Locals get the chance to see Pope Francis during U.S. visit

Father Piotr

Seeing the pope isn’t really anything new for the Rev. Piotr Narkiewicz.

The Rev. Piotr Narkiewicz wouldn’t be where he is now if it wasn’t for a gathering he attended with Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Literally. He wasn’t even a priest then.

“I remember still now what Pope John Paul II said on this day. ‘If you feel the vocation don’t be afraid. Go and follow Jesus. Even if you have doubts, go and follow Jesus’ were his words,” the Rev. Narkiewicz said.

So, he did.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he notes that, “It’s always something very inspiring to meet the pope.”

The native of Poland who now serves at St. Isidore Roman Catholic Church in Riverhead and Our Lady of Ostrabama Roman Catholic Church in Cutchogue will first see Pope Francis Thursday during vespers, or evening mass, solely for members of the clergy held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He was given the opportunity to attend by entering a raffle.

In addition to his 2000 meeting with Pope John Paul II, the Rev. Narkiewicz has also met Pope Benedict XVI and seen Francis before in Rome.

“It was a beautiful event and for a priest to have opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist with the pope it’s always very important because … it’s hard to explain.”

Top photo: Father Piotr with a cardboard figure of Pope Francis at St. Isidore’s Elementary School Friday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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Sister Margaret Smyth

When someone called her office to invite her to see the pope Thursday morning, Sister Margaret Smyth from the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead was almost convinced it was a scam.

It was so out of the blue, Sister Margaret said, especially since she hadn’t entered anything to try and get to see Pope Francis.

“When I got the phone call it kinda took me so by surprise I asked them how long did I have to tell them,” she said. “I said I had to check my calendar! And then I hung up … and I said to my secretary what did I just do? Who cares what’s on my calendar! So I called them right back and said of course I would go, I was so grateful.”

Sister Margaret will travel to Washington D.C. as a guest of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to hear the pontiff’s message.

“They had been seeing the kind of work that we do here and our relationship with the community and they appreciated it and wanted to recognize it,” Sister Margaret said. 

This will be Sister Margaret’s second time seeing a pope, having seen Pope John Paul II during one of his trips to New York City. Her previous experience was “electric,” she said.

She’s hoping her upcoming visit will be just as enjoyable as the last and said she wants everyone in attendance to really listen to Pope Francis’ message.

“The pope has been phenomenal in calling all of us into becoming better people and taking a look at how we live and how we live in relationship with everybody else in this world,” she said. “So I’m very excited about listening to what he’s going to say to Congress about that.”


Eric Lopez

Wading River native Eric Lopez has been on one of America’s most popular television shows. Now, he’ll perform in front of one of the world’s most popular figures.

Mr. Lopez, who auditioned on American Idol last season, is a member of Broadway Inspirational Voices, one of the groups chosen to sing at the event. He joined the 100-person performance group in August, but never expected to be chosen as one of the 40 to perform for the pope.

“I think they had a set number of people who were going to do it and one of the guys couldn’t do it,” he said. “I was new, so I didn’t think I was going to be asked but then the director came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you would be good for this, you’re doing this. This is how you’re going to join our company.’”

In addition to performing for the pope, Mr. Lopez is excited that he’ll get to meet such huge artists and have them hear him sing. One artist in particular he’s looking forward to performing for is American Idol judge Harry Connick Jr. — again.

Mr. Lopez received a yes vote to “Hollywood Week” from Mr. Connick Jr. and said he’s ready for Connick Jr. to hear him sing opera.

But he isn’t letting that distract him from the real point of the event.

“Singing for the pope was always something I wanted to do,” Mr. Lopez said. “But I never really tried to aim for it because that’s a weird, like, how am I supposed to do that?”

After his performance, Mr. Lopez will have the opportunity to meet Pope Francis, which he’s excited for, especially since he was looking to enter raffles before finding out he would be signing for the pontiff.

“He looks very charismatic,” he said. “[Pope Francis] doesn’t seem very robotic; he seems like a real person, which is why the world is attracted to him. I’m interested to see what he says.”

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