Bro. Anthony Sales a philatelist from Council 6855 specializes in Pope John Paul II stamps and has amassed a very large collection since 1979. He had previously held two 160-frame exhibitions entitled " A Pilgrim's Journey - Pope John Paul II "– the first in May 2007 at St. Paul Richmond, under Council 6855 celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the K of C, and the second in April 2011 in Ottawa, sponsored by Council 12158 and the Polish Embassy to commemorating the 6th Anniversary of the Pope’s death.
When the news headline of May of 2019 “Poland and the world were going to celebrate the Birth Centenary of St. John Paul II next year” caught Bro. Anthony Sales’ eye, he was very excited and immediately thought that it would be a good idea to hold a philatelic exhibition.
Bro. Anthony felt that we should avail of any opportunity to pay tribute to John Paul II and should definitely not allow the Centenary to pass by without any celebration. He approached Bro. Kevin Mendonca, a PGK of Council 6855 and a key individual who enthusiastically supported the idea and formed the initial ad hoc group of brother knights, encouraged Bro. Anthony to formalize his plan. So he drew up a proposal for a 180-frame Exhibition on the life and papacy of John Paul II as a Centenary Celebration as it would be a perfect tribute to John Paul II. Bro. Rely Diego who joined the group helped us see that the project needed the official support of the Knights and several meetings were setup with the DD to achieve this.
With the blessing of District Deputy Federico De Castro, the proposal was approved to be organized by the Knights of Columbus District 23 Councils (four in Richmond and one in Whitehorse) with Bro. Stan Leong as chair. Initial planning started in August 2019 and was well underway by the start of the New Year. Many milestones were achieved – Exhibition Poster designed/printed, Souvenir Magazine designed and Ads solicited, pledge cards and bookmarks were printed. We had already received messages from various dignitaries such as the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada Luigi Bonazzi, His Eminence Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow Poland, Polish Ambassador Andrezj Kurnicki in Ottawa, His Grace Archbishop J. Michael Miller, State Deputy Dale Hofer and District Deputy Federico De Castro for inclusion in the magazine. We also had begun to publicize the event to the parishes in the Lower mainland with the help of local councils.
In January 2020 Bro. Anthony requested Canada Post to issue a special Postmark as part of our exhibition to commemorate the birth centenary of St. John Paul II. Canada Post agreed and a design was submitted. It depicted the image of John Paul II and the Minor Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice Poland. It was here where the spiritual journey of Karol Wojtyla began. After some minor adjustments the final design was approved by Canada Post. But before it could be issued, the Covid-19 Pandemic was declared on March 11th and with the subsequent lockdown in Ontario and Quebec, their offices were closed. There were several attempts at rescheduling the exhibition, but eventually on April 6th it was decided to cancel for the year and review to possibly holding it in 2021 or later.
Every one of the 17-committee members was extremely disappointed with the cancellation. However, Bro. Anthony was determined to salvage something out of it. In late July he requested Canada Post to issue the special Postmark in 2020, as it is the birth centenary year. They agreed and it was given a new date of September 19, 2020. So the Knights seized on the opportunity and quickly organized an official unveiling of the Centenary Souvenir cover. It was designed and produced by Bro. Anthony. The stamp on the cover depicting Pope John Paul II is a Picture Postage stamp issued for our exhibition in 2007.
The delayed Centenary Souvenir Cover was unveiled on Friday Sept 18, 2020 in the Karol Wojtyła Hall of the John Paul II Pastoral Centre in Vancouver BC to a small gathering that included members of the Knights of Columbus, former pastor Msgr. D. Luterbach, present pastor Fr. Tom Smith of St. Paul and Archbishop J Michael Miller. It followed a short programme culminating in the presentation of a framed Pope John Paul II stamp sheet and Centenary Souvenir Cover to the Archbishop from the Knights of Columbus District 23. In his remarks, the Archbishop stated that the event was “a novel and creative way to honour the birth centenary of the secondary patron of Vancouver – one of the very great men, not just popes of the 20th century”. The event was covered by BC Catholic and can be viewed on-line at BC Catholic website and in the Sept 28, 2020 print edition.
As Canadians we should be proud that John Paul II was the first and only pontiff to set foot on Canadian soil. He visited Canada thrice and we should be aware of this great honour. On that very same day, 36 years ago on Sept 18, 1984 Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass with 200,000 enthuastic Catholics at Abbotsford International airport. He left Vancouver on Sept 19th for other parts of Canada. It is no mere coincidence, but perhaps St. John Paul lent us a hand in lining up all these dates. It was a joy to honour him by celebrating his birth Centenary by unveiling this special Souvenir Cover.
We are very grateful to BC Catholic for covering the event and giving us the permission to use use their photos in this article.