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Students pray for pope

April 08, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - With heads bowed and hands clasped, St. Maria Goretti High School students prayed Thursday for the soul of Pope John Paul II, one day before his funeral.

For the students, the pope of 26 years was the only one they had ever known.

"It's just like it's such disappointment. You feel sadness by it," Kathleen Costello, 15, said of the pope's death Saturday. "But hopefully, the new pope will give us joy."

Archdiocese of Baltimore schools are closed today as Catholics around the world mark the pope's funeral. School officials said this week the event and talk of the election of a new pope has inspired a mix of emotions and a lot of questions.

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Students at both St. Maria Goretti and St. Mary schools attended special services Thursday in honor of Pope John Paul II.

"In terms of the students' response, I would say (it is) one of interest because the kids have lived their entire lives with one Holy Father," Samantha Welsh, director of campus ministry, said of students' participation in recent discussions about the pope at St. Maria Goretti.

Welsh said students have exhibited both a sense of mourning, as well as interest in an event they've never before experienced.

Religion teacher Bill Gour paced his room as he talked following St. Maria Goretti's prayer service about how the Roman Catholic Church will choose a successor to Pope John Paul II. He fired questions at his small class of sophomores as he shared facts about papal history.

"The cardinals cast the vote," he said, "but who actually selects the pope?"

Gour gestured and kept walking as a response was proffered.

"The Holy Spirit, very good," Gour said.

St. Maria Goretti senior Joe Spierenburg, 18, said even his non-Catholic classmates have been involved in class conversations about the pope.

"Some of our teachers have told us what their opinions are," he said, "and we have shared ours, as well."

Spierenburg said the pope was a "religious leader that everyone respects." Both he and Costello said they might go to services today to remember John Paul II.

A line of youngsters in blue and white shirts and girls in plaid skirts carried offerings to the alter during Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church. Among the gifts were a basket of coins and single dollar bills and a seed symbolizing life.

The Rev. George Limmer, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, told students they should try to imitate the pope's holiness and self-sacrifice.

"The holiness he practiced is something that he called us to do also," Limmer told the elementary and middle school students.

Costello said she believed Pope John Paul II was a role model, "that we would all like to live by."

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