Blessed Pope John Paul II is the patron saint for this conference. He was born Karol Joseph Wojtyla in Poland on May 18, 1920. His mother died when he was only 8 years old and he lost his older brother four years later to scarlet fever. He was raised by his father until his father’s death during the first year of WWII, leaving him with no immediate family before he turned 21. Despite these tragedies, he was an amiable boy, enjoying sports as a youngster and was an excellent student at school. As a teenager, he developed a passion for the theater and literature, and wanted to be a professional actor. He was equally passionate about nature and loved canoeing, hiking, and skiing.
Pope John Paul II is the first Pope to have spent part of his life as an industrial worker. As a young adult, in order to survive during WWII and the Nazi occupation of Poland, he worked as a stonecutter while studying in the underground seminary and acting in a secret theater society. At the age of 22, he told his archbishop, “I want to be a priest,” and was ordained in 1946. After only 12 years of being a priest he was named auxiliary Bishop of Krakow and a full bishop 4 years later. He was a born leader and was elevated to Cardinal in 1967. In 1978 at the age of 58, he was elected to the Papacy.
Pope John Paul II was the first Polish Pope and also the first non-Italian Pope since 1522. He is frequently credited with having played a pivotal role in the downfall of Communism in Europe in the late 1980s. As he traveled throughout the world spreading God’s message of peace and eternal salvation, he taught the deep value of the human person and defended life in all stages, from the baby in the womb to the elderly.
He was especialy energized by young people, and inaugurated World Youth Day in 1986 to celebrate the faith of young Catholics worldwide. Pope John Paul II continually urged young people to turn to Jesus, to listen to Him and discover the true meaning of their lives. He challenged them to foster a prayer life, a sincere dialogue with Jesus Christ, and promised that through Christ, young men and women will not only work toward building a better world, but find the truths and values on which to build their own happiness.
Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005 but will be forever remembered as one of the most dynamic and great Popes ever to succeed St. Peter. On May 1, 2011 John Paul II was made Blessed by Pope Benedict XVI. The ceremony took place on Divine Mercy Sunday in honor of John Paul’s work to make the devotion of Divine Mercy an official church feast day.
Dear Heavenly Father, grant by your gracious will, that Blessed Pope John Paul II be an intercessor for us who journey through life in your pilgrim church here on earth. He preached the sanctity of human life and the value of the Cross by the way he lived. May we come to know these truths and live them as he did with undying faith, hope and love. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.