Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian Pope in more than 450 years. In Rockford, the Polish community is proud that he was able to share their history with the world.
At St. Stanislaus Church, the Pope's passing weighs heavily on the minds of many parishioners, especially on this Sunday, which is known as the Feast of Divine Mercy. Pope John Paul II has fostered this devotion within the church and declared the Sunday after Easter as a day to forgive all sins.
This Polish congregation is not just mourning the Pope's passing, but celebrate that he was one their own.
David Ciembronowicz says, "He was a part of our culture and was able to express our culture to the entire world."
Father John Mikula with St. Stanislaus Church recalls, "We rejoice from the fact that he was Polish and we rejoice in the fact that he rose to such a position as being Pope of the universal church."
Mary Jaworowski attended mass at St. Peter's Basilica New Years Day 2002. She remembers what the Pope taught her.
Mary says, "His beliefs that he shows the world it's the unity that he's brought a lot of people together."
Her husband Dan recalls what happened when he first saw the pope.
Dan states, "I had the camera but it is so awe inspiring when you see him that I actually dropped the camera."
Pictures of Pope John Paul II adorn the walls inside St. Stanislaus church. To these members the Pope was a personal friend and a champion of their Polish heritage.
St. Stanislaus church is going to hold two services this week in honor of Pope John Paul II. The first service will be held Tuesday night at 7 p.m. and will be in English. The second will be held Wednesday night at 7 p.m. that service will be in Polish.