Evenings of mercy connect faithful to Sts. Faustina, John Paul II

  • Written by Janet Cleaveland
  • Published in Local
A visitor kneels before relics of Sts. Faustina Kowalska and John Paul II at an evening of mercy at the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver on Feb. 15. Sister Inga, who spoke of Divine Mercy just before the procession of the faithful began, is at right. Photo: Rachel Bauer A visitor kneels before relics of Sts. Faustina Kowalska and John Paul II at an evening of mercy at the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver on Feb. 15. Sister Inga, who spoke of Divine Mercy just before the procession of the faithful began, is at right. Photo: Rachel Bauer

VANCOUVERJocelyn Minier prays to St. Faustina Kowalska every day, so she was thrilled to learn that members of the saint’s order, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, would be speaking at the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver. Better yet, she would be able to venerate the relics of Sts. Faustina and John Paul II at the event, which also included the sacrament of reconciliation and evening prayer.

“I could just feel the nearness of St. Faustina tonight,” Minier said after the Feb. 15 event. “I get emotional thinking about it.”

During this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Sisters Inga and Caterina from the Boston house of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy are visiting seven parishes in the Archdiocese of Seattle, sharing the message of Divine Mercy that St. Faustina received in visions of Jesus and recorded in a 700-page diary. The Polish nun lived from 1905-38.

“relic of St. John Paul II”
Vashon artist Jonathan Kuzma designed this reliquary of mostly glass and bronze to hold a relic of St. John Paul II, which will remain with the Archdiocese of Seattle. Photo: Rachel Bauer

The proto-cathedral was packed with Catholics eager to hear the message of mercy, love, forgiveness and healing. For Sister Inga, living by those words is the only way to deal with evil in the world.

“One doesn’t have to be a prophet to see that we are living in end times,” she said. “There is no respect for right to life, for freedom … no respect for tradition and moral values. To be normal many times means to be mocked.”

Still, in all her examples of mercy, she returned to a simple theme from Jesus: Be merciful to others as I am to you.

“We are created out of love and for love,” Sister Inga said. “We cannot stop evil by any other way, only by mercy and by calling on God’s mercy and being merciful ourselves.”

After Sister Inga’s presentation, those in attendance had a chance to venerate the first-class relics — pieces of the bodies — of Sts. Faustina and John Paul II. (Pope John Paul canonized Sister Faustina in 2000.)

With a palpable sense of awe, people knelt before the relics, some kissing the reliquaries, others touching the crucifixes on their rosaries to the containers. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain recently blessed the reliquary containing the relic of St. John Paul II, which was brought by the sisters and will remain with the archdiocese. Local artist Jonathan Kuzma designed the reliquary and finished the metal surface, a chemical process called “patina.”

“My family is Polish,” said Kuzma, a member of St. John Vianney Parish on Vashon. “I was very happy to work on something to honor Pope John Paul II, who served at a very meaningful time for my family,” said Kuzma, a father of six.

Parishioner Kate Wedam and her husband brought their seven children to venerate the relics. “This is a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “How often do you get a chance to touch relics of two fantastic saints?”

As others slipped away from the proto-cathedral, they too praised the experience.

“The presentation and relics allowed me to understand the depth of God’s love for us in a way I did not know before,” said Andrew Lawhon, a parishioner who brought his wife, four children and mother-in-law. His 10-year-old son, Aidan, will likely remember the evening for the rest of his life: He plans to take John Paul II as his confirmation name.

Upcoming events

The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy will visit three more parishes in the Archdiocese of Seattle this week for events including prayer and veneration of the relics of Sts. Faustina and John Paul II:

--St. Charles Borromeo, Tacoma – Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.

--Holy Family, Kirkland – Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.

--St. James Cathedral, Seattle – Feb. 20 at noon