- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

Priestly Poles

Few residents of Alexandria, the historic Potomac River seaport opposite Washington, paid notice to the handsome Polish visitor who twice — in 1969 and 1976 — came to their city.

With its 18th-century houses and cobblestone streets — sketched square by a young surveyor named George Washington — “Old Town” Alexandria, Catholic Cardinal Karol Wojtyla said, reminded him of Krakow, Poland.

His guide on both occasions was Father Philip Majka, a third-generation Polish American and former assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Alexandria, which was founded in 1795 and is the oldest parish in Virginia. (My late mother, Wanda McCaslin, was the church secretary for several decades, and besides his priestly duties at St. Mary’s, Father Majka, a member of various Polish-American organizations, served as chaplain to the Polish Community of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., area).

Among the Old Town attractions Cardinal Wojtyla and Father Majka visited was Gadsby’s Tavern, where the father of our country recruited his first military command in 1754 and held his final military review in 1799.

Little did Father Majka ever dream that two years after his final visit to Alexandria, his Polish friend would become the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, namely Pope John Paul II.

Several years ago, the assistant pastor recalled the future pontiff being “very holy, sincere and completely open to conversations” as they strolled Old Town’s streets. “He listened keenly, and his English was excellent,” he said.

Before the pope-to-be left for home, Alexandria Vice Mayor Nora Lamborne, a St. Mary’s parishioner, presented the Polish cardinal with a key to the city.

Too much sun?

What is it with voting in Florida?

Democrats cried foul in November 2000 after 28,000 ballots were left uncounted in Miami-Dade County’s presidential sweepstakes. They screamed even louder when President Bush went on to win the state by 537 votes.

Enter a veteran Chicago election official, Constance Kaplan, lured to Miami in June 2003 to make certain such glaring voting irregularities didn’t happen again. Everybody happy?

The much-heralded Miami-Dade elections supervisor was forced to resign last week amid thousands of “undervotes” — in not one local election, but six.

Mad llamas

Sue Rolfing was in Washington recently discussing her “llamas in limbo” — aka Canada.

For more than 25 years, Mrs. Rolfing and her husband, Steve, have owned and operated the Great Northern Ranch in northwest Montana — America’s oldest llama pack trip outfitter and guide service.

Now, she tells Inside the Beltway, eight of the couple’s light-footed creatures, both llamas and alpacas, are stranded in Canada owing to the mad cow scare. (Bear in mind, these are not “meat” animals.)

So, while the U.S. border remains closed to Canadian cattle, the Rolfings have had to pay a rancher in Canada to care for the animals.

The U.S. border was closed nearly two years ago when mad cow disease was discovered in an Alberta cow.

First in flight

One-hundred-thousand tundra swans and snow geese, and tens of thousands of migrating ducks, have flown between the U.S. Navy’s plans to build an aircraft carrier practice runway along a coastal sound in North Carolina.

“While we fully recognize that military training is essential to national security, we believe locating these operations in an alternative area would not disrupt these important waterfowl concentrations and have ripple effects throughout the Atlantic Flyway,” says Bill Horn, director of federal affairs for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Navy jets would reportedly practice more than 30,000 simulated carrier take-offs and landings each year at the outlying landing strip proposed for the Albemarle-Pamlico region bordering the Outer Banks.

U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle recently issued an injunction to stop the project until the Navy completes an additional environmental impact statement.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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