Regis reflects on Pope Saint John Paul II's visit ahead of feast day

The feast day of Saint John Paul II is Saturday, Oct. 22. Born in Wadowice, Poland as Karol Jozef Wojtyla, he became Pope in 1978.

Regis University had the distinct honor of hosting this saint on campus in 1993. At the time, Rev. Michael Sheeran, S.J. was the President of the University. He fondly recalls the Pope’s visit and making sure that he walked through the quad without injury.

“When I walked the Pope from his helicopter to the Student Center crowd, he stumbled slightly and he found the quadrangle lawn a little uneven. As he stumbled, I put out my arm to steady him. Then my ‘Irish’ kicked in and I thought, ‘You don’t touch the Pope.’ So, I pulled my hand off his shoulder. But he stumbled a second time and I thought, ‘You sure better touch the Pope.’ And I put out my hand again,” recalls Rev. Sheeran. He continues, “On the video, you can see my arm going out ten or twelve times as my ‘Irish’ keeps fighting with my terror that John Paul II would fall down on my quadrangle!” Luckily, the Pope got to where he needed to unharmed and would join then President Bill Clinton on the podium to address the audience.

Kristi Gonsalves-McCabe, Parent and Family Liaison for the University, remembers being in Denver when the Pope arrived in town.

“In 1993, I participated in the International Youth Forum, a gathering held on the Regis University campus in anticipation of World Youth Day. It was a powerful experience spending time talking, learning and praying with engaged young Catholics from all over the world. The private mass with Pope John Paul II was a pivotal experience for all present. What a profound reminder that we are part of a universal church with people from all walks of life,” Gonsalves-McCabe said.

At the time, Gonsalves-McCabe would not know that many years later both Regis and Denver would become her home.

Saint John Paul II passed away on April 2, 2005, and was canonized by Pope Francis on Sept. 30, 2013.

“Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II at the mass when he became Pope.