Local recollections of Pope John Paul II

Staff writerApril 28, 2014 

Richard Bender, Tacoma.

Age: 70.

Occupation: Retired RV and car salesman.

If anyone deserves sainthood, Bender said, it’s Pope John Paul II.

“He was charismatic,” said Bender, who attends several Catholic parishes. “He was humble. The people loved him, and he was long-suffering.”

Bender said he admires how John Paul continued helping people and didn’t retire.

“He’s one of my role models the way he suffered toward the end,” Bender said. “He was a good example to people of keeping your faith until your dying day.”

Demetra Schwieger, Tacoma.

Age: 55.

Occupation: Pastoral care assistant at St. Leo Catholic Church in Tacoma.

Schwieger remembers Pope John Paul II for his intelligence, personality and love for people.

“He was a great man,” Schwieger said.

“He just did a lot of good things,” she said. “He traveled all over the world. He evangelized.”

But Schwieger also noted that John Paul’s tenure was not all positive: The clergy sex abuse scandal erupted during his papacy.

In 2001, Schwieger was part of a papal audience at the Vatican when John Paul’s health was failing but his mind was still sharp.

She remembers the pope for his smile.

“He was a sweet man.”

Kelly Butay, University Place.

Age: 72.

Occupation: Retired warehouse and custodian supervisor.

Butay remembers Pope John Paul II for the meeting the pope had in prison with the man who attempted to assassinate him in 1981.

“He went and forgave the person who shot him,” Butay said.

“He didn’t show any animosity,” Butay said of the Polish pontiff. “It shows his kindness.”

Butay, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Tacoma, described John Paul II as a “very kind and compassionate pope.”

“He always believed in taking care of the poor,” Butay said.

But Butay also said John Paul II should have taken more steps to deal with the clergy sex abuse scandal.

“By not taking action, it kind of blew up,” he said. “Some people in parishes left the church.”

But Butay was enthusiastic about John Paul’s sainthood.

“It’s wonderful to have a pope canonized as a saint,” Butay said.

Dr. Mary Estrada, University Place.

Age: 40.

Occupation: Medical doctor at the Veterans Affairs American Lake site in Lakewood.

Estrada recalls seeing John Paul II in Manila, Philippines, in the early 1990s.

“It touched me,” Estrada said. “You kind of get moved by the sight of him. He’s just very holy.”

Estrada, who also attends St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Tacoma, said it’s great John Paul II was canonized.

“He was a good example for all Christians and all Catholics,” Estrada said. “He set an example so we can get closer to mother Mary, so we can get closer to Jesus.”

Steve Maynard, staff writer

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