The past several days, as you might well imagine, have been memorable beyond telling. They have been filled with the beautiful excitement of a canonization, with hours of television and radio reports and commentary, with shared meals with so many friends from the U.S. and abroad who knew and loved and volunteered with and for St. Teresa of Calcutta – everyone’s “Mother Teresa.”

I hope to find some quiet time to sit down and reflect what all this has meant to me personally – Mother Teresa’s life and work, the stories I heard from those who knew her so well, who knew she was a saint long before her official canonization. A saint of our times! Our days! Someone we knew and saw and heard and read about.

What have I learned about her life that has changed mine? Have my thoughts, my work, my priorities changed in some way – or been added to by what I learned?

I want to ponder all of this because I do know I am a changed person.


(Vatican Radio) A surprise meeting on Tuesday morning in the Vatican made the day for a group of young pilgrims from northern Italy who has cycled to Rome in pilgrimage for this Holy Year of Mercy. (photo news.va)


Pope Francis himself stepped out of his Vatican residence at Casa Santa Marta and into the square in front of the building to greet the young ‘pilgrim cyclists’ and to bestow his blessing upon them and ‘don Andrea’, the priest who has accompanied them on their pilgrimage.

The young people traveled on bicycle down the backbone of Italy from two parishes that are part of the Milan diocese. They intend to resume their pilgrimage with a torchlight procession “on wheels”.

“Now that we have received Pope Francis’ apostolic blessing, we shall set off with extra joy,” they said.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday encouraged the President of the Vatican’s ‘Bambino Gesù’ pediatric hospital to continue to promote the institution’s good work and promised his personal contribution.

In the course of a private audience with Mariella Enoc – at the head of the children’s hospital since February 2015 – the Pope assured her of his continuing support and said the hospital must evermore be a ‘great work of mercy’.


During the heart-to-heart conversation that ‘Bambino Gesù’ President Mariella Enoc said took place in an atmosphere of great friendliness and intimacy, Pope Francis expressed deep interest in an ongoing charity project that sees the Vatican institution actively supporting the Pediatric Hospital of Bangui, in the Central African Republic.

“The Pope even pledged his personal help ” – she told Vatican Radio  – “an economic contribution that will help us ‘adopt’ the African hospital and help it to grow by providing medical formation, by establishing a school that specializes in pediatric care and by building new wards”.

Enoc also spoke to the Pope about how the Bambino Gesù Hospital has been active in helping support refugees and about an agricultural initiative in collaboration with FAO and the Italian state that aims to provide long-term solutions for the poor in the Central African Republic.

Of course much attention was dedicated to the work carried out by the pediatric hospital itself that offers quality health care, taking in children from across the world, many of whom from families who cannot afford to pay.

And this is exactly what the ‘Pope’s Hospital’ that has its roots in the Gospel is expected to do – Enoc pointed out – as she presented Francis with the gift of a one of the beautiful “Madonna of Bangui” photographs that are part of the Bambino Gesù project to raise money for its sister hospital in the Central African Republic.

After the audience Mariella Enoc presented the ‘Santa Marta pediatric dispensary’, where a team of Bambino Gesù doctors offer voluntary service, with an ultrasound scanner as sign of concrete commitment to help in the Pope’s works of mercy.


I thought this was a terrific description of what it was like to participate in the canonization Sunday of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. The entire story reminded me of many similar moments I’ve spent getting to St. Peter’s Square for a big Vatican event, both as a pilgrim and as a journalist! This was written by Terry Wilson for the Dispatch-Argus QCOnline:

Terry Wilson is business development/marketing director for the Dispatch/Argus. He traveled to Rome last week with a tour group of 52 people primarily from the Quad-Cities area. The tour was organized by The Catholic Messenger newspaper and led by the Rev. Marty Goetz.

