Father Sotero Sena performs the consecration of the bread and wine during mass Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Clovis. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A somber procession of parishioners filed out of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church on Saturday night following mass, embracing deacons, friends and relatives.
It was a regularly scheduled mass, but the circumstances taking place in the Catholic world as the service proceeded were extraordinary. In fact, as the priest said in his closing remarks to parishioners, “We are seeing history being made.”
Pope John Paul II died Saturday, ending of a 26-year reign as the highest ranking clergyman in the Catholic order.
Father Sotero Sena, who led the mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe, said Catholics need to be strong, united and in prayer for the pope.
“The reactions that I have seen from parishioners is sadness, because it’s like a member of our family that has passed on,” Sena said. “But it is also a time of joy, because we know that he was an awesome individual in everything he did in the world as Holy Father.”
Sena said he received a letter from Pope John Paul II when he was newly ordained, and he is personally saddened by the loss. However, he said the process by which a new pope will be chosen is “awesome” and encouraged the parishioners to learn about it as the media covers this major event in the coming weeks.
“(I) encourage Catholics to pray for the cardinals throughout the world as they come together to select a new Holy Father,” he said.
Guadalupe Loera of Texico underscored the significance of the pope’s mission in life to unite rather than divide people.
“It’s heartbreaking because he represented more than the leader of the Catholic Church,” she said. “He was a man of peace. It didn’t matter what religion you were in.”
The news and the sadness crossed faiths.
“I think he’s closed the bridge between lots of groups of people that didn’t get along,” said Randy Stone, Youth minister at First Baptist Church in Bovina. “I feel he did it with love and personally I think that’s the message we need to send. He showed we could do it without war.”
Many of those mourning the pope’s death cited his love of peace and his opposition to war as the pope’s defining qualities.
“I think he was for the average citizen,” said Niki Harmon, a Clovis Methodist. “I think he was looking out for needs and wants of the poor and peaceful solutions for our world.”
CNJ staff writer John Eisel contributed to this report.