Over the course the Easter Triduum, many Thomas Aquinas College students prayed over, read, and discussed the works of one the Church’s newest saints, Pope St. John Paul II. Led by College Chaplains Rev. Joseph Illo and Rev. Michael Chabarek, O.P., the retreat began with a presentation on the life of the late holy father, followed by studies of the Theology of the Body; the New Evangelization; the film Nine Days that Changed the World; and one of Karol Wojtyla’s plays, The Jeweler’s Shop. Conferences took place between the liturgies and rites of the Holy Triduum.
“Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis are building on what John Paul established in terms of evangelizing the modern world, and students here have a rock-solid foundation on which to build,” says Fr. Illo. “The purpose of this retreat is to encourage them to take the next step. In the words of John Paul II: Go out and build a civilization of love with what you have been given.”
The idea for a John Paul II-themed retreat, says Head Chaplain Joseph Illo, was “the genius and brainchild” of fellow chaplain Rev. Michael Chabarek, O.P., who, like the erstwhile Karol Wojtyla, hails from Poland. “Fr. Michael was an altar boy back during the ‘Nine Days that Changed the World,’ so he has many personal recollections” of John Paul’s first visits to the Eastern bloc. With the John Paul II and Pope John XXIII set for canonization set for just one week after Easter, the two priests concluded that his works would be a timely subject for this year’s retreat.
The following week, on the Feast of the Divine Mercy, Fr. Illo hosted a celebration of the two canonizations. Students met up in St. Ignatius of Loyola Hall, where they enjoyed ice cream and watched a recording of the previous night’s canonization ceremonies. Sophomore April Shonnard (’16) painted a large banner featuring St. John Paul II’s famous words, “Be Not Afraid,” and asked students to bring their favorite pictures of the late pope. These images were then glued into the words on the banner, which was then posted in the St. Joseph Commons.
Meanwhile, a group of alumni in Denver marked the canonization with what Andrew Whaley (’05) described as, “an epic, all-day event.” Mr. Whaley is the owner of Calix Coffee, a consulting business, as well as the manager of the Tolle Lege Coffee Bar & Bookshop at the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village, Colo. In that latter capacity he organized a tribute to the late Holy Father that began at noon on April 26, and then continued into the early morning of April 27 for the live broadcast of the canonization in Rome.