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Colville Lake women see Pope

Event was a life-changing experience

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Colville Lake (Aug 12/02) - A Colville Lake resident shared a holy moment -- albeit at a distance -- with Pope John Paul II during his visit to Toronto in late July.

Snowbird Kochon, 24, said she had tears in her eyes when she saw the Pope up on stage for the first appearance of his five-day stay in Canada.

"Being in his presence, I didn't realize how powerful he was," said Kochon. "It made me feel a calm."

Kochon, her niece Sheena Kochon, sister-in-law Martina Kochon and friend Tand Oudzi from Colville Lake took the trip to Toronto to see the Pope.

"I wanted to go because for me being Catholic, I felt that in my own way it will strengthen me," said Kochon.

The trip from Colville Lake to Toronto cost $11,000 for the four women.

The band and community development corporation do-nated $7,500 and the four women raised the rest through bake sales and small yard sales.

Community helped

"People in the community donated things for us to sell," said Kochon.

For a community of less than 100 people, the fundraising drive was quite a feat, considering they only started in March.

Kochon said the weather in Toronto was muggy and hot.

"The weather is better here," said Kochon. "We don't get humidity and we have fresh air."

"You have to drink bottled water and here you have to boil it, but it's better," said Kochon." I wouldn't be able to get used to living in a city like that. There's too much traffic, too many people."

Kochon said she got within a couple of metres from the Pope as he passed through the crowd.

"There were so many people in front, I got one of the girls on my shoulders to get pictures of him," said Kochon.

The Pope was in Toronto to celebrate World Youth Day.

The World Youth Day cross, which has travelled the globe for the last 15 years leading up to Toronto, stopped in the Northwest Territories last fall.

Close to a million people from all over the world gathered in Exhibition Place to see the Pope live for maybe the last time in their lives.

The 82-year-old Pope is afflicted with Parkinson's disease and over the last few years has physically deteriorated before the public eye.

But in Toronto, the "soul led the spirit," as one commentator put it.

The Pope put on a show of will during his stay, walking down airplane steps with little assistance and giving homilies in a clear voice.

During his next two visits in Guatemala and Mexico last week, the Pope's frailties took over his body again.

"Not very many people get to see him and we were lucky to get the chance," said Kochon.

Kochon said the Toronto experience changed her life.

"I have a different perspective of things now," said Kochon who has been a Catholic all her life.

"I don't feel different it's just the way I look at things now."