Catholics in Snohomish County came together Friday to pray for Pope John Paul II, whom one local parishioner called “a pope of the people.”
Julie Busch/ The Herald
Julie Busch/ The Herald
“We all accept that the last moment is near and he will join Christ soon,” said Serena Clarke of Shoreline. “It’s a sad but joyous moment. He’s a great pope.”
She was among those attending a special Mass for the pope Friday evening at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Edmonds.
Pictures of the pope were posted in the church’s entryway, including one with parish priest Rev. Kenneth Haydock.
“He will be one of the greatest popes of all history,” said Anne Nelskog of Edmonds. “I think the best is yet to come from his good deeds.”
The Rev. Thomas Nathe, who led the special Mass, said John Paul has been pope for 26 years and “has become part of our family. This is an emotional time for us.” He called the pope “a rock, a bulwark for this church.”
Lou Schmitz of Edmonds said the pope had a mixture of gentleness and strength of integrity. It allowed him to make a difference in world politics “and make life better for people not able to advocate for themselves.”
Parishioner Stella Cecchini said she felt a special connection with the pope. “The times I prayed for the pope I felt his love, I felt really close to his heart,” she said.
Because of his charisma and ability to speak a lot of languages “he could touch every heart and every nation.”
As the pope lingered near death, some reflected on a life well lived.
John Paul II has come as close as possible to conducting himself as Jesus Christ would have in the modern world, said Cindy Thomas, who for the last 21 years has been a choir leader at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Everett.
“I’m glad that I lived during his lifetime,” she said. “He is a great example to all of us on how we should model our lives.”
Thomas said the pope’s legacy has been one of protecting human life and reaching out in good will to people with other faiths and ideas.
She said in 1984, she was among the 270,000 people who converged on Abbotsford, B.C., where the pope said Mass. In fall 2003, she went to Rome to participate in an international conference.
The group was to have met with the pope, but his health was too frail. He sent them greetings and messages from his summer quarters, which was adjacent to where the group met.
Thomas said she felt the pontiff’s presence, even though he wasn’t with the group.
“We have had him so long,” Thomas said. “We’ve come to know and love him. We feel like we know him.”
Jane Weiss and her daughter Jessica heard that the pope’s condition had worsened on their way to a communion service at Immaculate Conception Church in Everett Friday afternoon.
“I have no words for the loss I feel,” said Jane Weiss, wiping away tears. “He has great passion and love for humanity. I wish he was able to be on earth a little bit longer.”
The two, who are from Canada, saw the pope during his 1984 visit to British Columbia.
“He was very close to us,” Jane Weiss said. “It was very powerful. I feel privileged to be able to see him.”
Weiss was joined by 30 other people at Immaculate Conception. “I come every Friday, but I made it a point to come today,” said Denise Sanborn, who brought her children Christina, 6; Michael, 4; and Corinne, 1.
“I prayed for healing, but I also prayed that the pope’s example would resonate around the world, and prayed for a pope just as holy,” Sanborn said.
Parishioner Will Reed said the pope “is an inspiration for all of us … he’s always in our hearts.”
The communion service was led by John Sullivan, a parish employee who urged churchgoers to remember the pontiff in their prayers.
“He’s had a profound influence around the world,” Sullivan said. “He really is a pope of the people. He stands up for the poor and common people, and will probably be one of our greatest popes.”
Because of the length of John Paul II’s papacy, which began in October 1978, many Americans wouldn’t even have known anyone else as pope, said Tom MacIntyre, a Monroe resident and executive director of the 200-employee Catholic Community Services in Everett, a social services agency that serves five northwest counties.
The pope’s world travels are legendary, and his message of living a moral life and treating one another well was what people needed to hear, MacIntyre said.
Once strapping and athletic, the pope endured failing health with grace, setting an example for everyone, MacIntyre said.
“He has accepted the realities that life dealt him,” MacIntyre said. “I think that’s marvelous leadership.”
The pope has been an example of “helping us embrace our own suffering in life,” said Tim Serban, director of mission and spiritual care at Providence Everett Medical Center.
The decline in the pope’s health over the past few days has been “a sobering time to reflect on the impact he has had on people’s lives,” Serban said.
The pope initiated World Youth Day, he noted. “It’s amazing how much energy he got from being with young people,” Serban said, adding that the pope would often stay up late with them and celebrate their music.
“He is a person of great intellect, compassion and tenderness,” Serban said. “He inspired the young and old alike.”
Herald reporters Eric Stevick, Scott North and Darren Fessenden contributed to this report.
Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@ heraldnet.com.
Julie Busch / The Herald
Parishioners pray at the beginning of a special Mass for the pope Friday night at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Edmonds. The Mass was presided by the Rev. Thomas Nathe (top left).
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