West Michigan Catholic Parish Treks to Vatican City for Historic Canonization

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CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (April 27, 2014) – Two late Popes were canonized in a ceremony the first-of-its-kind on Sunday in Vatican City. Pope Francis led the first dual papal ceremony of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was also in attendance.

Saint John Paul II Catholic Church from Cedar Springs said they planned to attend the canonization ceremony since summer of 2013. Reverend Father Lam Le spoke with Fox 17 News from Vatican City on Sunday. He led a group of 21 parishioners from Saint John Paul II Parish to witness their patron be named saint. As Father Lam spoke, church bells rang from the streets and he said it was “heartwarming” to see many younger people throughout the ceremony, as well as to celebrate with different cultures on this historic day.

“There are not many parishes in the world that the parishioners can witness the church proclaim their patron a saint,” explained Father Lam.

In a sea of a million, the group of 21 members from Saint John Paul II Parish trekked from Cedar Springs to Vatican City on Easter Sunday, ready to witness John XXIII and John Paul II become saints. On Sunday their congregation changed: they no longer were the Blessed, but became Saint John Paul II Catholic Church.

“It is with great joy to see the Church proclaim the person you admire a lot as saint,” shared Father Lam.

Father lam says it took several miracles to perform this historic canonization ceremony. First the 5-year waiting period to name Pope John Paul II as saint after death was waived. Then, Pope John XXIII was also announced to be canonized.

In the Catholic calendar, this Sunday is known as the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

“It was Pope John Paul II during his pontificate, decreed that when it comes to Second Sunday, the Church reflects, celebrates, and meditates on the mercy of God. It’s quite a joyful and quite a nice coincidence that on this very day Pope Francis canonized him,” said Father Lam.

Father Lam said he admires both Saints: Saint John XXIII is known as a church reformer who created the Second Vatican Council; while Saint John Paul II is remembered as very popular, serving as Pontiff for nearly 27 years.

Father Lam studied in Vatican City, while preparing for priesthood, when Saint John Paul II’s health declined. He said he remembers the Pope as noble, even near the end of his life.

“Even in the midst of suffering, you do not lose your human dignity,” remarked Father Lam.

The group is returning home to West Michigan this Wednesday. Father Lam said they plan to share their experiences with other parishes in the community. They are also organizing a mass to give thanks, and will post details as they come on their website or Facebook.

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