Portage County family shares connection with saint - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Portage County family shares connection with saint

ROSHOLT (WAOW) - The recently canonized Pope John Paul II shared a special connection with a Portage County family.

In 1976, before he became pope, he visited the Stevens Point area as a cardinal.

Then, he met the Zdroik family of Rosholt and established a relationship that would last decades.

Mike Zdroik says it's a unique feeling, now knowing that the former pope is a saint.

"It doesn't happen very often that somebody does that in your lifetime that you kind of know personally," said Zdroik.

Zdroik says he first met Pope St. John Paul II on his front lawn when his parents hosted then-Cardinal Wojtyla for dinner at their home in Rosholt.

The cardinal was in the area to give a lecture on Polish culture at UW-Stevens Point.

"He portrayed himself as a common man just like the rest of us," said Zdroik. "He was at our level and very humble."

The dinner marked the start of a relationship between Zdroik's mother, Mary Jane, and the future pope and saint.

It was a relationship that would last for decades.

"She had I believe two or three personal audiences with the pope afterwards, so it was a very important part of their life," said Zdroik.

One of those visits came in 1980 when she and a group from Stevens Point visited him in Vatican City.

Zdroik says his mother, who died several years ago, also received letters from the pope.

"I know when my son and father passed in 1997, I know she got a personal letter of sympathy from the Vatican," said Mike Zdroik.

He says seeing Pope John Paul II reach sainthood would have been a special moment for his mother.

"It's neat," he said. "I wish she were alive so she could experience that."

But he says his mom's connection with the pope lives on through memory.

"That was her limelight and I think her pictures kind of show that," said Zdroik.

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