Festival-goers share their love of St John Paul II

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Festival-goers share their love of St John Paul II

The life and teachings of one of the modern world’s greatest saints was celebrated at a festival for families held on Sunday.

Pope St John Paul II – who has the distinction of being the only canonised saint to have visited Tasmania twice – was the focus of festivities at St Therese of Lisieux Church in Moonah.

Known and loved for his teachings on the value and dignity of each human person, of the profound sacredness of marriage and family life, and his affection for his home country of Poland, Pope St John Paul II was honoured through music by Polish composers, dancing by young Tasmanians of Polish heritage and recitation of the Pope’s own poetry during the opening concert of the festival.

Following lunch and the concert, the children played in the grounds of the nearby St Therese’s Catholic Primary School while Ben Smith, the Director of the Office of Life, Marriage and Family for the Archdiocese of Hobart, spoke on the teachings in Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Families, which this year is celebrating 25th anniversary since its release.

As a priest-chaplain to young people, Pope St John Paul II would speak to them of the meaning of life and of love, Mr Smith told festival-goers.

“A number of young people in his chaplaincy went on to get married, and he was very close to young couples and he could see some of the struggles they were having,” he said.
In his Letter to Families, Pope St John Paul II wrote about the grace Jesus wants to bring into the lives of married couples.

“[Jesus] wants to provide the wine into our marriages that he provided at Cana. He wants to accompany people in their marriages and families provide the grace to help them to live the lives of saints, not to just do the bare minimum, it’s about how we actually flourish and be human persons made in the image and likeness of God,” Mr Smith said.

“The everyday nitty gritty in families is somewhere where holiness can happen. This is why the Pope talks about the family as not just sort of side act – it’s core to the Church’s work, it’s core to holiness, it’s core to the mission of the Church to evangelise,” he said.

Childhood friends and members of the Polish community John Grela, 64, and Theresa Triffit, 64, both from West Moonah, attended the festival. The pair saw the Pope when he visited in 1986, and Mrs Triffit’s mother came from the same hometown as Pope John Paul II – Wadowice.

Mrs Triffit says the festival left her with teachings of the Church to reflect on and understand more deeply – particularly concepts around the Trinity and the family.

“I found today was really very inspiring, and there’s always something more to learn,” she said.

For mother of two Kazia Chodasewicz, 36, of Neika, the opportunity to further her Catholic formation in the context of other families was a drawcard.

“I really liked the fact that it’s spending time with other Catholic families, the kids get to play with other Catholic kids, and … being able to listen to a good talk,” she said.

Although she makes an effort to attend a Recollection evening run by the Opus Dei community each month, she says she appreciates the chance to spend time together with her husband Tomek, and daughters Zosia and Klara.

“You want to spend time with the kids and with your husband, and being able to do it in this kind of setting is really lovely.”

Another unexpected gift of the festival for Mrs Chodasewicz was being able to try her hand at making Kremowka for the first time. Despite being of Polish heritage, she had never before attempted the cream slice which was made famous as Pope St John Paul II’s favourite dessert. After making it for the festival, she says she will definitely try it again – with a few refinements.

After after hearing Mr Smith’s talk, Mrs Chodasewicz says she is now looking forward to reading the Letter to Families for herself.

“I’m never disappointed by him,” she said, of Pope St John Paul II.

The festival ended with a time of prayer in the church, with the Divine Mercy chaplet recited in both English and Polish, and an opportunity to venerate a first class relic of St Pope John Paul II.