ROME — We began the day with a 4 a.m. wake-up call and were loaded on the bus and headed to St. Peter’s Square by 5 a.m., more than five hours before the canonization service for Mother Teresa was scheduled to begin.

As our bus neared Vatican City, there were people everywhere. Buses usually park underground there, but the lot was closed due to security and the volume of traffic. We were dropped off a few blocks outside Vatican City. Enza Volpe, our Italian-born tour manager, made things so much easier.

We were provided small fold-up chairs, and with Enza leading the way, we headed toward St. Peter’s Square. After a short walk, we found the streets already blocked with people waiting. The line continued to build behind us, and from the side streets intersecting ours.

The wait in line was an international experience. Waiting along with the rest of us were priests and nuns from many different countries and orders. It would seem that with all of us there to celebrate someone like Mother Teresa, the wait would have been an orderly social exchange. It was just the opposite. The longer we waited, the more people tried to reposition themselves for the best spot, and the pushing and shouting began to escalate. Finally the first of two security checkpoints was opened, and the line began to move.

We had arranged to gather at a meeting place after the service, so getting separated wouldn’t be a concern. Once the mass of people began pushing us through the security funnel, our group was indeed separated, but we all managed to gather in small groups. Our English was of no use at this point, but fortunately for me, Enza ended up with a group of five of us that managed to stay together in the crowd. This gave us the advantage of knowing what the guards and security officers were saying, and helped us move forward to the second security check, just outside St. Peter’s Square.

Once through the second security check, we entered St. Peter’s Square. The sight was breathtaking, with the basilica directly in front of us and with everything now focused on the stage and altar that had been placed on the stairway leading into the church. The view from where we stood was good enough that we decided to stay there rather than moving back into the crowd closer to the front.

We moved to a wooden railing that had been installed to created a corridor between us and the next section and staked our turf. Several other members of our group spotted us, and 10 of us ended up together. We still had several hours to wait, so we made use of our small stools and watched the crowd continue to grow.

There was security everywhere you looked, from the Swiss Army Guard in their colorful uniforms and Vatican Police in their uniforms to numerous security personnel dressed in perfectly pressed black suits.

As St. Peter’s Square continued to fill, so did our area. We were all glad we had the railing with the open corridor next to us, since it offered some relief from the pushing and shoving crowd that surrounded us as we waited. St. Peter’s Square was soon completely filled, and you could see the roads outside the square were also filled with people who couldn’t fit inside.

They began playing music from the stage, and then about 45 minutes before the service started, reciting the Rosary. A peace began to come over the crowd, and listening to the Rosary in many different languages, recited in unison by thousands of people, was truly beautiful. It didn’t change the fact that we were all uncomfortable, standing in direct sunlight with the temperatures in the mid 80s, and people were still vying for the best spot to stand, but  we were in a holy place to celebrate a holy woman.

Soon Pope Francis was center stage, and the service began. We were all given a 112-page soft- cover book with the order of the service, but since neither the books nor the service were in English, it was hard to follow what was happening.

But there was no doubt what was going on when Cardinal Amoto began speaking to the pope. Before Pope Francis could finish his reply, the crowd broke out in excited applause.

The feeling of being present for such a historic moment is hard to explain. I was interviewed by a reporter while standing in the crowd. My answer to her was how personal Mother Teresa’s sainthood is to each of us. This is someone from our time, that we watched, knew and grew to love for all she did for others.

One of the people traveling with my group is Sister Mary Seraphin Beck, OSF, whose Mother House is in Davenport, across the street from St. Alphonsus. She stated simply that being there made us think of not only who we are, but more important, who we want to be.

As the Mass continued, I couldn’t imagine how people were going to move forward for communion, but everything was well organized, and knowing the crowd of over 100,000 was so packed in that people couldn’t move, what seemed like hundreds of priests, including our own Father Goetz, moved out into the crowd to serve communion to the people.

