For today's Bowdoin students, Pope John Paul II is synonymous with Catholicism?he was the pope who had held the papacy from before their birth until only six days ago.
The pontiff was given a final goodbye early this morning in a funeral ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. But for many members of the Bowdoin community who shared their reflections with the Orient this week, his legacy will endure.
His power was evident to Sarah Clark '06, who was in Rome last weekend when the pope died. Clark, who is studying abroad in Denmark, had spent the previous week in the city.
"The atmosphere at the Vatican was awe-inspiring. It was amazing to see a crowd so large be so quiet and respectful," she said. "You could feel the love and respect that people had for this wonderful man."
Four million pilgrims have visited Rome with hopes of filing through St. Peter's Basilica. Officials estimate that up to two million of them may have passed by the pope's body over the previous week.
Daphne Leveriza '07 knows what it is like to join the masses in a pilgrimage. She attended World Youth Day in 2000 and heard the pope give a lecture and a mass.
Leveriza recalled John Paul II's "charismatic" personality?at one point, the aging pontiff danced in his chair, and at another, he responded to the crowd's chants of "JPII, we love you" with "JPII, he loves you too!"
Yet there was something more than celebrity at play.
"It was so obvious that he had such a strong relationship with God and a strong gift of faith," she said.
Melanie Conroy '05, who attended an Easter Vigil mass led by John Paul in 2000, was inspired for similar reasons.
"He sought peace and reconciliation with those who opposed him, radiated charity, and lived a prayerful life," she said.
"When I saw him he was disabled and elderly, but all I could think is about how strong he seemed; committed and brave," Conroy said. "It puts your own life in perspective."
Assistant Professor of English Mary Agnes Edsall was an usher when John Paul II visited New York and led a mass in Central Park.
Edsall remembers the diversity of the enormous crowd flocking into the field?from worshipers deep in prayer to attendees snacking on jumbo pretzels. But they came together to celebrate, and that, she said, is "a testament to the diversity of the American Catholic Church."
"Once the mass started, there was just an incredible amount of focus," she said.
Edsall said that the pope's writings and his effect on post-Vatican-II Catholicism will earn him a place among those popes who stand out in history.
"His encyclicals and his writings managed to be spiritually and intellectually challenging at the same time," she said.
Father Paul Marquis, who celebrates Sunday mass on campus, said that the pope's writings?especially those discussing God's mercy?"will give us food for reflection for many years to come."
"His focus on God's mercy colored everything he taught about, including his opposition to all things that threaten life at every stage of life, from conception to natural death," he said.
"Whether one agreed with his teachings or not, one could not help but note that unlike most secular politicians, he did not change the church teachings in order to make them more popular," Marquis said.
Chaplain of the Catholic Student Union Brother Richard Crawley, a Capuchin Franciscan, remembers the day that Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate John Paul II in 1981 and the demonstration of mercy that later followed. It was an incident that would lead to an alteration of his faith.
"I was not serious about my faith at that time," he said. That changed two years later when images of the pope praying with and forgiving the gunman were broadcasted around the world.
"It had a profound effect on my notion of Christianity and Catholicism," he said. "Here was someone who was embracing evil and overcoming it by showing creative love [and] forgiving him."
"After witnessing John Paul's actions, it made me ask myself how I could be a peacemaker and what were the steps I had to make in order to really be one," Crawley said.
Assistant Professor of Religion Elizabeth Pritchard said in an email to the Orient that the pope's leadership was notable: "With John Paul II as leader, the Church regained its status as a player in the world's political scene: supporting Solidarity in Poland and thus resisting the Soviet Union, urging nonviolence in Ireland, visiting Cuba, chiding a consumerist America, and articulating the vision of a 'culture of life' (to which, with less consistency, American politicians are currently making appeal)."
Pritchard said the pope's willingness to be a public figure "lent a democratic spirit to his tenure, even as he consistently, some might even say ruthlessly, consolidated the authority of the Vatican and explicitly and repeatedly preached the hierarchical as opposed to democratic identity of the Church (as evident in his rebuke of Marxist Catholic movements in Latin and South America)."
On April 18, cardinals will begin a series of meetings known as a conclave and choose the next pope. The process, known as a conclave, could take more than a week.
Leveriza hopes that the 117 cardinals eligible to vote will choose someone who will bridge differences between religions and amongst liberal and conservative Catholics.
"The pope just tried so hard to make the Catholic Church a friend to everyone," she said. "So I'd really like to see that from the next pope, to take it a step farther."
Pritchard expects that this John Paul II's beliefs will help dictate the choice of the next pope.
"Given that he largely succeeded in winning support for his conservative vision of the Church among the upper ranks, I have difficulty imagining the College of Cardinals electing a radically different successor," she said.
Conroy said she hopes to see "a person that is true to our faith."
"I hope that he shares a joy and respect for human life that Pope John Paul II possessed," she said.
Edsall's desire is simple. Who would she like to see succeed John Paul II, whose papacy lasted for 26 years?
"The best man possible," she said.