The canonization of former popes John Paul II and John XXIII prompted one Brooklyn church to open their doors overnight Saturday into Sunday. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
Nicole Sokol described the double canonization ceremony held in Rome Sunday morning as "definitely fantastic."
Since she couldn't be there, she was glad to be at St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst. The historic occasion was marked by 12 hours of faith, including music, prayer, and an overnight viewing of the live feed from the Vatican.
"I actually felt like I was in Rome, though I was not. Spiritually, I felt like I was there," said parishioner Sonia Valentin. "When they prayed, we prayed. When they clapped, we clapped. When they knelt down, we knelt down. So I really felt like I was there in spirit."
Despite having no sleep, spirits remained high Sunday morning as dozens of participants marched through the neighborhood, waving photos of the new modern-day saints.
"It's a way in which we celebrate the fact that saints aren't just people who lived in the middle ages, that saints are people who are very much part of our time," said the Rev. Ronald D'Antonio of St. Athanasius Church.
"I really grew up with Pope John Paul II, so I felt like it was a really special event to watch him canonized," said Laura DePalma, a member of the youth ministry.
St. Athanasius serves a diverse population, with masses said in English, Spanish and Italian. It's no wonder, then, that the congregation here is particularly excited about the sainthood of John Paul II, a pope who visited more than 100 countries during his tenure.
"Before him, the Pope never went out of the Vatican," said pastoral associate Alvaro Chavarriaga. "He was the first one to went out and visit all the countries all over around the world."
"We came because we wanted to see the canonization of Pope John Paul II because he visited Haiti, which is our home country," said John Pierre-Louis, who attended the viewing of the live feed. "He also was very much for the poor."
The 12 hours of faith began at 10 p.m. Saturday and ended with a special 10 a.m. mass Sunday.
Coming on the heels of Easter and a season of rebirth, organizers hope the events here and in Rome breathe new life into the Church, particular for its youngest members.
"Through food, fellowship and faith, we could have people make this experience something that builds a community and makes our church more alive," said Kenny Wodzanowski, coordinator of youth ministries.