Denver Catholic readers share stories from WYD ‘93

Denver Catholic Staff

“I was very young during World Youth Day 93 — maybe five or six years old. I lived in a neighborhood adjacent to Cherry Creek State Park and remember the setup for the event. Driving on Belleview east along the park border, I remember seeing lines and lines of porta-potties, thinking that it was amazing to need so many toilets for all the folks who would be there. I remember my grandfather pointing to Butterfly Hill and saying, ‘That’s where the pope is going to be! He’s going to stand right there!’ My parents, sister and I lived with my grandfather in his small house, but its size didn’t stop my grandfather from being generous during the event. He had gone to King Soopers and started talking to a Canadian priest who was buying groceries. He had traveled in a conversion van to the event with his brother and brother’s friend. They didn’t have a place to stay and had just planned on camping or sleeping in the van. My grandfather opened our house to them, and they camped on our floor and couches for a couple of days. I don’t even remember the priest’s name, but I remember that they were very excited and happy to be welcomed in Denver for the event. I always think of them, and of the pope ‘standing right there!’ each time I drive down Belleview past the park.”
-Pearl Dailey, Centennial

“My husband and I both attended World Youth Day, as young Catholics in the metro area, but didn’t know each other at the time. I believe our both attending and the blessings of St. John Paul had a hand in bringing us together and continuing the faith in our family. St. John Paul has a lasting and profound impact in our lives.”
-Stephanie Danaher, Aurora

I remember my grandfather pointing to Butterfly Hill and saying, ‘That’s where the pope is going to be! He’s going to stand right there!’”

“World Youth Day 1993 was an unbelievable experience. I was thrilled to find out that the pope would be in “my own backyard,” [and] this experience helped fuel my young faith. As a 20-year-old, I didn’t know what to expect but I was open to whatever the Lord had in store for me. I was proud to be a part of this large gathering of Catholic young people and I was inspired to participate in four more world youth days. World Youth Day Denver helped inspire a love for pilgrimage and a respect for the universal church in all of her glory. However, before this love was developed I was able to participate in WYD ‘93 in Denver. At the time I was playing Rugby and occasionally attending classes at Metro state and at the pilgrimage mass, one of my buddies found me and he told me he had heard about the event on the news and he decided he had to come to see what it was all about. I remember thinking, ‘I didn’t even know that you were Catholic,’ but even if he wasn’t, he understood the importance of WYD and what it meant for us to be a host city. I attribute this directly to the dynamic leadership and connections to the youth that St. John Paul the Great had as our pope and as one of three saints to touch the streets of Denver (Mother Cabrini and Mother Teresa). We truly live in a sacred space that should not be taken for granted.  The beauty of the pope in my hometown, a love of my church, and pilgrimage, the beauty of my home city and a love for this fantastic saint are some of the bountiful gifts of WYD ‘93.”
-Tom Thomason, Denver

St. John Paul has a lasting and profound impact in our lives.”

“I was so excited to attend the Mass done by the Holy Father. I volunteered to take the overnight shift at Our Lady of Fatima to chaperone those youth that had traveled from all over the world to participate in World Youth Day. I had only had about 4 hours of sleep prior to this event due to my work & family schedule. I had the overnight shift the night before the Mass at Cherry Creek State Park. I left the church at 5 a.m. went home packed up my car, took my kids to their grandparents (they were very young) and headed to pick up a couple of people who also wanted to attend. I was going on pure love!!! Nothing was going to stop me from my one any only chance to attend a Mass done by a pope! Oh, how lucky I was to be there with the Great John Paul II. Even though I was nowhere near close to meeting him I was happy just to be in his presence as he shared our Lord with the thousands of other faithful.”
-Tamara Abad, Denver

“I remember arriving on the dewy grounds of Cherry Creek Reservoir before sunrise among crowds of other bundled-up worshippers. It was beautiful watching the sunrise and hearing the words of our Holy Father. As a keepsake of that memorable morning, I carried home a type of touchstone…one of the hundreds of groundstakes that were used to mark blocked off areas for people to sit while allowing walkways in the open field. Once home, I used my little craft saw to make individual crosses for myself and our sons. I still have mine 25 years later as my token from that spectacular morning.”
-Deb DesMarteau, Centennial

I was proud to be a part of this large gathering of Catholic young people and I was inspired to participate in four more world youth days.”

