With Pope John Paul II at the helm, Denver’s World Youth Day 1993 kick-started the new evangelization in a powerful way, Archbishop Samuel Aquila told a packed ballroom March 31 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Known for his gift of ministering to the youth of the world, the late pontiff encouraged young people in the West to spread God’s love.
“(John Paul II’s) visit to Denver represented a shift in spiritual revolution,” the archbishop said.
The mutual love between Blessed John Paul II and youth continued throughout his papacy. At World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, the pontiff challenged young people to open their hearts to Christ and to not be afraid to be saints of the new millennium.
“He called them to be contemplative and coherent with their faith,” said Archbishop Aquila.
In his talk, sponsored by the Aggiornamento Institute, an initiative of Ram Catholic campus ministry, Archbishop Aquila discussed Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) and the new evangelization as promoted by soon- to-be canonized John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
Although born and raised in California, the archbishop is nearing 27 years in service to the Archdiocese of Denver. He said the new evangelization has greatly impacted Colorado, making reference to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, pro-life groups and those entering religious life.
“Young people are on fire for the love of Jesus,” he said.
Archbishop Aquila also addressed the influence of Pope Benedict XVI.
In a time where the spread of relativism and secularism became prevalent, Benedict XVI established the Pontifical Council as a way to promote the new evangelization.
“He called everyone to a personal encounter with Jesus during the Year of Faith,” said Archbishop Aquila.
The new evangelization has continued under Pope Francis, who the archbishop said is helping the Church in contemporary culture.
“He has already made an impact on the new evangelization,” he said. “He’s a pastor and a priest. People sense his love for Christ.”
The “Francis Effect” is apparent to the leader of the Archdiocese of Denver, especially with regard to healing. Both Catholics and non-Catholics describe being spiritually touched by him.
Archbishop Aquila encouraged the audience to take up a similar role and help others realize the love of God.
“We must start from nothing,” he emphasized. “We need to bring people out of isolation.”
Archbishop Aquila focused on how we can further the new evangelization on our own.
“We can’t launch into the new evangelization until we experience the love of Christ,” he said. “We must first grow in our relationship with God.”
For CSU students, that relationship can be strengthened through outlets such as FOCUS and Blessed John XXIII University Parish.
The importance of gaining an intimacy with the Scriptures, as well as maintaining an evangelization filled with the Holy Spirit was deemed critical by the archbishop.
“Open your heart and soul to those gifts of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
Those in attendance left the session with both encouragement and a challenge.
“Whether or not you are Catholic, you can find Jesus Christ and the Church,” said Archbishop Aquila. “He can take your love, even as small as a mustard seed, and turn it into something beautiful.”