The pope invited them, and they answered. The archdiocese’s largest pilgrimage group, consisting of 140 young Hispanic Catholics from Ascension Parish in Denver and a few members from other parishes in the archdiocese — including Saint Cajetan, Holy Cross and Our Lady Mother of the Church — is preparing to travel to Panama to participate in World Youth Day, taking place Jan. 22-27, with the theme: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
“It’s been an explosion of joy and enthusiasm since young people in our parish learned about the event,” said Sister Marta Lopez, leader at Ascension Parish and coordinator of the pilgrimage to WYD.
“We have been preparing with small-group meetings, studying the documents of the recent Synod of Bishops on Vocational Discernment,” the religious sister of the community of the Sacred Heart assured. “They are aware that they’re going on pilgrimage, but if someone slipped through to go as a tourist, the Lord will cast a line and act in them, too.”
The Auxiliary Bishop of Denver Jorge Rodriguez will join the different groups from Denver in their pilgrimage to Panama. “Accompanying the delegation of Denver youth means to me receiving their fresh enthusiasm for the faith, their sincere love for the Church and the pope. I see this opportunity as a grace that God gives me to be renewed by the example of these young men and women,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of the group from Ascension parish hope the pilgrimage will bear much fruit personally and for their communities when they return.
Giselle Sanchez, 19, a member from Saint Augustine Parish in Brighton, said: “I want to share my experience and be a light to those in darkness. When I’m back, I would like to motivate other youth to evangelize and to discover the plan that God has in store for them.”
For Andrade Santiago, 16, from Saint Cajetan Parish in Denver, WYD will allow him to see “how people from other parts of the world show their love for God. I would also like to find answers to some of my questions to keep having faith in Jesus and grow closer to him,” he said.
With intense preparation, these young men and women seek to answer God’s call through Pope Francis, who, in a video message directed to all the participants of WYD on Nov. 21, said: “Take courage, enter within yourselves and say to God: ‘What do you want from me?’ Allow God to answer you. Then you will see how your life is transformed and filled with joy.”