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Union Bridge family still feeling uplifted by 'spiritual Olympics' of John Paul's visit


MANY PEOPLE are still riding high from the spiritual boost they received from the visit of Pope John Paul II to Baltimore last weekend. Whether witnessed live or on television or read about in the newspaper, the pontiff's visit seemed to uplift and inspire all who witnessed it.

Union Bridge resident Nancy Cyford is still floating on the inspiration she and her husband, Larry, and children Emily, 12, and Andy, 10, felt when they attended the Mass at Camden Yards on Sunday.

"It was a spiritual Olympics," Nancy said. "There were opening ceremonies before the pope arrived -- children dancing in circles, choirs singing, people dressed in Colonial clothing portraying early settlers in Maryland. It was so exciting. When the pope actually came into the stadium, we hardly realized it."

Fifteen buses filled with parishioners from the Cyfords' parish, St. John in Westminster, left Carroll at 6:15 a.m. on Sunday morning for a Mass that wouldn't start until close to 11 a.m.

"When I first sent in our application to attend, I didn't know what would be in store ," she said.

"And all the kids could think of was that we were going to a Mass that would last six hours. But it couldn't have been better. The time flew."

The church service, Nancy reports, was overwhelming. Everyone the stadium knew the responses to the petitions. People were very friendly, introducing themselves and the parish they were from to those around them. And Catholics and non-Catholics were there to rejoice in the moment.

"We were all united," she said.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Nancy said. "It's hard to believe it's over. I was even more excited about it because I was there with my children, even though they'll probably realize its impact later, when they're older and have children of their own."

Another inspirational visit

You don't have to attend Mass in Camden Yards to be inspired by the human spirit. Inspiration comes on an intimate scale, too.

On a recent autumn evening, I was one of the guests at the Linwood home of Ruth and Dale Aukerman. The occasion was a potluck supper held in honor of their friends, Andreas and Monika Rietschel of the former East German republic.

It was the first time since the Berlin Wall fell that the couple, a Lutheran minister and a physician, had been able to visit the Aukermans in the United States.

They had been staying with their friends for three weeks, using the Carroll residence as a staging ground for trips to New York, Washington and Lancaster County, Pa. It was the couple's fascination with the Amish that we discussed with them over dinner that night, as well as the concept of the potluck supper -- a new idea to them.

On that dark, quiet evening in the Aukermans' cozy log cabin, with Ruth translating Mr. Rietschel's German, we learned the history of East Germany, relived the fall of the Berlin Wall and were reminded of oppression and tyranny in the years of East German rule.

Mr. Rietschel also enlightened us to the church's critical role in bringing communism down during the months before the wall fell.

Every Monday evening, people in towns and villages throughout East Germany staged peaceful protests against religious and political tyranny. With candles, prayers and song, hundreds of thousands of people in cities, towns and villages gathered in peaceful protest against the government.

These prayer services for peace had begun on a small scale at the Nikolai church in Leipzig; eventually the service grew and spilled out onto the streets.

Then television brought the Monday night vigils into the homes of people around the country, and, before long, prayer services were held in villages and towns throughout Germany.

These vigils were offered every Monday night during the year before the Berlin Wall fell in October 1989.

To celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Rietschel held a church service at the official unification hour of midnight. "Everyone came from the village, with candles in hand. Many non-Christians came, too. Everyone cried. I gave thanks that we were never alone in 40 years. God was with us, through people."

The Aukermans have been friends with the Rietschels since the mid-1960s, when they met at a Christian peace conference in East Germany.

They became godparents to each other's children, and Ruth and Dale overcame the hassles of traveling behind the Iron Curtain to visit their friends in East Germany and take them books and Christian literature they couldn't get otherwise.

Sale with a cause

SERRV, the International Gift Shop in New Windsor, has many tempting offerings this month.

For Oriental rug enthusiasts, Yousaf Chaman of Pakistan will be at the shop until Saturday, displaying wool and the new "silk touch" carpets. You can consult with him each day until 5:30 p.m.

Also until Saturday, the shop is offering a 20 percent discount on all merchandise, with a warehouse sale from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday.

October is also UNICEF month at the shop, with a full display of UNICEF holiday items and the sale of the group's greeting cards and "I Dream of Peace," a book filled with images of children in the former Yugoslavia.

Profits from items sold at SERRV are returned to the artisans who create them. Information: 635-8711.

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