As the service came to a conclusion, anticipation began to build. Would Pope Francis take his customary ride out into the crowd, standing in the Popemobile? We watched the Swiss Guard and the other security officers begin to survey our area of the crowd closely. We then realized the railing we had decided to stand next to was creating the corridor for the Popemobile’s route. Soon he entered the vehicle, the crowd cheered, and out he went to the people. He did indeed pass directly in front of us!

In many ways, attending the canonization was hot, uncomfortable and unpleasant. But not if you compare it to the trials Mother Teresa suffered in her lifetime. It was an amazing experience to see over 100,000 people from all over the world gathered to honor the faith and sainthood of Mother Teresa.


A glorious day for the Church, for the Missionaries of Charity and for each of us but especially for the poor, the marginalized, the outcast and the forgotten! The following is Pope Francis’ homily:


“Who can learn the counsel of God?” (Wis 9:13). This question from the Book of Wisdom that we have just heard in the first reading suggests that our life is a mystery and that we do not possess the key to understanding it. There are always two protagonists in history: God and man. Our task is to perceive the call of God and then to do his will. But in order to do his will, we must ask ourselves, “What is God’s will in my life?”




We find the answer in the same passage of the Book of Wisdom: “People were taught what pleases you” (Wis 9:18). In order to ascertain the call of God, we must ask ourselves and understand what pleases God. On many occasions the prophets proclaimed what was pleasing to God. Their message found a wonderful synthesis in the words “I want mercy, not sacrifice” (Hos 6:6; Mt 9:13). God is pleased by every act of mercy, because in the brother or sister that we assist, we recognize the face of God which no one can see (cf. Jn 1:18). Each time we bend down to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we give Jesus something to eat and drink; we clothe, we help, and we visit the Son of God (cf. Mt 25:40).




We are thus called to translate into concrete acts that which we invoke in prayer and profess in faith. There is no alternative to charity: those who put themselves at the service of others, even when they don’t know it, are those who love God (cf. 1 Jn 3:16-18; Jas 2:14-18). The Christian life, however, is not merely extending a hand in times of need. If it is just this, it can be, certainly, a lovely expression of human solidarity which offers immediate benefits, but it is sterile because it lacks roots. The task which the Lord gives us, on the contrary, is the vocation to charity in which each of Christ’s disciples puts his or her entire life at his service, so to grow each day in love.




We heard in the Gospel, “Large crowds were travelling with Jesus” (Lk 14:25). Today, this “large crowd” is seen in the great number of volunteers who have come together for the Jubilee of Mercy. You are that crowd who follows the Master and who makes visible his concrete love for each person. I repeat to you the words of the Apostle Paul: “I have indeed received much joy and comfort from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philem 1:7). How many hearts have been comforted by volunteers! How many hands they have held; how many tears they have wiped away; how much love has been poured out in hidden, humble and selfless service! This praiseworthy service gives voice to the faith and expresses the mercy of the Father, who draws near to those in need.




Following Jesus is a serious task, and, at the same time, one filled with joy; it takes a certain daring and courage to recognize the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and to give oneself in their service. In order to do so, volunteers, who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather they renounce all this because they have discovered true love. Just as the Lord has come to meet me and has stooped down to my level in my hour of need, so too do I go to meet him, bending low before those who have lost faith or who live as though God did not exist, before young people without values or ideals, before families in crisis, before the ill and the imprisoned, before refugees and immigrants, before the weak and defenceless in body and spirit, before abandoned children, before the elderly who are on their own. Wherever someone is reaching out, asking for a helping hand in order to get up, this is where our presence – and the presence of the Church which sustains and offers hope – must be.



Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that “the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable”. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.

