Upstate Catholics praise the late pope

GREENVILLE — Catholics in the Upstate deanery of the Diocese of Charleston reacted to the death of Pope John Paul II with praise for what they considered to be both a remarkable life and a momentous papacy.

Many people said that they were personally affected by Karol Jozef Wojtyla’s witness to the faith and his strength as a Christian. One in particular was Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary Church in this city. He was a freshman in 1981 at Princeton University and an atheist when the pope first became a dominant presence in his consciousness.

“On the afternoon of May 13, I was on my way to supper when I learned of the attempt to assassinate the pope in St. Peter’s Square. From that moment, John Paul II entered my awareness and gradually became one of the most formative influences in my life,” Father Newman said. “His witness to the Lord Jesus and compelling preaching of the Gospel led millions of souls, including mine, into a deeper faith and a desire to surrender everything to the dominion of Christ.”

Another convert to Catholicism who was greatly influenced by the late pope was Tamara “Tami” Kiser of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Mauldin. She said that she and her husband were Presbyterians when they started reading John Paul’s writings.

“His theology was so inviting, and he explained it so well that he became a major factor in our conversion in 1990,” Kiser said. “We will really miss him. It’s hard to think of anyone else being pope, since he’s the only one we’ve known.”

The Kisers respected John Paul to such an extent that they named one of their children after him.

John Paul was the pope for a decade before the Kisers became Catholic, and that enduring reign was another reason Father Newman considers him legendary and a figure of great historical significance.

“Children born after John Paul’s election to the papacy are now old enough to be graduating from medical school. The remarkable length of his papacy together with the extraordinary abilities of this man has combined to change the face of the Church and the world. I believe that history will call him John Paul the Great in witness to the singular contribution he made to the cause of Christian civilization and authentic humanism,” he said.