This is one of my favorite items, of course, the chasuble that John Paul II wore for World Youth Day Denver. The chasuble came as a gift from our former bishop, Dennis Schnurr, who is now the Archbishop of Cincinnati. He was the head of World Youth Day Denver 1993. Over 500,000 people attended this gathering. And at the end of a very well run program, Pope John Paul gave the chasuble to him as a gift. And when Archbishop Schnurr became the bishop of Duluth, MN, of course, being the big collector that I am, I got very envious, and I probably had to go to confession at that point!
But then he appointed me the Vocation Director, and he said, “Father Kunst, if you get 25 seminarians at one time in the diocese of Duluth, I’ll give it to you.”
And so I worked really hard to accomplish this, obviously for better reasons than the chasuble. But eventually we got 23–close, but not the 25. And then he gave it to me as a gift. And so it’s an incredibly wonderful item (and a wonderful story included below this commentary).
We can see on the front of the chasuble we have the letters of the Virgin Mary–A V., and on the back there is an actual image of his coat of arms. This was used on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, at the closing Mass at World Youth Day.
Pope John Paul II inspired so many in my generation to the priesthood, through his life as a priest and as our Holy Father. The item is unique both for me and for another priest in my diocese, Father Ryan Moravitz, because we both have such personal stories connected to it.
Father Moravitz helped to get a zucchetto of Pope Benedict XVI when he was studying at the North American College in Rome. The agreement that the two of us made was that if Father Moravitz could get a zucchetto of Benedict XVI for the Collection, he could wear the chasuble of Pope John Paul II for his first Mass. And sure enough, Father Moravitz did get the zucchetto. So only Bishop Schnurr, the Holy Father and the two of us have worn the chasuble.
It is humbling to have worn this chasuble. Father Moravitz remembers Father Kunst putting the chasuble on him in the sacristy prior to his first Mass of Thanksgiving. “Just being able to celebrate Eucharist in that chasuble that our Holy Father used in the United States at such an historic event in our nation, with World Youth Day in Denver–it is just an awesome thing.”
The Catholic Digest right after the Pope died listed the top 10 events of the pontificate of John Paul II. And they listed World Youth Day Denver in the top 10. So that’s pretty significant. And then for us to have this most important item associated with that event and with this great Pope, and to have been able to wear it, is such a wonderful thing.
Both of these priests were present at the beatification. Father Kunst said he always had it in his mind that the last time he would wear the chasuble would be in the event of John Paul’s beatification.
And it was!
Receiving Pope John Paul’s Chasuble: A Gift from Bp. Schnurr
The chasuble (the outermost garment worn by the priest during the Mass) has a Marian theme to it since it was worn on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15. It is blue and gold and the Pope’s coat of arms adorns the back of the chasuble.
In Father Kunst’s estimation Pope John Paul II is the greatest pope in history. He wore this garment during what many say was one of the top ten most influential events of his pontificate. It is a second class relic worn by a man who will surely be canonized a saint.
The chasuble was a gift from Pope John Paul to (then) Msgr. Dennis Schnurr, the coordinator of World Youth Day, Denver. It is significant this is the only time the United States has ever hosted this event and it is a credit to Msgr. Schnurr that it was considered to be such a momentous event in his papacy.
The story of receiving Pope John Paul’s chasuble is probably the most poignant one of the entire collection. It was a gift to Father Kunst from Bishop Dennis Schnurr in October of 2004 on the occasion of the exhibit, The Vatican Comes to Duluth. This exhibit highlighted Father Kunst’s entire collection. He would agree that this chasuble is one of his favorite items. Receiving this as a gift on the occasion of the exhibit is a moment Father Kunst will never forget.
Msr. Dennis Schnurr became the bishop of Duluth, Minnesota in April of 2001. Father Kunst told him about his Vatican collection and although it was smaller at that time the bishop was very impressed with it. He showed Father the chasuble and, of course, Father wanted it.
Bishop Schnurr appointed Father Kunst the Vocation Director of the diocese. He wanted someone who exuded happiness about his vocation and found that in Father Kunst. Subsequently a running banter ensued between the two of them regarding the chasuble. The Bishop told Father Kunst that if he could get twenty-five seminarians at any one time he could have the chasuble for his collection.
This razzing between the two of them continued for years. Then came The Vatican Comes to Duluth, 2004. It was a fundraiser to support the education of seminarians from the Diocese of Duluth and it raised a significant amount of money over a period of just three days.
On October 29, 2004, the day the exhibit opened Bishop Schnurr treated the executive committee of the exhibit and Father Kunst to lunch at a beautiful location in Duluth, Minnesota, the Gitchee Gammi Club. While at lunch, unbeknownst to Father Kunst, but known to the committee, Bishop Schnurr handed Father an envelope with a letter stating that he was giving him Pope John Paul II’s chasuble.
It was a very moving experience for both bishop and priest.
Papal Artifacts gratefully acknowledges the donations of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinatti, Ohio, and formerly bishop of Duluth, Minnesota.
Papal Artifacts gratefully acknowledges the archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, for the use of their photo of Pope John Paul II and to the photographer, James Baca.