Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa Bay area Polish Catholics celebrate canonization of Pope John Paul II

ST. PETERSBURG — As throngs converge on Rome for the canonization of two popes Sunday, one the first Polish pontiff in Roman Catholic history, at least one contingent of Tampa Bay Polish Catholics will be present for the historic event.

Others who couldn't make it will be watching from here.

Anna Trzeciak, who escaped communist Poland with her parents and sister in 1987 and was a refugee for two years in Italy before coming to the United States, will watch the ceremony on television from her Land O'Lakes home.

She speaks emotionally about Pope John Paul II — the former Karol Józef Wojtyła — and says he helped her family through a traumatic upheaval.

"It was thanks to John Paul that we had a place to stay," she said, carrying a photograph showing her family and other Polish refugees with the pope after a private Mass at the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo.

"He was so supportive of all the immigrants. He had this big charisma about him and we felt he was our father and watching over us. … You can feel the radiance of God in his eyes."

To hear Trzeciak and others from her homeland talk, Sunday's canonization is a mere formality.

"We could feel that he was a different person," said the Rev. Wojciech Beden, a visiting priest from Poland and Australia who had John Paul as a teacher in seminary and was ordained by him. "We are very proud, but we expected it."

Wednesday afternoon, as members of the Mercy of God Polish Mission gathered for Mass at St. Paul's Catholic Church in St. Petersburg, several stopped to talk about the pope from their home country who was about to be elevated to sainthood.

"I am so happy that it happened fast and we didn't have to wait. He is loved by so many persons and it's not just by the Polish people," Elizabeth Kurnik said.

"I am happy. I am proud. I knew him when he was a bishop in Krakow. I was confirmed by him."

Christine Hipp, assistant church secretary, said John Paul helped free Poland from communism.

"He became a leader of our younger generation," she said. "He was always holy."

But Maria Debord was heartbroken not to be in Rome with the more than three dozen parishioners who had left the previous day with Monsignor Janusz Burzawa, head of the 23-year-old Polish congregation. Pilgrims also set out Tuesday from Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Sun City Center for the festivities in Rome.

Pope Francis will canonize both John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, best known for convening the historic Second Vatican Council that brought widespread change to the Catholic Church.

Pope John Paul is going to be remembered "in a big way" for his opposition to communism, said Michael Anthony Novak, assistant professor of religious studies at Saint Leo University.

Violetta Marchante, 42, who lives in Tampa, lived through the changes brought about by John Paul. She has organized a celebration honoring him after the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church in Tarpon Springs.

"People were repressed in Poland at that time," she said of Poland under communism.

"People who were going to church had no possibility of better positions. From the moment he was elected pope, it gave a new strength to the nation and everybody came out and were celebrating in the street. People started to be very open about their faith and their religion. That gave a chance to all of us, a new breath, a new strength."

The Rev. Eugene Gancarz of Resurrection Catholic Church in Riverview, has another memory of John Paul, who had been his archbishop in Krakow.

"Sometimes he came to our parish to celebrate Mass for the people who were praying for a new church," he said.

His canonization is important not only for the Polish people but for all Catholics, said Gancarz, who also worked under Pope Francis when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

But Pope John Paul's elevation to one of the Catholic Church's newest saints is not without controversy. Critics say he did not do enough to address the sexual abuse scandal that erupted on his watch. Novak disagrees. "At one level, it clearly, simply, obviously was a failure. … But I get a little doubtful about people dropping complete responsibility on his shoulders," he said.

"It is only in the last 20 years or so, during John Paul's papacy, that society has really started talking about the sexual abuse of children. … We have displayed denial and disbelief across society. And we've done so for centuries."

To Trzeciak, who first saw John Paul when she was 18, he is already a saint. She has a memory of the times she has seen him, as he stretched out his hands to the crowds at the Vatican after papal masses, on Good Friday for Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum, at Castel Gandolfo.

"These are the moments I will cherish forever," she said. "Whenever he looked at you and touched you, you feel the presence of God, the peace of God. It's hard to describe. … I still feel it."

     
Comments

High school scoreboard for Feb. 22

Thursday’s scoreboardSoftballBoca Ciega 4, Pinellas Park 2Admiral Farragut 7, Northside Christian 1Boys tennisOsceola 7, Dixie Hollins 0Clearwater Central Cath. 4, Jesuit 3Girls tennisOsceola 7, Dixie Hollins 0Boys basketballClass 3A, region semifina...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputy ‘never went in’ during Parkland school shooting. There were other failures, too

Deputy ‘never went in’ during Parkland school shooting. There were other failures, too

Eight days after mass shooter Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward’s top cop on Thursday revealed a stunning series of failures by the sheriff’s department.A school campus cop heard the gunfire, rushed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A case for wild flamingos calling Florida their home

A case for wild flamingos calling Florida their home

In 2015, Conchy the flamingo showed up at Florida’s Naval Air Station Key West, and he wouldn’t leave. Normally, managers on the grounds lethally remove feathered troublemakers — it can be very dangerous with birds flying around million-dollar fighte...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida man yells ‘murderers!’ as he’s executed for slaying

Florida man yells ‘murderers!’ as he’s executed for slaying

Associated PressSTARKE — An inmate convicted of raping and killing a college student decades ago screamed and yelled "murderers!" three times, thrashing on a gurney as he was being put to death Thursday. The governor’s office said Eric Scott Branch, ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor and the police chief came to Northeast High on Thursday to warn students about the dangers of circulating rumors of school safety threats on social media.While they were there, one of those unfounded rumors popped up on Fac...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Haley Loeun, a top aide to the embattled leader of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards, was fired Thursday from her $130,000-a-year position as business services director.Loeun came under criticism after the Tampa Bay Times reported that employ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
V.M. Ybor: That’s not cigar smoke you’re smelling

V.M. Ybor: That’s not cigar smoke you’re smelling

TAMPA — Across Interstate 4 from Ybor City’s nightlife, another part of the historic neighborhood has an odor less nostalgic — and much less pleasant — than cigar smoke and roasting coffee beans.V.M. Ybor, named after the Spaniard who founded the cit...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the president’s call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention — the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House — CNN’s Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Updated: 6 hours ago