The Rev. James Perkl, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, saw the late Pope John Paul II twice in Rome more than 20 years ago, even shaking his hand on the second occasion.

Images and memories of the late pope have been flooding the television channels and print media since his death last Saturday at the Vatican in Rome. The funeral for Pope John Paul II is scheduled for Friday, April 8.

To celebrate the life of Pope John Paul II, Seton Church held a special prayer service for him, and pastors and the congregation will continue to offer prayers at regular weekend masses at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and at 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, April 10.

"We have what we call Divine Mercy Sunday on the Sunday after Easter," Perkl said. "John Paul raised a Polish nun, Faustina Kowalska, to sainthood April 30, 2000. She was chaplain of divine mercy.

"God revealed his divine mercy on that Sunday," Perkl said, "and John Paul died on the eve of that day, which is amazing."

"We offered special prayers not only for John Paul but for our sister parish at Red Lake, which experienced a terrible tragedy," Perkl said.

Perkl was a participant at the retreat Call to Holiness for 5,000 priests in Rome in 1984. At that retreat, he saw Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa.

A year later, Perkl was leading a pilgrimage to Rome.

"I got to shake his hand," Perkl said.

Perkl recalled that after the pope was shot in 1981, the pope visited his would-be assassin in a jail cell and forgave him.

"That's the message for the world," Perkl said.

Other services, programs

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Vermillion will hold a special memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 8.

The Mass will honor the pope with prayers of thanksgiving for his many years of service to the Catholic community. The community will also offer prayers for the cardinals as they begin the task of naming his successor.

St. Mary's Episcopal Church of Basswood Grove, 8435 St. Croix Trail, will hold a seminar to address issues being discussed by the deaths of Pope John Paul II and Terri Shiavo at 9:45 a.m. Sunday, April 10. The seminar is open to the community.

The seminar will also provide participants with copies of the health-care directive authorized by Minnesota law.

"The deaths of Pope John Paul II and Terri Schiavo remind us of the difficult medical, legal and spiritual questions that will face many of our families as we reach the end of our lives," said the Rev. Larry Crockett, rector of St. Mary 's Episcopal Church. "We've seen the unfortunate and painful turmoil surrounding Terry Shiavo's death and the quiet dignity of Pope John Paul's."

In addition to pastoral advice, an attorney will be present to discuss the legal aspects of the health-care directive.

Regular masses

When this issue of the Star Gazette went to press, none of the other area Catholic churches had scheduled extra masses.