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Chicago area Catholics anticipate beatification of Pope John Paul II

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Last weekend, Larry Kallembach converted to Catholicism.

This weekend, the Park Ridge banker will celebrate in grand style, joining millions of Catholics in Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

“It’s just sort of the icing on the cake,” he said. “To have the opportunity to go and see this kind of occasion, it’s once in a lifetime.”

“Santo Subito!” - “Sainthood Immediately!” -- the crowds cheered in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 during Pope John Paul II’s funeral. While he hasn’t been declared a saint yet, the prayers of the faithful -- including many here in Chicago -- will be answered Sunday during the pope’s beatification, the final formal step before canonization.

A group of about 40 Chicago-area Catholics leaves Thursday for Rome in a trip sponsored by the Chicago New World, the archdiocesan newspaper. A similar group left Tuesday from the Holy Trinity Polish Mission, 1118 N. Noble St.

Francis Cardinal George is scheduled to attend the beatification Sunday and celebrate Mass for Chicago Catholics in Rome on Monday.

For those unable to make the trip, particularly in Catholic churches serving Chicago’s large Polish community, the beatification will be celebrated locally with Masses, special vigils and, at one church with close ties to the pontiff, the planting of a sturdy oak tree.

“We pray here every day at the Mass for his beatification,” said Father Wojciech Baryski, pastor of Five Holy Martyrs church in the Brighton Park neighborhood. Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass at the church in 1979, and the parish will host a special Mass on Sunday in thanksgiving for his beatification.

An oak tree, which will be called the “Oak of John Paul II” will be planted in the church’s courtyard following the 3 p.m. mass.

“This tree will grow with the parish,” Baryski said.

At Holy Trinity Polish Mission, Sister Renata Bochenek, one of four sisters of the Missionary Sisters of Christ the King from Poland based at the church, will decorate the church sanctuary Thursday in the pope’s honor.

“I wanted to do something for him,” she said. “I’m really grateful to God for this person in my life.”

Bochenek cried when she met the pope in 2000 while bringing a children’s chorus from Chicago to Rome to sing for him.

“It was a really touching moment,” she said. “I only said ‘Father, I love you and I pray for you everyday.’”

His prayers, she said, have helped resolve a family issue, something she thinks is his divine intervention.

“I’m sure he asked God for it for me,” she said. “He is my saint, my blessed father.”

Joe Ryan, 67, from Lockport, is traveling to Rome for what he believes is his only opportunity to witness the sainthood process of a person who lived in his lifetime. Ryan and his wife previously have visited sacred sites in the Middle East and sites revered for the supposed appearance of the Virgin Mary.

“I think it just increases and strengthens (my faith),” Ryan said. “It’s going to be exciting.”



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