The celebration of yesterday's first time ever liturgical commemoration of St. John Paul II prompted me to put a few thoughts to paper today. As I celebrated the Holy Mass of the Saint with my parochial community in Divine Mercy Shrine which sheer existence I owe to the Holy Father himself through his lifelong secretary then - and Cardinal of Kraków now - as the majority of funds for its construction came from him back then in 1994-1997, I reminisced all the moments I was blessed with of my personal encounter with the Saint.
Before he was elected as the Pope, when he was our Archbishop of Kraków, the church bells resounding in the city on the evening of his election when I was on my way back home from Form I lessons in my secondary school in Nowa Huta. His first pilgrimage to Poland in 1979, in particular his visit to the Shrine in Mogiła. I was standing so close to the street that I could touch this white big Star truck carrying him.
Then the consecutive pilgrimages, when I was already in the major seminary in Kraków, performing various duties. His meeting with us in the courtyard of Archbishop's palace in Kraków. So many remarkable moments which deepened my admiration of this person and the desire to know him better - and what is most important - his teaching.
When I was on my way to Tanzania, in the first days of January 1991, I was granted a rare opportunity to concelebrate a morning private Holy Mass with the Saint in his chapel in the Apostolic Palace, and then - after the Mass - to exchange a few words with him, as he asked me where I was from (he was visibly happy to learn that I was from his home diocese of Kraków) and where I was going. When I told him that I go to Tanzania, he smiled broadly and exclaimed - "I know! I was there! The Land of Kilimanjaro!" (in fact, he was freshly from the pilgrimage to Tanzania in September 1990). He gave me his blessing for my future missionary work.
Then, so many other occasions, whenever I was on my way home from Tanzania or on my way back to Tanzania, I always passed through Rome and - thanks to Mons. Stanisław Dziwisz - was blessed with more encounters with the Holy Father. Celebrating two more private Holy Masses with the Saint - in the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo, having opportunities to chat with Holy Father and tell him about my and my colleagues from Poland work in Tanzania. He would always listen carefully and say something that stuck in my heart and mind.
One day, when I was visiting Mons. Dziwisz in his office in the Vatican, I asked for Holy Father's blessing of my missionary cross (which hangs over my head in my bedroom till today). Mons. Dziwisz smiled, took the cross and left the office and came back after a while, smiling and saying that the Holy Father just blessed it and wishes me God's blessing in my work. To my astonishment, Mons. Dziwisz said the the Holy Father was in the next room working!
The last time I had a chance to talk to the Saint was in Castel Gandolfo, when, after the Holy Mass, I offered him a special album on Tanzania, thanking him for sending the first missionaries from Kraków to Tanzania and for praying for us as we continue the mission he started back then in 70'.
It would take a lot of pages to put to paper all thoughts that went through my heart and mind on this special day of the commemoration of the Saint I knew personally and had numerous encounters with him. The Saint so much connected to Kiabakari and Divine Mercy Vision we try to implement gradually - first with his personal help, then with the help of other friends - Foundation Kiabakari, Polish government, my personal friends, parishes, institutions, NGO's, well wishers, people who suffer and pray for us, volunteers and visitors who came to Kiabakari in those past years. And the pilgrims who come and pray here - now through the intercession of the Saint Apostles of Divine Mercy - Sr. Faustina and Holy Father John Paul II.
No wonder, the construction of St. John Paul II Center for Education and Formation in Kiabakari is so important and dear to my heart. We have started with the pre-school, continue with the primary school and hope to reach as high as the high school, vocational training center and the home craft school.
Is it too much to ask for? With the help of such a friend and powerful intercessor in Heaven as St. John Paul II, I will not be mistaken to state that - if this is the Will of God, with the power of Divine Mercy, it is possible!
Saint John Paul II the Great, our friend we know and yet we still need to discover you so much more, pray for us! Pray for Kiabakari! Pray for the Divine Mercy Vision in Kiabakari!