbus” in their gala uniforms added a very beautiful touch to the entire ceremony. The great Knights deserve special thanks for honoring the ceremony.
People gathered in the church were enchanted by the angelic voice of Ewa Lewandowska-Nowakowski. She almost won the Polish edition of the TV program “I have talent.” Ewa is singing since her childhood and graduated from the Music Academy in Katowice. Affected by a very serious illness, she can only see spots and contours. Recently, she moved from New York to Florida and is looking for new opportunities to share her talents with other people. So far it is not easy. Despite of the outstanding talent and unusual timbre of voice she lacks a promoter, who could help her to find her way in the music world in the U.S. During the Mass, in memory of the Polish Pope, Ewa sang: Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus, Nella Fantasia and Prayer for Confidence. Her performance touched the audience and caused in many some tears of emotion. Among the guests of honor we can also name: dr. Lawrence L. Ziemianski, former President of the John Paul II Foundation Washington DC Chapter; dr. Junia Ancaya, translator of St. John Paul II texts into Spanish; and, Ms. Stephanie Germack, former President of the John Paul II Foundation Michigan Chapter.
“It is a historic moment for us. The fact that we were able to bring the relic of our beloved Pope to Florida and that it will remain among us permanently is a unique event for all Faithfull people and especially for us, Poles. He is our spiritual Father. We will be able to feel His presence and care and we will be able to visit Him often, to confide and ask Him for support in our daily human problems” said Roch Kolodziej, one of Poles who have been living in Florida for a long time.
Malgorzata Borkowska-Misztal adds: “Visiting Poland this year and being at Kasprowy Wierch on January 3rd, exactly one year from the date on which Father Krzysztof Wieliczko brought the relic to the U.S., I had the opportunity to see a beautiful exhibition dedicated to our Pope. Saint John Paul II, you are present in Zakopane which is very close to my heart and now, here in Florida, you will always be close to me. I’m very happy that the relic will be permanently in my parish.”
Florida Chapter board of the John Paul II Foundation cordially invites all to join this Christian organization. For more info, please visit the Foundation website: www.fjp2.com
Photos from the ceremony were made by Pauline Jean-Mary, the daughter of Yverose Lindor Jean – Mary, member of the Florida Chapter board of the John Paul II Foundation and Hania Stepniak.