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Hundreds of people make the trip to St. Henry Catholic Church’s day chapel on Wednesday to view a garment once worn by the late Pope John Paul II. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Hundreds of people make the trip to St. Henry Catholic Church’s day chapel on Wednesday to view a garment once worn by the late Pope John Paul II. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Locals make pilgrimage to St. Henry to view cassock once worn by Pope John Paul II

Last Modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 7:13 PM

By Vincent Lupo / Special to the American Press

Sheldon Citizen remembers the Bible passage about people being healed when the shadow of the apostles’ garments fell on them. He also remembers how others were healed when they touched Christ’s robe.

These Bible passages were the reason that Citizen made the pilgrimage St. Henry Catholic Church’s day chapel Wednesday to view a garment once worn by Pope John Paul II.

“I wanted to touch it, Citizen said, “but I didn’t know if that was allowed.”

People of all ages and all walks of life came to venerate the cassock — or white robe —John Paul wore in his later years. The vestment clearly showed how the hemline had been tailored to be longer in the back to compensate for the pope’s ailments which caused him to hunch over. A portrait of the popular pope wearing a similar vestment hung nearby.

Some people stayed a few minutes, prayed, and left; while others remained for much longer, apparently quite moved by the simple white linen cassock once worn by someone they so revered.

Bianca Gonzalez said when first looking at the garment, which was displayed on a wooden support, she felt the pope was really there. Viewing the vestment made her realize that Pope John Paul II was” just a person like you or I.”

“I always imagined the pope was a big person,” Gonzales said, “but he’s just a human person like us,” she said with a strong Hispanic accent. “Wow!” she said as she cradled her eight-month old daughter.

“Through the vestment you can see his sincerity, his humility. He was not like the big person like I have in my mind.”

“Well, he was,” she quickly added, “but he was just a person like we are.”

Gonzalez said Mother Angelica always said “Everybody is going to be a saint. And I think the pope was this-- just a person who became a saint and everybody is being called to be a saint.”

After viewing the cassock, Gary Pappion noted that John Paul dedicated himself to the Blessed Mother. Pappion said he believes-- as did the pope-- that salvation can come through the Blessed Mother. “As I leave here I believe in my heart that salvation will come through her from her Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

“I really admire the history of the church,” Marc Daigle of Sulphur said,” and to have a relic here locally is a big thing to me.

“ To have something so important from so far away is a big deal to me and to this area. I hope as many people in the Church came out as possible to view it.”

Daigle said he remembers seeing the pope on television wearing a similar garment. “I never had a chance to see him in a crowd like in New Orleans or anywhere else but I just thought that it was so great to have such a thing here locally.”

Twenty-two-year-old Alise Citizen said she came to see the vestment to have something to believe in. Admitting she has “a lot going on with her life,” Citizen said “I know I’m young, but when life hits you it hits you and when it hits you it hits you hard.”

Holding her 17-month-old daughter, Citizen said she has had to care for the child while dealing with her own sickle cell anemia. “It is kind of challenging to take care of my daughter while I do that.”

“Just to have something to believe in, you know. I come here to the chapel all of the time to pray, Citizen said. “I do believe in miracles, and I hope one day … “ she said not completing her sentence. “I already know—she’s my miracle,” Citizen said pointing to the toddler. I witnessed miracles through her because she wasn’t even supposed to be born. I wasn’t supposed to have kids.”

Dora Popillion said she came to view the vestment because she prayed so much for Pope John Paul when he was alive and after he died she asked him to pray for her. “It did me really good to come, she said because I really wanted to come.”

She said she had not been able to go anywhere where the pope was scheduled to be so this was the closest she could come “and I was very grateful.”

“When they told me about it I was glad to come, she said.”

John Paul was “a good pope and a holy man and I just wanted to be close to him,” Frank Simon said in explaining why he had made the pilgrimage.

His wife, Mary, said the couple was fortunate enough to see John Paul in Rome, and “there was such a holy presence there. We just were thrilled to come and be in the presence of his vestment here.”

Pope John Paul II was such a great inspiration definitely for youth, Michael Beverung said when he arrived at the chapel Wednesday while still wearing his St. Louis Catholic High School uniform.

“He advocated a lot about the youth movement in the Church. Many people my age look up to him,” The SLCHS senior said.

Mary Jane Jones was motivated to see the vestment because of a “very special connection” she said she has to Pope John Paul II. She said she always followed the Pope’s readings while he was alive and, following his death, she obtained a prayer card with a relic –“part of his robe or something was on it.”

When her husband became very ill with, according to the doctors, three different medical problems, she said one morning she placed the card on her husband’s head and prayed.

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