(Host) Catholic churches across Vermont held special masses over the weekend to honor Pope John Paul II who died Saturday. VPR’s Nina Keck attended Sunday morning mass at a historically Polish parish in West Rutland and filed this report.
(Keck) At Saint Stanislas Koskas Church in West Rutland, many of the hymns are still sung in Polish and the ornate paintings that line the walls of the hundred-year-old church have Polish script underneath.
So, it’s not surprising that parishioners here felt a special bond with the Polish-born pope, John Paul II. After Sunday’s Mass, several parishioners, including Frank Miginski, stopped outside the red brick church to talk about what the pope meant to them.
(Miginski) “Well, it was the first Polish pope that we ever had. And it really brought in quite a lot of joy to all of us here in West Rutland primarily because this church is a Polish church. He did his job and he did it well. He traveled to 129 countries and he’s done very, very well.”
(Neimeth) “I’m Mary Neimeth from Rutland.”
(Keck) “What did the Pope mean to you?”
(Neimeth) “The Pope meant love and hope. The fact that he got out of Rome and he visited nations, it was just terrific. The fact that he was polish – my heritage is polish so the love for that. The fact that he was real, he was approachable. And he was there for us when we needed him and that’s the spirit of the polish people. They’re there for each other.”
(Chrusciel) “My name is Sophia Chrusciel – Polish through and through. I love my pope with all my heart. And he is a man of the people. No matter who you were, what nationality or what religious background – everybody in the world should be treated alike. We’re all God’s children and that is what he tried to bring across to all people.”
(Keck) Chrusciel says the pope did much for the church, but she believes his biggest legacy was his love for his native country and its people. He helped to free Poland from the communists, she says with pride and she will miss him.
(Chrusciel) “I will miss him because I did see him and shook hands with him many many years ago when I was in Poland. And I remember that day so vividly. It was when he was archbishop. In fact I was at his birthplace, in the very home where he was born in. And the little church was right across the way. And he was baptized and an alter boy there. I had the privilege of seeing all that.”
(Keck) “What was he like?”
(Chrusciel) “I would say a very personal, loving man.”
(Keck) In addition to prayers for the late pope, parishioners say they are also praying for church officials in Rome who must now choose his successor.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in West Rutland.