By Father Timothy Gollob
Special to The Texas Catholic
With all the hype going on about Pope Benedict XVI retiring from the ecclesiastical governing of the church, many thoughts have entered into my mind.
I am especially aware of an e-mail sent to me from a cardinal classmate of mine who lives in the Vatican asking for prayers for the College of Cardinals as they deliberate on choosing a new pope in the coming weeks.
The first idea that I would like to share is about the popes I have met in the past. Of course that category only includes one pope, but I did get to meet him two times. Pope Pius XII was the supreme pontiff during my years in Rome.
My first year there was 1954. That was the Marian Year and it came to a grand closing on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in December. Many nations had sent banners depicting their special shrines in honor of Mary. The United States sent the grandest banner of all illustrating the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
As seminarians from the North American College in Rome, six of us first theologians were chosen to carry the banner in the procession from the Basilica of St. Mary Major to the Basilica of St. Peter.
That was a long haul on a windy winter day.
We took turns grasping the two large poles which supported the banner. The other four held onto the ropes which stabilized it in the wind.
As we climbed the steps into St. Peter’s Basilica, Jim Moynihan from Rochester, N.Y., and myself were commanding the two poles.
The guards at the doors dismissed the four rope hangers and only admitted Jim and myself to carry our cargo down the middle aisle to be presented to Pope Pius XII.
When our turn came to present the banner, two monsignors took the poles and told us to kneel before the pope for a blessing.
Pope Pius spoke good English and he asked us how we were liking Rome and how our families were doing. The only thing I could stammer was, “We are behind you, Holy Father!”
Later my classmates learned of my response and made a joke that the pope had turned around to see who was behind him! It was quite a treat for a 28-year-old on his first semester in Rome.
Four years later on March 1, 1958, I was ordained at the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It was an ordination of deacons from several national seminaries who had missed earlier ceremonies.
Afterwards some of us newly ordained priests and our families were given a semi-private audience with Pope Pius XII.
He now spoke directly to my mother and father. He was most of all interested in where my sister, Jeanette, went to college.
We still delight in remembering that day 55 years later.
Father Timothy Gollob is the pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Oak Cliff.