(Note from Joan: This tapestry was inspired by several photographs from world renown portrait photograph Michael Collopy. His photos led artist Chas Fagan – who never met Mother Teresa – to create the painting that is the canonization tapestry. The two men spoke over the phone and by Skype to get this portrait and Fagan and Collopy met for the first time in Rome on September 3. I interviewed Michael Collopy, who followed and photographed Mother Teresa for 15 years, on Sept. 3 after that meeting and you will hear the interview on “Vatican Insider”)


Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness! May this tireless worker of mercy help us to increasingly understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion. Mother Teresa loved to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile”. Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness.




What a week this has been and what amazing days are ahead of us, culminating in the canonization Sunday of a holy woman known the world over simply as Mother Teresa. Members of the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, have been pouring into Rome and they have organized a grand number of events to honor their foundress and soon to be Saint Teresa of Calcutta, including concerts, symposiums, art exhibits, and multi-lingual Masses.

I took this photo this morning as I was entering Vatican Radio for my weekly program, “Joan Knows.” These Missionaries of Charity Sisters were all waiting at the bus stop just out front.

MC nuns

Before I go further let me tell you about my guest in the interview segment. I talk with Fr. Brian Kolodeijchuk, MC, the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause for canonization. He has, of course, terrific insight and wonderful stories about this diminutive nun who was larger than life for everyone who came into contact with her.



Another big event on the calendar this weekend is the three-day Jubilee of Volunteers that culminates Sunday with the papal Mass in St. Peter’s square. This event was already on the Jubilee calendar when the Vatican announced in March that Teresa’s canonization would be the same September day.

Tomorrow morning there is a catechesis event for volunteers, expected to number 25,000, in St. Peter’s Square with Pope Francis. Sunday, as you know, the canonization Mass takes place in the square, and Monday, as is usual after a canonization, there will be a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Square presided over by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.


The Director of the Holy See Press Office Greg Burke said it would be impossible to predict how many people will attend Sunday’s canonization Mass for Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Speaking at a Vatican press conference giving details about the highly-anticipated event, Burke said all 100,000 tickets had been distributed for the Mass but that the crowd would likely be far greater, spilling into the streets around St. Peter’s Square.

Some 600 journalists from all over the world have flocked to Rome to cover Mother Teresa’s canonization which is being seen by many as the highlight of this Jubilee Year of Mercy. More than a dozen heads of state or government will be among the many dignitaries attending the Mass.

Among those speaking at the packed press conference on Friday morning were Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the Superior General of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for her sainthood cause and Marcilio Haddad Andrino, the Brazilian who was declared miraculously healed through Mother Teresa’s intercession.

Andrino described how he was suffering from a viral brain infection and the doctors had lost all hope of saving his life when his wife Fernanda prayed to Mother Teresa and immediately afterwards he found himself miraculously healed from the illness. He expressed gratitude for his recovery but said he is just one example of God’s ample mercy and love and stressed he “did not feel special.” Within a year, his wife became pregnant and they were able to have two children even though Andrino had been told that the powerful drugs he had taken had made him infertile. He called his two children “the extension of that miracle.”

Turning to the technical side of the canonization Mass, Burke told journalists that the event will be filmed using 4K Ultra High Definition and using nine television cameras. He said the Canonization can also be seen on the Vatican’s YouTube platform, on the Vatican player of Vatican Radio and on the website of the Vatican Television Service (CTV). (from Vatican Radio)



(From the Hindustan Times – Joydeep Thakur)

The otherwise dull eyes of septuagenarian Shefali Roy sparkled with excitement and her face filled up with joy as she went on to narrate how sisters from the Missionaries of Charity across the world would be donning the iconic white and blue saree during the canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa at Vatican on September 4.

These sarees are, however, no ordinary ones. They are not found in the market no matter what price one offers for them. These sarees are woven and stitched by leprosy patients at a home in a dingy lane at Titagarh in North 24-Parganas.


Titagarh is about 20 km from Kolkata and is a part of the area along the Hooghly river that developed into an industrial in the 19th century.

