Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like but in having the right to do what we ought. –St. John Paul II
A Chasuble Worn by Pope John Paul II for the Closing Ceremony of World Youth Day Denver in 1993
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 my co-host, 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 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 and canonization of the Holy Father. 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!