Monday, May 23, 2016

Countdown To World Youth Day: A Life Changing Event



By Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz, OMI, Archbishop of Anchorage

I was ordained a priest way back in the pontificate of Pope Paul VI.  He had a marvelous sense of the mission of the church and, in expanding Papal travels abroad showed us his missionary zeal in imitation of the apostle Paul.  Pope Paul's approach was somewhat academic but prepared the way for the revolution that Pope St. John Paul II was to carry out.

Initiating world youth days was truly a decision guided by the Holy Spirit.  My first experience of this amazing series of events in the Church was at the World Youth Day held in Denver, Colorado.  I was a new bishop in Duluth, Minnesota and was amazed at the response of our young people to the invitation of the Pope to join him for days of celebration and prayer.  We had 20 busloads of youth and adult chaperones who headed from our diocese to Denver.  What amazed me even more was the enthusiasm and joy engendered in our youth, which was clearly visible upon our return home.  Something in that experience had touched the hearts of all of us deeply and continued to guide our experience in the Church well beyond that summer.

Attempting to assess the impact that World Youth Days have upon those who attend I am going back to the practice of our ancestors in the faith in going up to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate major feasts and other events.  The members of the 12 tribes of Israel journeyed to the Temple to worship God in his holy place, to be in touch with Him and with their own destiny.  They returned home to their own places strengthened by their experience of the community of the Israelite people and fortified to live out their identity as God's chosen people.

This historical reality helps me understand the powerful effect that World Youth Days have.  I have attended all, except the one in Australia, since that Denver experience, and I am moved each time by the powerful work of the Spirit among those who attend.  As with the people of Israel journeying to God's dwelling place in the Temple, our youthful pilgrims and adults journey together to worship God and meet Jesus Christ in the person of his Vicar on Earth, the Bishop of Rome.  On their way they form community together and then join the greater community of the Universal Church.  This experience helps them get in touch with their own identity as Catholics and to own that identity in experiencing the massive community of believers gathered around our Holy Father.  Despite the challenges and inconveniences of the journey they go away with a deeper understanding of who they are and strengthened in their faith by the community which both supports and challenges them.  They are ready to respond to the mission which the Pope gives them.  A good number of those who attend World Youth Day think seriously of the possibility of serving Christ in consecrated life or the priesthood.

I thank God for this gift of world youth days which have so effectively energized our young Church and which succeeding Popes have embraced.  May God continue to bless these massive efforts.  May the next World Youth Day in Poland be again a great grace to our Church.


Monday, May 16, 2016

The Transforming Effect of the Holy Spirit


CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By John W. Crossin, OSFS

My experience of the action of the Holy Spirit has been life changing. I have often sought the Spirit’s guidance in prayer—seeking, sometimes reluctantly, where the Spirit would lead me.

My move into ecumenical work two decades ago was led by the Spirit. Suffice it to say that over lunch two Protestant colleagues convinced me that I should seek an ecumenical position. After the conversation I felt a certain peace and some joy. The Spirit often has spoken to me through others and given me interior confirmation. As a result of the conversation, I became involved very much in the ecumenical world and met a new group of outstanding and deeply spiritual people.

More than a decade later, I left the Washington Theological Consortium thinking that I might engage in pastoral ministry. My conversations led me to the Secretariat for Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs at the USCCB for five years instead! This was quite a surprise.

I often try to plan things out. When I was much younger I had ‘Crossin’s 10-year plan.’ Needless to say this plan did not work out exactly. I have come to realize that my need for planning, predictability and certainty stands in contrast to the Holy Spirit’s surprises. I am the one who has a need for clarity!

I have come to realize that ‘God is in charge’ and I am not. No more 10 year plans. My attitude now, at least on my better days is: ‘Speak Lord your servant is listening.’ Listening and seeking to discern God’s will is the most important thing.

Countdown to World Youth Day: What World Youth Day Means To Me




By Bishop Edgar da Cunha

If you read or hear about World Youth Day, you may have an idea of what happens there. If you watch on TV, you may have a better understanding of what takes place. But only by being at World Youth Day can you really know what it feels like and the impact it has in the lives of so many young people. Words cannot fully describe the experience of participating in World Youth Day, of being with millions of young people celebrating their faith, celebrating what it means to be a Catholic and a follower of Jesus Christ. The experience of being with people from all over the world who gather to share their love for Christ and the Church is unique to World Youth Day.

I vividly remember riding the bus to the closing Mass on that bright Sunday morning and seeing thousands of young people flocking to Copa Cabana Beach to join the 3.7 million people celebrating their oneness in Christ. When the Holy Father arrived and the Mass started, there was a sense of Church, of being a part of something really great, of being one family of God’s people from different nations and languages, all with the same faith and the same hope. As one participant said, “Young people are hungry to know the truth and they find it at World Youth Day. When I went, there were kids who were going back to church. They realized that they are not alone in their journey to the Lord. The event shows that the Church is alive and well, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

As a Bishop catechist, I had the privilege of giving the catechesis to hundreds of young people who went to World Youth Day to learn more about their faith and to be renewed, strengthened, and affirmed in their belief in Christ. I know they were inspired by the talks, questions, sharing, and celebrations, but I received as much as I gave. I was inspired by their faith, enthusiasm, joy and hope. I came back renewed in my hope for the future of our Catholic Church. World Youth Day shows that there is hope for the world and for the Church.


We all witnessed the power of prayer and of God’s presence. After Communion, during the closing Mass, when we were asked to acknowledge the presence of Jesus in our lives, there was absolute silence. Where else can 3.7 million people gather in one place and be in total silence? Only faith in God’s presence, respect, and love make this happen. As Pope Francis told everyone there, “Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history”. That is the goal that the young people attending World Youth Day were committed to accomplish. Imagine how many lives have been touched by those who carried that message to the whole world!
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Bishop da Cunha leads the Diocese of Fall River.







Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Countdown to World Youth Day: A Bishop's Letter to Pilgrims








Dear Prospective Pilgrims and Leaders of WYD 2016,

As you prepare to attend World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, I’d like to offer a small reflection of the last WYD experience in Rio de Janeiro.

As people gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from all over the world to participate in that World Youth Day, we all waited in great anticipation for the arrival of the Successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis. It was his first trip back to his beloved Latin America since being elected Pope. I was touched by his words at the welcome ceremony with the President of Brazil. He said to her, “I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door. I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you. I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ!”





My friends, World Youth Day is the opportunity to celebrate Jesus Christ and the great gift of his presence through His Body, the Church. In 2016 we will gather again with the Successor of St. Peter. The WYD experience is an opportunity to strengthen ourselves, with the help of our brothers and sisters from around the world, to be faithful and dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. This upcoming World Youth Day in Krakow is most significant since we will gather in the homeland of the one who initiated the World Youth Day experience – St. John Paul II. Blessed by the Holy Spirit, St. John Paul II had a vision of providing young people the means to gain knowledge of their faith, to take courage in the pilgrimage, and to strengthen their faith through the celebration of the Sacraments. As you prepare for World Youth Day, open your hearts and minds to the wisdom, courage and strength that awaits you in this blessed experience. It will impact your faith in a tremendous way. The WYD experience will help you draw closer to the Lord. This wonderful event has blessed many participants with the grace to follow him ever more faithfully as committed disciples.

Even though our paths may not cross at WYD in Krakow, I look forward to being with you and millions of others, as we celebrate the universality of our Church and the most precious gift we have: Jesus Christ!

Through the intercession of St. John Paul II, may the Lord increase our faith and guide our journey.

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Edward J. Burns

Diocese of Juneau, Alaska