Roy is one of the senior-most and oldest members of that home – the Gandhiji Prem Nivas. It is a home for leprosy patients run by the Missionaries of Charity. After being detected with leprosy more than 40 years ago, she was forced to leave her home in Cooch Behar. She had since then taken refuge in the Niwas along with her daughter like many others.

Mother Teresa’s mission survives beyond her life

“You could hardly imagine our feelings when we used to see Mother wearing a saree which had been weaved and stitched by us. Society ostracized us for the disease but the sarees which we make are worn by sisters of the charity the world over. The Mother also wore it till her last breath. Now the sisters wear them,” she said sitting in a room, the walls of which are adorned with pictures of the Mother and Pope Francis.

The Gandhiji Prem Nivas was established in 1979 when sisters of the Missionaries of Charity used to come to Titagarh to organise a medical camp under a tree to treat leprosy patients. Later, it was upgraded and a makeshift hut was built with just a few inmates.

Now it is a full-fledged home the foundation of which was laid in the early 90’s by then chief minister Jyoti Bas


The welfare home for leprosy patients was established in 1979. None of the 5,500 sisters of Missionaries Of Charity working in more than 130 countries wear anything except these sarees.

Work starts at this welfare home at 8 am every day. More than 400 men and women – all leprosy patients – work round the year to produce around 4,000 hand-woven sarees. These are then directly sent to the Missionaries of Charity’s headquarters in Kolkata from where they are supplied to the sisters across the world. There are more than 5,500 sisters working in more than 130 countries now.

“In fact, all the sisters, including Sister Mary Prema Pierick, who is the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, would also wear the same sarees that have been woven by the leprosy patients of the Nivas when they attend the canonisation ceremony at Vatican on September 4,” said Brother Marinus, who is in charge of the Titagarh home.

Sunday would be a big day for the inmates and workers of the leper home. They are preparing to celebrate it in their own small way with evening prayers and probably a small supper, if funds permit. Even though it would be a Sunday and a holiday for the workers who stay in adjacent leper colonies, the authorities of the home are planning to set up a giant screen to project the canonisation process from the television and show it to the workers.

But while just three days remain for the world to witness the canonisation process of Mother, the saree weavers don’t really understand the complexity and gravity of the ceremony.

“We are not sure what exactly canonisation is. We just know that it is something very important and that Mother would be honoured,” said 65-year-old Arati Roy, one of the inmates of the colony.




If you feel like watching a video instead of reading, here you go! This is the link to my appearance on Sunday Night Prime with Fr. Andrew Apostoli to talk of my book, A Holy Year in Rome, The Complete Pilgrim’s Guide to the Jubilee of Mercy.” https://youtu.be/TA643k7gpvQ?list=PL436154946212F5F3

And if you feel like reading and seeing some pictures from Sunday’s canonization, I offer that as well!


Pope Francis’ tweet on Sunday, June 5, the canonization of Saints Stanislaus Papczyński and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, summarized the event so beautifully: The Saints are not supermen, nor were they born perfect. When they recognized God’s love, they followed it and served others.

Interspersed with the papal homily, are some photos I took during this beautiful day.



“The word of God, which we have just heard, points us to the central event of our faith: God’s victory over suffering and death.  It proclaims the Gospel of hope, born of Christ’s paschal mystery, whose splendour is seen on the face of the Risen Lord and reveals God our Father as one who comforts all of us in our afflictions.  That word calls us to remain united to the Passion of the Lord Jesus, so that the power of his resurrection may be revealed in us.


“In the Passion of Christ, we find God’s response to the desperate and at times indignant cry that the experience of pain and death evokes in us.  He tells us that we cannot flee from the Cross, but must remain at its foot, as Our Lady did.  In suffering with Jesus, she received the grace of hoping against all hope (cf. Rom 4:18).


“This was the experience of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, who today are proclaimed saints.  They remained deeply united to the passion of Jesus, and in them the power of his resurrection was revealed.

