It was more than two years ago that the white-haired Polish archbishop traveled to Holy Rosary church in the largely Polish section of southeast Baltimore and the neighborhood remembers.
Nearly 1,000 Polish-American Catholics gathered yesterday at Holy Rosary, the city's largest Polish parish, for a special noon mass celebrated by Baltimore's Archbishop William B. Borders, making the investiture of Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II.
"He was right here two years ago - but who knew then he was going to be pope?" said Amelia Sitkowski. She and a handful of fellow members of the Mothers Club of Holy Rosary parish school waited in the bright sunshine outside the rectory before mass to catch a glimpse of Archbishop Borders and the colorful processional.
Then they went back into the social hall to prepare the tables of strudel cakes and delicacies for parish-wide celebration after the mass.
All the priests wore scarlet stoles over their white robes - a tribute to the Polish national colors of red and white. An engraving of the new pontiff, framed in gold and adorned with red and white rosettes, hung from the pulpit.
In the balcony of the huge church a choir sang Polish hymns during the service. Older worshippers joined in; for the most part the younger members of the congregration did not participate in the Polish singing.
Two little girls from the parish school, Alexandra Ragulska and Jacqueline Kachynski, dressed in colorful Polish costumes, led the offertory procession to the front of the church, where they handed the archbishop a bouquet of red and white flowers and a plate containing bread and salt, traditional tokens of greeting given visitors to Polish homes.
In his homily the archbishop who essayed a few words of greeting in Polish at the beginning of the mass, touched on the new pope's origins from "the suffering church in Poland," and added, "If we are to maintain this freedom of religion that is ours, we must, it seems to me, try to be helpful to the society we live in."
Gov. Blair Lee, Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) were among the secular and political leaders who attended the mass and the celebration in the social hall afterwards.