Neocatechumenal Way initiator leads Way gathering in Boulder

Nearly 1,400 Way faithful stand up for priesthood, consecrated life, mission

Roxanne King
BOULDER, CO - MARCH 11: Kiko ArgŸello addresses the assembled during the Neocatechumenal Way Gathering at the Coors Events Center on March 11, 2017, in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

On March 11 in a Boulder stadium, nearly 800 men and women said yes to God’s call to priesthood and consecrated life, and 600 families volunteered to go on mission.

Their enthusiastic response gave witness to their deep faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit, said Archbishop Samuel Aquila.

“When we see young men… young women… and families who are willing to surrender their lives [to God], it is the action of the Holy Spirit and only God can bring that about,” the archbishop joyfully told the crowd at the Coors Event Center.

The vocational calls ended the lively, daylong assembly of 12,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way from 16 states—stretching from Hawaii to Florida—and from Guam.

The Way is a Vatican approved faith-formation process based on the early catechumenate of the Church. More than 1 million people across the globe belong to it through small, parish-based communities.

Way initiator Kiko Arguello, a Spanish layman, led the gathering. He shook off altitude sickness to lead spirited hymns and passionately preach the good news of salvation before making vocational calls. Archbishop Aquila prayed over those who answered them.

People from California cheer and a man cries after Way founder Kiko Arguello is introduced during a Neocatechumenal Way Gathering at the Coors Events Center on March 11 in Boulder. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

People from California cheer and a man cries after Way founder Kiko Arguello is introduced during a Neocatechumenal Way Gathering at the Coors Events Center on March 11 in Boulder. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

Members of the Way at Queen of Peace Church in Aurora, Mark and Naomi Fritz and their six children were among those who volunteered to go on mission to de-Christianized areas of the world to be a sign of Christian family life.

“I feel called to give my life for whatever God wants,” Mark, 38, told the Denver Catholic. Head of an engineering firm drafting unit, he said that following his own will “never led me anywhere good. It left me as a single father raising a child alone, unhappy and angry.

“I see in my history that when I follow God’s call, it leads to happiness,” he asserted. “Now I’m married with six children and a seventh on the way. I always thought this would be the worst place to be, but I’m happy.”

Naomi, 39, a homemaker, said meeting a Way mission family in her homeland of Japan, where Christians make up just 2 percent of the population, planted the seed for her own call. Their witness prompted her return to the faith, which she had left while in college.

BOULDER, CO - MARCH 11: Attendees listen during a Neocatechumenal Way gathering at the Coors Events Center on March 11, 2017, in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

Attendees listen during a Neocatechumenal Way gathering at the Coors Events Center on March 11, 2017, in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

“God showed me [through them] that the Family of Nazareth exists,” Naomi, said through happy tears. “I’m very grateful.”

Born in the slums of Madrid in 1964 as a fruit of the Second Vatican Council, the Way aims to bring people to mature Christian faith. The process, which takes several years, is known for transforming lives, renewing marriages and spurring vocations.

The Way, according to Rome Reports, is the Catholic group that has helped to open the most seminaries. Some 2,400 seminarians—all from Way communities—are in formation at 120 Redemptoris Mater seminaries across the globe, including one in Denver.

The seminaries form diocesan priests who get missionary training and are willing to go anywhere in the world their bishop sends them.

BOULDER, CO - MARCH 11: A general view of a Neocatechumenal Way gathering at the Coors Events Center on March 11, 2017, in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

1,400 faithful filled the stands of the Coors Events Center during a Neocatechumenal Way gathering on March 11. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

Typically the Way holds vocational meetings following international World Youth Days. But the death last July of Way co-initiator Carmen Hernandez, a Spanish laywoman, impelled the aging but zealous Arguello to embark on an apostolic journey to raise vocations and mission families.