The gold stand held the reliquaries:


“This Sunday’s first reading and Gospel offer us amazing signs of death and resurrection.  The first took place at the hand of the Prophet Elijah, the second by Jesus.  In both cases, they involved the young children of widows, who were then given back alive to their mothers.


“The widow of Zarephath – a woman who was not a Jew, yet had received the Prophet Elijah in her home – was upset with the prophet and with God, because when Elijah was a guest in her home her child had taken ill and had died in her arms.  Elijah says to her: “Give me your son” (1 Kings 17:19).  What he says is significant.  His words tell us something about God’s response to our own death, however it may come about.  He does not say: “Hold on to it; sort it out yourself!”  Instead, he says: “Give it to me”.  And indeed the prophet takes the child and carries him to the upper room, and there, by himself, in prayer “fights with God”, pointing out to him the absurdity of that death.  The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, for it was in fact he, God, who spoke and acted in the person of the prophet.  It was God who, speaking through Elijah, told the woman: “Give me your son”.  And now it was God who gave the child back alive to his mother.


“God’s tenderness is fully revealed in Jesus.  We heard in the Gospel (Lk 7:11-17) of the “great compassion” (v. 13) which Jesus felt for the widow of Nain in Galilee, who was accompanying her only son, a mere adolescent, to his burial.  Jesus draws close, touches the bier, stops the funeral procession, and must have caressed that poor mother’s face bathed in tears.  “Do not weep”, he says to her (Lk 7:13), as to say: “Give me your son”.  Jesus asks to takes our death upon himself, to free us from it and to restore our life.  The young man then awoke as if from a deep sleep and began to speak.  Jesus “gave him to his mother” (v. 15).  Jesus is no wizard!  It is God’s tenderness incarnate; the Father’s immense compassion is at work in Jesus.


“The experience of the Apostle Paul was also a kind of resurrection.  From a fierce enemy and persecutor of Christians, he became a witness and herald of the Gospel (cf. Gal 1:13-17).  This radical change was not his own work, but a gift of God’s mercy.  God “chose” him and “called him by his grace”.  “In him”, God desired to reveal his Son, so that Paul might proclaim Christ among the Gentiles (vv. 15-16).  Paul says that God the Father was pleased to reveal his Son not only to him, but in him, impressing as it were in his own person, flesh and spirit, the death and resurrection of Christ.  As a result, the Apostle was not only to be a messenger, but above all a witness.


“So it is with each and every sinner.  Jesus constantly makes the victory of life-giving grace shine forth.  He says to Mother Church: “Give me your children”, which means all of us.  He takes our sins upon himself, takes them away and gives us back alive to the Mother Church.  All that happens in a special way during this Holy Year of Mercy.

“!The Church today offers us two of her children who are exemplary witnesses to this mystery of resurrection.  Both can sing forever in the words of the Psalmist: “You have changed my mourning into dancing / O Lord, my God, I will thank you forever” (Ps 30:12).  Let us all join in saying: “I will extol you, Lord, for you have raised me up” (Antiphon of the Responsorial Psalm).”



I wonder how many photographers have had a privilege like the one I had at dinner tonight! I attended Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz’ Mass of thanksgiving this evening for Poland’s newest Saint Stanislaus Papczyński in the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Dinner for about 350 of the pilgrims in Rome for this canonization was provided at three restaurants near the basilica. We all had color-coded tickets for the restaurants.

My green ticket brought me to Tonnarello where I dined with two American priests whom I had previously met, Fr. Jerry McCarthy and Fr. Fred Bernardini, and many pilgrims including – and I only found this out later –  the families of the two people whose miracle cures led to both the beatification and canonization of Saint Stanislaus!.

After dinner Fr. Pakula, the Marian Fathers Prior General, arranged a group photo of the two families! I was extraordinarily privileged to shared this very special moment with Marie Romagnano of Med-Link, Inc. who is a Marian Fathers’ devotee whom you’ve seen on EWTN (she has a photography hobby) and several Polish photographers who had come to Rome for the canonization.