“My parents took me to WYD 1993 in Denver when I was nine years old. I had no idea what was really happening, but I could tell it was important and exciting. I remember the large crowds of people lining the streets, and I remember the gathering that we attended at McNichols arena. The place was packed and everybody was waiting for Pope John Paul II. I didn’t know who he was, but I will never forget when he entered the arena dressed in white and everybody started cheering. I even remember seeing tears in some people’s eyes. I asked my dad, ‘Who is that?’ And my dad bent down to me and said, ‘That’s the pope.’ I can still feel the power of that revelation of the Vicar of Christ echoing in my heart. In some mysterious way that moment is tied up in my vocation to the priesthood.”
-Father Ryan O’Neill, Vocations Director

COMING UP: Five Hispanic-American saints perhaps you didn’t know

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The American continent has had its share of saints in the last five centuries. People will find St. Juan Diego, St. Rose of Lima or St. Martin de Porres among the saints who enjoy greater popular devotion. Yet September, named Hispanic Heritage Month, invites a deeper reflection on the lives of lesser-known saints who have deeply impacted different Latin-American countries through their Catholic faith and work, and whose example has the power to impact people anywhere around the world. Here are just a few perhaps you didn’t know.

St. Toribio de Mogrovejo

Born in Valladolid, Spain, Toribio was a pious young man and an outstanding law student. As a professor, his great reputation reached the ears of King Philip II, who eventually nominated him for the vacant Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, even though Toribio was not even a priest. The Pope accepted the king’s request despite the future saint’s protests. So, before the formal announcement, he was ordained a priest, and a few months later, a bishop. He walked across his archdiocese evangelizing the natives and is said to have baptized nearly half a million people, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. He learned the local dialects, produced a trilingual catechism, fought for the rights of the natives, and made evangelization a major theme of his episcopacy. Moreover, he worked devotedly for an archdiocesan reform after realizing that diocesan priests were involved in impurities and scandals. He predicted the date and hour of his death and is buried in the cathedral of Lima, Peru.

St. Mariana of Jesus Paredes

St. Mariana was born in Quito, modern-day Ecuador, and not only became the country’s first saint, but was also declared a national heroine by the Republic of Ecuador. As a little girl, Mariana showed a profound love for God and practiced long hours of prayer and mortification. She tried joining a religious order on two occasions, but various circumstances would not permit it. This led Mariana to realize that God was calling her to holiness in the world. She built a room next to her sister’s house and devoted herself to prayer and penance, living miraculously only off the Eucharist. She was known to possess the gifts of counsel and prophecy. In 1645, earthquakes and epidemics broke out in Quito, and she offered her life and sufferings for their end. They stopped after she made her offering. On the day of her death, a lily is said to have bloomed from the blood that was drawn out and poured in a flowerpot, earning her the title of “The Lily of Quito.”

St. Theresa of Los Andes

St. Theresa of Jesus of Los Andes was Chile’s first saint and the first Discalced Carmelite to be canonized outside of Europe. Born as Juana, the future saint was known to struggle with her temperament as a child. She was proud, selfish and stubborn. She became deeply attracted to God at the age six, and her extraordinary intelligence allowed her to understand the seriousness of receiving First Communion. Juana changed her life and became a completely different person by the age of 10, practicing mortification and deep prayer. At age 14, she decided to become a Discalced Carmelite and received the name of Theresa of Jesus. Deeply in love with Christ, the young and humble religious told her confessor that Jesus told her she would die soon, something she accepted with joy and faith. Shortly thereafter, Theresa contracted typhus and died at the age of 19. Although she was 6 months short of finishing her novitiate, she was able to profess vows “in danger of death.” Around 100,000 pilgrims visit her shrine in Los Andes annually.

St. Laura Montoya

After Laura’s father died in war when she was only a child, she was forced to live with different family members in a state of poverty. This reality kept her from receiving formal education during her childhood. What no one expected is that one day she would become Colombia’s first saint. Her aunt enrolled her in a school at the age of 16, so she would become a teacher and make a living for herself. She learned quickly and became a great writer, educator and leader. She was a pious woman and wished to devote herself to the evangelization of the natives. As she prepared to write Pope Pius X for help, she received the pope’s new Encyclical Lacrymabili Statu, on the deplorable condition of Indians in America. Laura saw it as a confirmation from God and founded the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart and St. Catherine of Siena, working for the evangelization of natives and fighting or their behalf to be seen as children of God.

St. Manuel Morales

Manuel was a layman and one of many martyrs from Mexico’s Cristero War in the 1920s. He joined the seminary as a teen but had to abandon this dream in order to support his family financially. He became a baker, married and had three children. This change, however, did not prevent him from bearing witness to the faith publicly. He became the president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, which was being threatened by the administration of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Morales and two other leaders from the organization were taken prisoners as they discussed how to free a friend priest from imprisonment through legal means. They were beaten, tortured and then killed for not renouncing to their faith. Before the firing squad, the priest begged the soldiers to forgive Morales because he had a family. Morales responded, “I am dying for God, and God will take care of my children.” His last words were, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!”