Guest Column: Until we meet again…

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 11, 2005

Many of us will remember where we were at when the death of our beloved Pope John Paul II was announced.

I was on Easter vacation with my children at my brother’s in New Jersey.

His death had a strong impact in that area due to it being a strong Polish community.

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Sunday I attended, with family friends, a combination Polish/English mass at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Manville, N.J.. It was a special mass with the Knights of Columbus dressed in full attire performing as ushers.

At home in Suffolk I watched the pallbearers carrying the Pope, tears streaming down my face.

Like many of us, I felt a closeness to him.

I also remember where I was when the announcement came that Karol Wojtyla would become our next Pope.

I was in algebra class (always turning to my friend Julie saying &uot;When will we ever need this again!&uot; Little did I know I would home school my son from 5th-12th grade!) a sophomore at Archbishop Walsh H. S. in Irvington, N.J..

Our Principal Sister Francis came over the loudspeaker, her voice became like E. F. Hutton because whenever she did interrupt during class it was only due to a death or a very joyous occasion such as this. The new pope, in honor of the preceding pope, would take the name John Paul II.

And best of all, he was Polish, the heritage of my deceased father.

I recall my favorite teacher, Sister Inez, writing all the information about the new pope in big letters across the blackboard.

Sometime later we learned that the Pope would be coming to New York.

Some of us would be fortunate enough to attend a youth rally with the pope at Madison Square Garden.

When I saw the sign up list outside the principal’s office, I couldn’t sign up fast enough.

I was not aware of popes before John Paul II.

Oh, I knew their names and what they looked like. I went to an all girls catholic high school.

Their paintings were in the halls.

But they were in Italy and never &uot;spoke&uot; to us.

Pope John Paul II did.

From his very first words that morning, he spoke directly to us.

He didn’t talk down to us. He embraced us, all of us.

He knew he had to reach the young and speak to us at our tender age to let us know he understood what we were going through and encouraged us to follow the right path.

His speech evidently carried longer than scheduled because the cardinal next to him kept trying to get him to &uot;wrap it up,&uot; but the pope basically let him know who was in charge and did not want to be rushed and kept giving us encores.

The best part was when the pope circled the garden in a vehicle kissing little ones along the way.

So, I’ll always remember where I was at when I said hello to Karol Wojtyla and where I was when I said good-bye to Pope John Paul II…..until we meet again.

Francine Cochran is a resident of Suffolk.