Starting March 5 in Montreal, Canada, he and Father Mario Pezzi, an Italian priest who helps Arguello lead the charism, then stopped in Baltimore before visiting Boulder. From there, Arguello said they would travel to Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Mexico.

“We are seeing miracles happen in these meetings,” Arguello acknowledged. “God passes and boys stand up!”

The miracles include the women and families who also answer the call to be agents of the new evangelization.

At the Vatican last March, Pope Francis blessed 350 Way families before sending them by lottery around the world to grow the Church in secularized societies and rekindle lukewarm Christians.

“The Church can see a new Pentecost,” declared Arguello. “They go out [as at] the cenacle announcing the Gospel. The first apostolic model is exactly what we are doing.”

COMING UP: Priest to World Youth Day pilgrims: ‘The Lord is waiting for you there’

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The Holy Father invited and they are going.

So said Father Giuseppe Fedele, who oversees the Neocatechumenal Way in Colorado. Some 300 of the catechumenate’s members will be journeying to World Youth Day in Poland at the end of the month.

“There is a call from Peter, the Holy Father Francis, to go,” Father Fedele said, referring to the pope’s message last August when he became the first pilgrim to register for the event and invited youths to attend.

The Way group is the largest from the Archdiocese of Denver going to the July 25-31 international Catholic youth celebration in Krakow, which in keeping with the current Year of Mercy is themed, “‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’” (Mt 5:7).

This is the first time a World Youth Day has taken place during a jubilee year.

“The Lord is waiting for you there,” Father Fedele told the Way pilgrims after Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blessed them June 24 at the St. John Paul II Center in south Denver. His words echoed those of Pope Francis in his World Youth Day 2016 message.

“Dear young people … Jesus is waiting for you,” he wrote. “He has confidence in you and is counting on you!”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, right, and Father Guiseppe Fidele, right, address World Youth Day pilgrims of the Neocatechumenal Way during a blessing and send-off ceremony June 24 at the St. John Paul II Center in Denver. Some 300 Neocatechumenal Way pilgrims are travelling to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day, representing one of the larger groups going from the Archdiocese of Denver. (Photo by Aaron Lambert | Denver Catholic)

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blesses World Youth Day pilgrims of the Neocatechumenal Way during a send-off ceremony June 24 at the St. John Paul II Center in Denver. Some 300 Neocatechumenal Way pilgrims are travelling to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day, representing the largest group going from the Archdiocese of Denver. (Photo by Aaron Lambert | Denver Catholic)

Like the pope, Father Fedele and Archbishop Aquila urged the pilgrims to be a light for the world so desperately in need of Christ’s love and mercy. This, too, is a reason for going on the pilgrimage, they said.

“To give to society, especially to Europe, which is becoming more and more secularized, a hope that is beautiful,” explained Father Fedele. “That they may see that it is joyful to believe in God and that there is another way to live as a youth. That you can be happy following the Lord.”

The Way youths will evangelize by announcing the good news in public squares and giving witness to what Jesus Christ has done in their lives.

In addition to attending the vigil and Mass with the Holy Father at the Field of Mercy, located southeast of central Krakow, the Way pilgrims will visit Terezin, a concentration camp outside of Prague that was run by Nazi Germany from 1941-1945, and the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, enshrined at Jasna-Gora Monastery, the national shrine of Poland located in Czestochowa.

They will also attend an international vocational meeting with the initiators of the Way, during which youths will be invited to answer a call to priesthood or consecrated life and families to go on mission to de-Christianized areas of the world.

“God has a plan for (everyone),” Father Fedele said. He has a mission for (everyone). The whole purpose of Christian life is to discover what that mission is, the plan God wants to open for you.”

Not only is Christ waiting for the pilgrims in Poland, Father Fedele said, but he desires that they be the source of an encounter for others with him.

“God wants to have a personal experience with each one of us that can really change our life,” he said, referring to the joy of new life in Christ that transforms us from being self-centered and empty to selfless and loving. “[Then] everything has a meaning, even suffering.”