Ten years ago
this week, hundreds of people at the archdiocesan and parish levels
were scrambling to prepare for the arrival of Pope John Paul II. Outside
Colorado, many people wondered if World Youth Day 1993 could be anything
more than a modest success.
After all, Denver
was stuck in the national imagination as a cow town, a long way from
the big U.S. Catholic population centers in the East and Midwest. Skeptics
doubted that more than 60,000 persons would show up for the event.
In reality, of
course, more than 200,000 young people registered for World Youth Day
from around the globe. As many as 700,000 took part in the closing Mass
at Cherry Creek State Park. World Youth Day 1993 not only exceeded everyone's
wildest hopes — despite the massive influx of visitors and pilgrims,
Denver had virtually no violent crime for the week — but it also left
a lasting impression on the Holy Father and on the course of the Church
in Northern Colorado. Thousands of people came to the Church for the
first time. Thousands more recovered their faith or found a new spirit
and energy in their Catholic identity.
World Youth Day
1993 was a moment of grace for everyone involved, and the seed it planted
still bears fruit a decade later. We can see it in the growth of our
parishes, youth programs and Hispanic ministry, even in tough economic
times. We can see it in the opening of our seminaries, and in the extraordinary
faculty and candidates they draw. And we can see it in the growth of
vigorous new Catholic communities and renewal movements like the Community
of the Beatitudes, the Christian Life Movement and the Neocatechumenal
Way. These are all wonderful signs of life.
But in remembering
the events of a decade ago, what should we do today? The young people
of 1993 now have the duties of adulthood. Many have children themselves,
and the exhilaration of the pope landing by helicopter at Mile High
Stadium to massive, chanting crowds may seem like a long time ago and
very far away. When Jesus revealed himself to Peter, James and John
at the Transfiguration, Peter's immediate desire was to remain on the
mountaintop and keep the miraculous experience alive. But Christ meant
the Transfiguration to be a glimpse of the joy to come and a spur to
his apostles to bring the Good News to all peoples. Peter, James and
John went back down the mountain, and began the serious work of converting
the world — the work to which each of us is an heir.
I believe World
Youth Day 1993 was a Transfiguration for the Church in Northern Colorado
— a moment when Jesus smiled on us in a special, joyful, vivid way and
invited us into his mission to the world. None of us will ever forget
it. Our job this August is not just remembering the beauty and the power
of the events of a decade ago, but — even more importantly — passing
them on to a new generation of young Catholics who will carry the Church
and Jesus Christ forward into the world. We've come a long way as a
Church since 1993. We have a lot to be proud of and grateful for. But
so much remains to be done.
On the solemnity
of the Assumption, Friday, Aug. 15, Bishop Gomez and I will join Cardinal
J. Francis Stafford to celebrate 5:30 p.m. Mass, honor World Youth Day,
and bless new doors at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception that
will permanently commemorate the pilgrims of 1993 and the Holy Father.
We'll gather to pray and celebrate at the John Paul II Center later
that evening. I hope you'll join us to remember a moment of conversion
for our whole Church, and to kindle a new missionary fire in all our
hearts for the work that lies ahead.