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VATICAN CITY — Many who have felt the call to the priesthood or religious life in recent decades say they owe their vocation to Pope John Paul II.
This is certainly the case for two Boston seminarians set to be ordained next month who are studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Deacons Robert Poitras of Lowell and Jason Makos of East Bridgewater, sat down with The Pilot the day before the pope’s funeral to reflect on the impact Pope John Paul II’s papacy has had on their decision to serve God through the priesthood.
For Makos, who was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, Pope John Paul II was instrumental in both his decision to become Catholic and in his vocational call.
Makos recalls first seeing the pope on television during his first year in high school.
“There was just something there in his conviction which drew me toward him,” he reminisced. “I thought, ‘I want that.’”
Attracted to the pope’s love for the youth, and the youths’ love for the pope in turn, Makos ultimately was received into full communion with the Catholic Church four years later, and decided to enter the seminary shortly thereafter.
The pope’s energy and love of God encouraged Makos to “not be afraid” in following his vocational call, a term often used by the pontiff during his World Youth Day encounters.
“[Pope John Paul II] was a peacemaker, who was constantly working toward peace,” he continued. “The legacy he leaves behind is very important.”
“He converted many people during his life” because of his ability to preach the Gospel with his life, Makos said, “and I am sure he will continue to convert many people, even in his death.”
Pope John Paul II’s devotion to announcing the Gospel of life also played a part in Poitras’ decision to enter the seminary.
“I would say he has been a big factor in my decision to become a priest,” mused Poitras. “Pope John Paul II brought faith to [the people] in a real way.”
According to Poitras, it was that faith which helped him when considering his future. Poitras recalls watching the pope on television during Christmas and Easter Masses, as well as during his visits around the world.
“His words, in part, encouraged me to consider the priesthood as a choice for my future,” he said, adding that the Holy Father’s influence on him grew immensely after he began his studies at the North American College.
Because he was so close to St. Peter’s Basilica, Poitras began attending the Holy Father’s weekly general audiences, drawing strength from the pope’s words each time.
“They were like big pep rallies,” described Poitras. “Going there was great. You always saw people having a great time in their faith.”
Both Poitras and Makos are now wondering about the future and what characteristics the next pope will possess.
“All I say is, ‘Thank God for the Holy Spirit,’” joked Poitras about the upcoming conclave set to begin April 18. His hope is that the next pope will be “very similar to Pope John Paul II” and will continue “being present in people’s lives, spreading the Gospel of life.”
Makos agreed. “My hope is that the next pope will stand on that wall and continue preaching the Gospel,” he said. “That he loudly proclaims the truth — not an alternate way of living — but the way, the truth and the life.”