Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 11, 2005
Edmontonians share memories
Pope John Paul touched many hearts during his 1984 visit
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
For 24 years, Paul Lorieau has stood hairs on end at Edmonton Oiler hockey games with his impassioned singing of national anthems.
But it was the local optician's turn to be racked with goosebumps one evening when he sang for Pope John Paul II.
Lorieau was chosen to sing multilingual psalms and intercessions during the Sept. 16, 1984 interfaith prayer service at St. Joseph's Basilica, attended by the pope, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil and 1,100 clergy, religious and laity.
The size of the audience was no problem. It was the enormity of the humble man in white sitting near him that so inspired Lorieau.
"It was a mystical evening for me. When I saw the pope, it was like he was one person removed from Jesus himself walking down the aisle," he said.
Lorieau was one of several people who recalled their involvement with the pope's visit to Edmonton that included a Sept. 17 outdoor Mass at Namao, drawing an estimated 150,000 people.
Their experiences varied but those who spoke to the WCR recently agreed - Pope John Paul II was magnificent.
Lorieau sang in French, English and Ukrainian at the interfaith gathering. He described the evening as the coming together of his training to become an operatic singer. The moment gave his life reason.
The spirit world
"In our world of flesh, he totally represented the spirit world. The two came together as closely as possible," Lorieau said.
Mitzi Crowe was appointed by Archbishop MacNeil to serve as administrative manager of the papal visit secretariat. Crowe worked part-time in the chancery office as a secretary for more than 25 years.
"We opened a papal office downtown for 18 months. It was an intense period of work before and after the pope's visit, but it was a joyful experience," she said.
Crowe was responsible to help oversee some 7,000 volunteers, many from the Catholic Women's League and the Knights of Columbus. She assisted in helping to negotiate the closure of roadways and avenues to get everyone in and out of the Namao site. The papal office also supervised the building of the peace dove canopy and altar. It organized bus routes, parking and arranged for crowd control.
It was all worth the effort when she shook the pope's hand at a reception, Crowe said.
"My husband Fred and I were privileged to receive Holy Communion from the pope during the papal Mass," she said. "It was a great honour. The pope was relaxed and happy. He was so inspiring."
Giving the First Reading in French, Claudette Roy was a lector at the outdoor Mass. A retired Edmonton educator, Roy is now chair of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., on the banks of the Ottawa River, directly opposite Parliament Hill.
The French Canadian community in Edmonton had offered her name to the archdiocese as a lector.
"I was very honoured," she said. "I distinctly remember at Communion, most everyone had their heads bowed and their eyes closed. I decided I was going to keep my eyes open and look in his face. I remember his face radiated goodness. Goodness emanated from his eyes."
Roy has often remembered the pope's homily, when he spoke of how the poor South will judge the rich North.
"When you hear about the Third World debt, for example, I always think of the Holy Father."
Fran Lucas was a volunteer in souvenir sales at Namao. She was the one, however, who came away with a priceless memento. It was the moment she met her future husband, George.
"I recall it like it was yesterday," said Lucas, Edmonton diocesan council president of the Catholic Women's League.
"An announcement was made when the pope's motorcade was near the site where we were located. I rushed out to the road with my camera. I was so excited. I was jumping up and down. It wasn't until he passed that I realized I forgot to take the picture," she said.
She was mesmerized
"For a young Polish girl to be so close to our Holy Father, I was mesmerized. It makes my heart ache now to know he is gone."
George was part of the security detail overseeing the 17 souvenir booths at the Mass site. They like to tell people that God sent the pope to Edmonton just so they could meet.
"I like to think my Polish family was always faithful," Fran said. "After the pope's visit and meeting George, my faith life has indeed strengthened."
A former chair of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, George described the papal Mass as the moment his spiritual life began to mature.
"I have told many people the last 21 years that I feel Fran and I have been blessed in a very special way because people meet in all kinds of ways," he said. "As a result of being there, and Fran's influence by the very way she treats people, my faith has grown."
Whenever the couple saw a newscast or read an article involving the pope, it renewed the spiritual and emotional bonds between them. As they watched the news as the pope's death approached, they turned down the volume and prayed the rosary.
"We hope to learn from his suffering and the example he set for the whole world. Not just Catholics or Christians, but for everybody," George said.
"We have been very fortunate as Catholics to call him our own and to share him with the world."
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