After Saturday’s death of Pope John Paul II, many University of Wisconsin students continue to mourn his passing and celebrate the life of the only pope most students have ever known.
St. Paul’s University Catholic Center employee and UW sophomore Beth Czarnecki said the center has had many students coming in and asking if there are any special prayer times or events planned that they can attend.
Czarnecki said St. Paul’s has several different events planned throughout the week for students. This includes extra time scheduled for people to pray and remember the Pope, a video Thursday night detailing his life and a funeral mass Friday at 12:05.
Catholic Student Union member Rebecca Schneider said there was a conference happening last weekend that brought more than 300 Catholic students from all around the country to St. Paul’s. She said they closely watched the news the entire weekend, and there was a large response from students after news of the pope’s death reached them.
“I remember there being a very respectful sense,” Schneider said. “So many people respected this man, and it was just incredible.”
According to Czarnecki, there was a special Saturday mass held which more than 300 people attended.
Schneider said the pope’s death was bittersweet for her.
“It is hard to know that fine line for mourning for him because we should be rejoicing [that] he is in a better place,” Schneider said.
Czarnecki said it is important for the next pope to “make [the Catholic religion] something students can really get involved in.”
She said Pope John Paul II focused on getting youth involved in the religion, and it is important for his successor to continue that tradition. She added that youth involvement can be achieved by local churches with planned retreats and events younger people can enjoy. In addition, she said St. Paul’s also uses songs during mass that are not necessarily traditional so more students can relate.
Schneider and Czarnecki both agreed that the number of Catholic students on campus is substantial. Schneider said the Catholic Student Union is comprised of 40 students who run almost all of the Catholic events on campus. She said the organization does a lot of welcome events during the month of September for freshmen and transfer students.
She said the group provides a comfortable place for students to meet people of similar faith. She also said the group regularly has Friday night socials as an alternative to partying.
The Catholic Student Union will meet Sunday for the first time since the death of the pope, according to Schneider, who added that their prayers would most likely be directed toward his death.
All of the student organizations meetings occur at St. Paul’s, which is on Library Mall, but Czarnecki said even when events are not taking place UW students still gather at the campus church.
“There are students here all the time,” Czarnecki said.