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In Owings, a Heartfelt Tribute to Pope John Paul II

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page SM01

Sister Christine Born of Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Owings had dinner with Pope John Paul II 11 years ago.

She was a member of the Special Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops meeting in Rome that was to explore issues of the consecrated life in the Catholic Church. Near the end of 30 days of study and discussion, she was tapped to be one of 12 people to have dinner in the pope's chambers in the Vatican, she said. During the meal someone asked John Paul what he really wanted to come from their efforts.

Sister Christine Born and Elaine Julian, a Cardinal Hickey Academy parent, attend a Mass on Friday at Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. (Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)

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"He looked up from his soup, and he said, 'Holiness,' " Born recalled. "And then he went on eating. He was very clear and very succinct."

Born related that story at a morning Mass in honor of the pope Friday, just hours after his funeral took place in Rome. In the Calvert County church, which has a congregation of about 1,300 families, light streamed through the stained-glass window into the chamber, which was decorated with white lilies, candles and portraits of the pontiff. About 200 people, many of them Cardinal Hickey Academy students in blue blazers and white shirts, gathered in the pews to share thoughts and prayers on the pope's passing.

"In a world where so many people are only half-alive, he believed in the power of the Spirit to create fire in the soul, so that we could live our lives with purpose and passion," said the Rev. Paul M. Dudziak, pastor of the church.

"Perhaps, most of all, in a world that says 'Whatever. Whatever works for you,' he knew who he was and what could truly be believed. He did not go with the flow," Dudziak said. "Instead, he always asked, 'How does God want the human family to live?' Not a popular question, but the question of a wise person."

Several students at the service gave their impressions of the pope's life and legacy.

"He enjoyed poetry, drama and theater, as I do, and also enjoyed sports, especially soccer, as I also do," said Joe Grogan, a seventh-grader at Cardinal Hickey, standing at the podium. "Our pope was not only athletic and interested in the arts, he was also a gifted student. He told us to hold school in high esteem, to participate joyfully, and to consider it a great gift."

Evan Buckley, 13, an eighth-grader, held up a crucifix to those assembled.

"It was made in Rome and blessed by Pope John Paul II. This crucifix is exactly the same as the one Pope John Paul II carried on his staff," she said. "It is very important to my family because we look to it for strength when we are suffering, just as the pope taught us to do."

Tens of thousands of people crammed the boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square in Rome on Friday to pay tribute to John Paul II, who was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in 1920 in the industrial town of Wadowice, Poland. In Southern Maryland, where Catholicism has been a central feature of the religious landscape since the 17th century, the pope's death has also left a large void.

"Pope John Paul II is the only pope that today's youth have ever known," Buckley said. "And although we are sad because he is no longer with us, we can be comforted by the fact that he left many examples for us on how to be good leaders."

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