Christ the King in Evergreen carries on World Youth Day tradition

Twenty-three years ago, a teenage John Klausner listened to Pope John Paul II tell the crowds at Cherry Creek park that love is stronger than death. Klausner had just walked a grueling pilgrimage to see the pope speak for World Youth day. This week, a grown-up Klausner is taking the teens of Christ the King in Evergreen to World Youth Day in Poland.

He said the effects of the first World Youth Day are still with him. He especially remembers the walk to the vigil.

“I remember walking and not really knowing how long the walk was. I jumped in thinking I was going on maybe a mile-long walk. I wasn’t mentally or physically prepared, but all the people there helped me,” he said. “I realized I’m not in this faith alone.”

He said the message that he heard the pope say so clearly—that love is stronger than death—soon turned into something he drew strength from. It helped him get through traumatic deaths of loved ones. He wound up going to six World Youth Days, and had passed his enthusiasm for them on to his youth group.

“I think that one of the best times to minister to youth is when we can get them out of their comfort zone,” he said, pointing out that his teens are giving up cell phones, regular meals and cars.

Some of his teens say that they’re actually looking forward to giving up their phones. Taylor Kitch-Ross, a 17-year-old Mullen High School student, said she thinks her cell phone allows her to be influenced by her peers and the media.

“I know that when I’m away from my phone I feel more in touch with myself. I’m more in touch with God,” Kitch-Ross said.

Sixteen-year-old Evergreen High School student Anna Newkirk agreed, although she said there were other perks to World Youth Day.

“I’m also really looking forward to seeing Pope Francis because he’s really cool,” she said.

Both teens said they were already moved by the fact that host families were going to shelter and feed them before World Youth Day.

“They have to be really caring people,” Newkirk said. She pointed out that the host families were likely stepping out of their comfort zone by agreeing to accommodate them.

Both she and Kitch-Ross said it gave them a glimpse of the worldwide church and the presence of God.

“It goes to show that love is everywhere, and everyone is willing to give,” she said.

The teens are already learning Klausner’s World Youth Day lesson.

“Whenever we remove some of those things that make us comfortable in our daily life, we really have to rely on God to get us through,” he said.

COMING UP: World Youth Day pilgrims retrace John Paul II’s footsteps

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World Youth Day pilgrims retrace John Paul II’s footsteps

Pilgrim group revisited sites from historic 1993 visit before heading to Krakow

One group of Denver World Youth Day pilgrims retraced Saint John Paul II’s footsteps in Denver before heading off to Krakow…literally.

During the week prior to leaving for World Youth Day, Father Anthony Arinello of the Community of the Beatitudes led a group of young adult pilgrims from all over the country on a local pilgrimage to the sites that Saint John Paul II visited while he was here for World Youth Day in 1993. From walking to Regis University to Mass at Camp St. Malo to camping out at Cherry Creek State Park, the pilgrims were reminded of the saint’s presence here in Denver before leaving to his homeland of Poland for this year’s World Youth Day in Krakow, which is expected to draw two million pilgrims from all over the globe.

“John Paul II was such an inspiration to my vocational discernment, and especially my falling in love with the Church,” Father Arinello said. “I really want to give these young people witnesses of courage and fullness of life. The theme of World Youth Day 1993 is something we try to make a fundamental element of [the Community of the Beatitudes’] vocations ministry for young people.”

In his work as a chaplain both for the Colorado School of Mines and the Fellowship of Catholic Students summer training, Father Arinello has built connections with young adults from all over the country, which is how he assembled this particular group of pilgrims traveling with him to World Youth Day. He said that step one is getting in touch with young people, and step two is to “lure them with a carrot,” such as this trip to World Youth Day.

Father Anthony Arinello, center, says Mass at Denver International Airport for the World Youth Day pilgrims before heading off to Poland. (Photo provided)

Father Anthony Arinello says Mass at Denver International Airport for the Beatitudes World Youth Day pilgrims before heading off to Poland. (Photo provided)

“What they appreciate most along the way is to be able to worship as one body and to be able to live in community, like a little family,” he said of the pilgrims’ experience.

Once they reach Europe, Father Arinello and his group of pilgrims will join other Beatitudes communities from all over the world and make the trek to World Youth Day with them.

Becca Rodeheffer is one of the pilgrims with the Community of the Beatitudes going to World Youth Day. A student at the University of Denver, she said that in retracing Saint John Paul II’s steps in Denver, it hit her that a large contributing factor to the strength of the Denver Catholic community is because he visited the Mile High City in 1993, and local Catholics are still reaping the fruits from it.

“A saint was literally here,” she said. “I feel like it’s not bragged about enough. It’s a huge deal. Being from Denver, I get to experience the fruits of that. It’s so amazing how strong our Catholic community is here.”

Rodeheffer is excited to continue retracing Saint John Paul II’s steps in Poland on the road to World Youth Day, but most of all, she’s excited to be traveling with a group of people who share a common love for the Lord and building a community with them.

“In the past few days, I’ve been loving to get to know all of the pilgrims who are here,” she said. “They’re so inspiring. Their prayer life is really inspiring for me, and I’m really looking forward to building community with them and sharing stories and experiences together.”

Beatitudes Pilgrims

The Beatitudes World Youth Day pilgrims are posting pilgrimage updates at