Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Second Visit of the Pope to the USA

If you would like to read other articles by Rev. Joseph Dwight, click on his photo and choose the topic you are interested in. If you would like a good monthly meditation in MS Power Point Slide Show format with nice music and images in the background, choose the topic title “Spiritual Food” (or go directly to: and then choose “The Importance of a Meditation!”

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The photo above with Joseph Dwight and Raymond Frost with Pope John Paul II was taken in 1987 after the Good Friday liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica (Rome).

This article was written (November 1987) for the official magazine of the Religious Congregation, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary.

The Second Visit of the Pope to the USA

When we first heard that our Holy Father had accepted the invitation of the American bishops to visit our country for the second time, and especially our home state of California, we wanted very much to be able to contribute to the success of his visit. Following similar lines of the charism of our venerable founder of our congregation, Father Pio Bruno Lanteri (1759-1830), we found ourselves hoping to try in some way to help spiritually and pastorally prepare our fellow Americans and Californians for the Pope's second visit to our country.

Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri

With the encouragement of our superiors, the project began to take form in the early part of 1987 while studying theology in Rome. Receiving our initial impetus and ideas from the tremendous effort that our fellow Canadian Oblates put forth for the visit of the Pope to Canada over three ago, we began writing a suitable one-page leaflet (entitled, 'You Are Peter') as well as printing in Italy a prayer card with the Pope’s picture with a suitable prayer on the reverse side to help facilitate the success of the Pope’s visit. While considering ways of distributing the leaflet, we had initially considered reaching the goal of printing and distributing about 10-20,000 leaflets and prayer cards. Thanks to the prayers, help and generous financial support from many Catholic organizations and private individuals, we were able to print and distribute over 400,000 leaflets in northern and southern California as well as about 10,000 leaflets in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio for the Detroit visit of the Pope. (To see the leaflet, visit:

In order to better insure that the leaflet would be read and not just tossed aside, the vast majority of the leaflets were distributed on a one-on-one personal basis. This was done both before and during the papal visit through the collaboration of hundreds of men and women of various groups, especially the Legion of Mary, the Knights of Columbus, the National Association of the Holy Rosary, St. Joseph's Radio and the Blue Army. Each of these groups helped distribute the leaflets in the manner according to the charism of their particular organization so that this modest, catechetical type preparation might reach as many people as possible whether it be in the parishes or groups or among family, friends, neighbors or fellow workers. We coordinated this distribution by way of numerous letters and phone calls as well as speaking at over a dozen major meetings of the above mentioned organizations with at least 50 people at each meeting, as well as at numerous minor meetings up and down our state of California. Many tens of thousands of the leaflets were also distributed at the papal motorcades in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as at the outdoor Masses of the Pope while the people waited to see and hear the Holy Father at Dodger Stadium and the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Pope John Paul II poses in San Francisco, Ca, with the Golden Gate Bridge in background in this Sept. 17, 1987 photo.

Our goal for this project remained constant from start to finish. Right from the start, as we went through many draft copies of the leaflet with the very helpful criticism of many American and English speaking priests and seminarians in Rome, we always tried to put ourselves in the shoes and situation of our fellow Americans. We had hoped to recall to thousands of Catholics and interested non-Catholics a greater understanding, appreciation and love of our precious Catholic faith. Thus, our goal, as Archbishop Roger Mahony of Los Angeles welcomed and confirmed in his responding letter (May 19, 1987) to our proposal, was to help "in promoting a better understanding of the role of our Holy Father" as well as "to help people prepare spiritually and pastorally for his coming visit to us in California." We felt that one of the important tasks of the leaflet should most especially be to help the reader to understand and appreciate better the supernatural role of the Church and her visible head, the Pope, as given and intended by Christ so that we might help to overcome our very wide-spread mentality of a 'pick and choose, smorgasbord type Catholicism' and religious apathy in our country.

Keeping this situation in mind, ever so similar to the times of Father Lanteri but even more diffused by the mass media beyond the elite circles of the "aristocrates" (Introduction to the 'Directory of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary' (Italian edition, p.6)), we had hoped to help prepare a more open and warm response toward the Pope and his message by going directly to the people utilizing lay organizations. We worked along these lines so that, despite the spreading of confusion and misinformation in our country regarding the teachings of the Church and the essential role of her visible head, many Americans might come to a mature and trusting acceptance of the whole truth revealed to us by God, through Christ, which is preserved and authentically interpreted throughout time and culture by His Church. We felt that by helping our fellow Americans to overcome and to breakthrough our materialistic and non-supernatural-minded society of today, the supernatural character and task of the Church and her visible head, the Pope, would be more easily understood and welcomed. Thus, we hoped that by assisting in this endeavor, we, as well as all those who joined in the effort, could truly contribute to "Unity in the Work of Service; Building Up the Body of Christ", the official overall theme of the second papal visit to the United States of America.

We wish to sincerely thank all those who prayed for the success of this project and the many Oblates and generous friends who contributed so much time and effort toward helping to prepare a warm welcome for the Vicar of Christ to the United States of America.

In Jesus and Mary,

Joseph Dwight, O.M.V.

Raymond Frost, O.M.V

When Joseph Dwight and Raymond Frost met the Pope for the first time on the first of January 1987, we offered to try to help prepare for his visit to our state of California that same year during the summer. Precisely during this photo taken on Good Friday 1987, the Pope actually remembered us and said "California"!

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