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Biography of John Paul II

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
17 Jan 2011

When he was young, he overcame the death of his entire family, he endured the hard life of a labor worker and he studied in secrecy with the help of his professors. That's how John Paul II was shaped.

His story began in the small polish town of  Wadowice on May 18, 1920. He was baptized one month later. He said it was here that his vocation as a Christian and for the priesthood was born.

After finishing high school, he enrolled at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow to study Polish philology and also enrolled in an acting school.

But the war and the Nazi occupation would change his plans.

John Paul II
On one hand, you can say that my youth was marked by the Divine Providence because many of my friends lost their lives in very different circumstances, in the war or in concentration camps. This is called "Shoa" which in Hebrew means "extermination of people". All of this belongs to the history of our century and I've lived this story during my youth. And through this suffering, I learned to see the real world in a profound way.

At the age of 19, he started working at a stone quarry and later at a chemical factory in Solvay to earn a living and avoid deportation to Germany. Three years later, he decided to join an underground seminary organized by the bishop of Krakow, Cardinal Sapieha.

John Paul II
That experience as a worker and a "clandestine" seminarian has stayed with me all my life. I used to take books with me to the factory during my eight-hour shift, during the day or at night. My workmates were rather surprised, but not scandalized. Indeed, they said, "We will help you, you can rest and in your place we will keep an eye [on the boilers] instead of you". So I was also able to do the exams with my professors. Everything under wraps.

This training, which helped him better understand the world, ended with his  ordination on November 1, 1946, the Solemnity of All Saints. A few friends and family members were the only witnesses at the ceremony which took place at the residence of the archbishop of Krakow.