Ames Catholics Gather in Prayer, Reflect on Memories in Time of Grieving

Daily Staff Writer
Iowa State Daily

Sunlight and white lilies surrounded a portrait of Pope John Paul II while mourners gathered in prayer and song. About 50 people gathered at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 2210 Lincoln Way, Sunday afternoon to honor the pope.

“It’s about solidarity, it’s about praying together,” said Rachel Smith, sophomore in genetics.

Smith said it is important for the church to come together to offer support to each other and to the church as a whole.

The prayer service began in song, as members of the congregation each lit a white candle from the candle held by the Rev. Everett Hemann. The service, which lasted about 30 minutes, was filled with readings, prayers, songs and reflection time as Hemann asked God to welcome the pope into heaven.

“Give eternal rest to John Paul II, who served you faithfully on earth,” Hemann said during prayer. “Bring faith to your grieving church.”

The service included the reading of a letter written by John Paul II, in which he reflected the preparation for death.

“It is much more than just he has died,” said Andy May, sophomore in history. “We believe he has gone to a better place. So once we get past it, we have to understand he is with our Lord in heaven. He really is in a better place.”

Hemann was dressed in white robes for the service, and the church was still decorated in white for Easter. He said the color white is used in Catholic churches in the United States for funerals because it represents the resurrection celebrated during Easter mass.

The service ended with handshakes of peace and faces marked with both tears and smiles.

“Like any death, this is a family coming together,” said John The Rev. Scott Boone of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 2210 Lincoln Way, said he saw Pope John Paul II as an excellent example of selflessness and service. He also was able to see a more personal side of the pope when meeting him twice in Rome in 1998. Boone described him as having a great sense of humor and an “overwhelming sense of peace.”

“He also, at the very end, taught us the way to die with dignity,” Boone said.

Tim Malone, junior in Spanish, said he respected the pope not only for being a good role model but also for his attempts at interfaith work. Malone said he will mourn for him but is confident that he is going straight to heaven.

“I also think it’s exciting because I haven’t witnessed the proceedings for putting a new pope in place,” Malone said.

Malone said this provides the opportunity to those like himself and to the majority of Catholic ISU students who have never known another pope to learn more about how their church works.

After the pope’s funeral, cardinals and bishops designated to elect the pope will be called together in a small, red room of the Sistine Chapel within 20 days, said the Rev. Everett Hemann of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

He explained this is referred to as the “Room of Tears” because it is said newly elected popes start to cry immediately upon being selected.

The 117 eligible cardinals vote twice a day until they are able to reach a two-thirds majority, releasing either white or black smoke to signal a successful or unsuccessful decision, respectively.

When the new pope is selected, he is immediately fitted for a cassock, a traditional white garment, and then steps out onto the balcony to give his first blessing as pope.

Hemann said this is when the world finds out who has been chosen.

Hemann said the list of eligible popes includes all men ordained in the church, but only cardinals have been elected for the past several hundred years.

David Hunter, professor of religious studies, said the next pope will likely be someone who will carry on in the basic direction of the most recent pope because many of the cardinals who will vote were appointed by Pope John Paul II.

“There are a handful of cardinals who are frequently mentioned as possibilities,” Hunter said. “But guesswork on these matters is totally unreliable.”

Hemann said he thinks, in general, they are likely to choose an older man with international experience who allows for the bishops to have a little more decision-making freedom.

“I hope it is somebody who continues with the social justice dimension, but somebody who might be a little bit more moderate on internal church teachings,” Hemann said.

John DeWyze, junior in English, said he hopes they choose someone who follows in the last pope’s path, showing as much care and commitment to his job. DeWyze said the next pope will be influential in the development of his faith, and he hopes that the chosen pope will aid in the forward progression of the church.

Nicole Pfab, senior in dietetics, said she hopes for a similar focus on progression, along with an open attitude toward the possibilities of where the church could go.

Herman said she would like to see the new pope come from a developing nation, and Malone said whoever is chosen must be a strong leader who will reinvigorate devotion for Catholics.

Although the cardinals ultimately make the decision, Dickinson said they will not be alone.

“God will guide the cardinals in choosing the next pope,” he said.