.- As cardinals from around the world prepare for the April 18th conclave in which they will elect the next shepherd of the Catholic Church, many students at Benedictine College in Kansas are recalling the singular inspiration that Pope John Paul II was for many of them.
The campus, which postponed classes and meetings to hold a Mass for the pope on April 1st, just before his death, celebrated a memorial for John Paul yesterday evening at the campus’ St. Benedict Abbey Church.
A huge number of students turned out for the time of prayer.
Mark Bartek, director of one of the school’s residence halls, said that for many, Pope John Paul II “is the embodiment of Catholicism.”
Many grieving students echoed these sentiments.
Julie Reiff, a junior at the college, recalled her time at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2003. She said that, “His influence on the youth has been infinitely felt from the beginning of his papacy to the end.”
Around campus, black banners could be seen hanging from many buildings, and students established a memorial for the pope at a statue of Mary, one of John Paul’s special devotions. In addition, all flags remain at half-mast.
Benedictine’s president, Stephen Minnis said, “I’ve been very moved, in the past week, witnessing the great love our students, faculty, and staff have shown for our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, as they commemorated his death and reflected on his life and legacy.”
“We may never see a man like Pope John Paul II again,” he added, “but Christ promised us that the Church will prevail through the end of time. So, although we mourn our loss, we can rejoice that the Holy Father has entered his reward.”
“His leadership has left us a church that is prepared to face the many challenges that lie ahead; I can only imagine the joy with which he heard the Lord say to him “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Reiff agrees: “The Pope has been a great world leader. He’s a point of light and hope in a world that has embraced a culture of death.”