Celebrating saints on the home front

by Jessica Langdon
jessica.langdon@theleaven.org

TOPEKA — The thought of making a trip to Italy flashed through Father Mitchel Zimmerman’s mind when he learned that Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were going to be canonized.

But for the pastor of Christ the King Parish in Topeka — who has always held a deep love for Pope John Paul II — there’s something to be said for celebrating the moment close to home, too.

“I thought about going to Rome myself, but thought it was better to share the enthusiasm with the parishioners,” he said. “Most Catholics haven’t seen a canonization before.”

And so Christ the King’s youth group — knowing that teens from across the Topeka area were already interested in doing a praise and worship event — extended an open invitation to an event that included music, eucharistic adoration, dodgeball, popcorn and donuts, midnight Mass and a chance to watch the canonization live from Rome in the middle of the night.

The event started at 10 p.m. April 26 and continued into the early hours of April 27 so the group could watch the canonizations at 3 a.m.

“I thought it was really cool that the whole Catholic community got to connect,” said 15-year-old Mikayla Bryan, a member of Christ the King’s youth group.

She enjoyed interacting with people her own age also active in their faith — not always an easy thing to do.

“I think the most powerful part of it was the Catholic communities of Topeka coming together so late, late at night,” agreed 17-year-old Thomas Bagley, a member of Christ the King’s youth group.

Everyone had a lot of energy, even as the hours passed.

He feels a special connection between his family and St. John Paul II. He remembers keeping vigil at age 9 by the TV when the pope was near death and watching his funeral — again, in the middle of the night — from Rome.

Miguel Monteclaro, 14, also a member of Christ the King’s youth group, is sure he would have been sleeping if he hadn’t attended the lock-in, but as soon as he learned it was going on, he wanted to go.

He particularly enjoyed the time set aside for eucharistic adoration.

“I felt that I witnessed something very historic,” he said of the canonization itself.

“It was just so powerful,” said 15-year-old Matt Davidson, a member of the youth group at Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish, who enjoyed watching Pope Francis lead the celebration.

Everyone in the Christ the King gym started cheering when the saints were canonized, said 17-year-old Sierra Neiberger, a member of Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s youth group.

To her, the moment was “breathtaking,” and the event made her feel involved not only in her church, but in her community.

“It’s kind of a pinch-your-arm thing to watch someone enter into being a saint,” she said.

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