Midstate residents inspired by Pope John Paul II

jwilliams@macon.comJuly 12, 2013 

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Father Dawid Kwiatkowski, seen in this file photo, plans to travel to the Vatican for the canonization of the late Pope John Paul II. Kwiatkowski, a priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church, is from Poland, as was John Paul.

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When the late Pope John Paul II is officially recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church later this year, Father Dawid Kwiatkowski plans to travel to the Vatican for the event.

“A Polish pope is going to be canonized. That’s not going to happen again in my lifetime,” said Kwiatkowski, a priest at Macon’s St. Joseph Catholic Church who also is from Poland.

When Kwiatkowski heard the news earlier this month about John Paul’s soon-to-be sainthood, he wasn’t surprised. He is, however, very anxious for the ceremony date to be announced so he can book his ticket.

Kwiatkowski said John Paul was a big influence on him and his career path, and he keeps a picture of the deceased pontiff displayed prominently in his office. Kwiatkowski, 29, said he grew up during Poland’s transition from Communism to democracy and was inspired by John Paul’s push for freedom in Europe at the time.

“I saw a courageous man who was willing to stand up to world leaders,” he said. “When I was going into the seminary, I wanted to be like him -- courageous.”

Kwiatkowski said he was just one of many Polish men inspired by John Paul in the packed seminary in Warsaw. He said he was inspired not only by John Paul’s courage but also by his persistent faithfulness, which he hopes to emulate.

He said even when the pope was suffering later in life, he continued to travel and spread God’s word until he died. Kwiatkow-ski said he clearly remembers when John Paul died April 2, 2005. Kwiatkow-ski was in his hometown of Kielce, Poland, on a break from the seminary. He recalls standing in front of the cathedral with his family when the church bells began to sound that night.

Another midstate couple also has a special connection to John Paul.

Macon residents Shirley and Charles Buafo were granted an audience with him the year before he died. The Buafos traveled to the Vatican with Legatus, a national Catholic organization.

“It was just awesome,” Shirley Buafo said about the experience. “You could see the thousands outside in the square, and you were just one of the lucky ones who got to meet him and speak with him and touch him.”

Buafo said she knew John Paul would be named a saint; it was just a matter of when.

“He was a special pope,” she said. “He was for the people.”

Kwiatkowski also said he wasn’t surprised by the speed of the canonization process because of the intense reaction to the pope’s death, with many people calling for his immediate sainthood. People could feel how much the pope cared, which was why they cared for him so much, he said.

“Every single person was important to him,” Kwiatkowski said. “He was very humanitarian.”

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