It is late but I do want to post this amazing photo. I’ll tell the stories of the miracolati later. (I do not know how to make the photo larger – will try to learn)


In this photo, the young blonde woman in the front row was the miracle for the beatification – her husband is in the back holding the youngest of their two children. Their first-born is the little boy in the front who is not looking at the camera.

The young lad to the left of Fr. Pakula’s left shoulder, the boy smiling broadly, is the miracle man for yesterday’s canonization. His younger brother is also in the front row.

One of the absolutely most astonishing things about both stories, about both people, about both cures is that the miracolati as they are called in Italian, are from the same parish in Poland!!



I have been out of the office so much these last two days that writing a decent column has been a bit more difficult than usual. I wanted to post the following story yesterday but there literally was no time to write in between all the events on my schedule. In reverse order, tomorrow I’ll feature the papal Mass of canonization but today I bring you the post-Mass luncheon for Polish pilgrims and members and supporters of the Marian Fathers whose order was founded by the new Saint Stanislaus Papczyński.


Saint Stanislaus was canonized Sunday along with saint Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, a Swedish-born convert to Catholicism who re-founded the Order of St. Bridget, patron of Sweden and original foundress of the order of religious women that took her name and followed.

Most of you probably know Fr. Joe Roesch whom you see on EWTN every year before, during and after Divine Mercy Sunday, as well as on many other occasions. Fr. Joe and I have been friends since he was assigned to the Marian Fathers in Rome where he is now the vicar general, It was Fr. Joe who made it possible for me to attend two canonization-related events – the luncheon yesterday and the Mass later this afternoon that will be presided over by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow and secrtary for 40 years to Saint John Paul II. We’ve known each other for over 30 years.

Founded in 1673 in Poland, the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is also known as Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Although it is now an international organization, the Marians still have strong roots in Poland and place a great deal of emphasis on spreading the messages of Divine Mercy and Saint Faustina Kowalska.

The current Prior General is Fr. Andrzej Pakuła. He is to the right of the president as we look at the photo.


Fr. Pakula is on the far right here:


Not far from St. Peter’s Square is a huge underground parking area for cars and busses that was built into Janiculum Hill for the 2000 Holy Year. The fifth floor of this structure has a large restaurant and it was here that 300 Polish pilgrims, Marian Fathers and seminarians, the president of Poland and Cardinal Dziwisz ate a celebratory lunch.

At lunch I was able to take some pictures of Poland’s young President Andrzej Duda who led his country’s delegation to the canonization, accompanied by his wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda. In the first images, Fr. Andrzej Pakuł is presenting a portrait of their founder, Saint Stanislaus, to the Polish president. In the second series, President Duda is giving a gift to the Marians.


President Duda’s talk to all of us was in Polish but I had help from Fr. Peter (Piotr) who interned a few years ago at EWTN and is now the director of communications for the diocese of Krakow. He reognized me at lunch and we had a grand cìconversatio in addition to his translating some of the remarks the president made.

At one point when people broke into laughter. Fr. Piotr told me the president had remarked that, after the beatification of Fr. Stanislaus, the Marian congregation sent priests to the Philippines where they built a hospital. Laughing, the president, who is a practicing Catholic, said, “If the Marians did that after the beatification, what will they do after the canonization!”


Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz exited the private dining room just minutes after the president’s departure. We had a delightful conversation and photos of that encounter will be posted tomorrow. Our brief but wonderful visit just may have a sequel to stay tuned!

Fr. Pakula receiving a gift from President Duda:


Some of the great personal moments at the luncheon occurred right after I sat down at one of the tables. All of a sudden I was surrounded by fans of my work on EWTN – most having come from the U.S. for the canonization – and many readers of my new book on  the Holy Year. It was such a joy and I only wish I had had the foresight to take a pfew photos!