Denver pilgrims prepare for WYD in Panama

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.”

COMING UP: Catholic Baby University prepares parents for the real deal

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Heidi and Jim Knous had no idea that something like a Catholic childbirth education existed. But not long after finding out the great news that they were expecting their first child, Brady, they came across an article in the Denver Catholic introducing Catholic Baby University — a program designed to teach expecting parents the nuts and bolts of both childbirth and Catholicism.

“I think it’s special because it gives you an opportunity to step back from all the registries and baby shower… and to really take time to come together as a couple to think about this vocation, what parenthood is … and how you want that to look for your family,” Heidi said.

“I think there’s a lot of distractions when you’re about to have a child,” Jim added. “Everybody knows it’s going to be tough and you’re going through a lot. Everybody’s trying to tell you, ‘You should do this, you should do that.’ But Catholic Baby U really gives you a solid understanding of what having a child is going to be like and includes the values that we learned as a family in raising a baby in the Catholic faith.”

Jim and Heidi Knous and their son Brady, are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. (Photo provided)

 

The Catholic Baby University holistic program for parents — offered both as a weekend retreat or a six-class series — is the result of the partnership between Rose Medical Center and the Archdiocese of Denver and was inspired by the previously-founded Jewish Baby University.

The classes touch on topics dealing with childbirth instruction, postpartum experience, baby safety and the Catholic faith — and they are taught and facilitated by certified birth and safety instructors, mental health professionals, and members from the Office of Evangelization and Family Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Statistically, people become more religiously involved when they have children, so we want to respond to people’s desires to reengage their faith with the coming of their child,” said Scott Elmer, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver and also a facilitator of the program, in a previous interview. “We want to be there to welcome them, celebrate the new life, and give them the tools they need to incorporate God into their home life.”

For Jim and Heidi, who are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, the experience of having both the childbirth and Catholic aspects in this preparation did not disappoint, as they learned from each one.

“It was a great opportunity to come back and think about things from a basic level again and how to bring our child into the faith — things that you haven’t necessarily thought of or how you would teach a child something, [like praying],” Heidi said.

“Something we learned [that really made me reflect] was that the bond between me and Brady and between Heidi and Brady are very different. It happens at very different times,” Jim shared. “Right away when Heidi finds out she’s pregnant, then her bonding with Brady already starts all the way until Brady’s born. As a dad, it doesn’t start until he is born and I’m actually holding him.”

Heidi assured the concept of “gatekeeping” also helped them prepare for parenting better.

“[Gatekeeping] is when, as a mom, you get really wrapped up in, ‘Only I know how to change baby diapers, only I know how to feed the baby, only I know how to do this,’” Heidi explained. “And I am someone who I could’ve seen thinking that I could be the only person that knew how to take care of [my child]. But gaining that understanding helped us co-parent a lot easier from the very beginning because I was aware of it.”

“I would tell [expecting couples] that Catholic Baby University is a great place to start, to gain community, to meet other people that are in a similar place that you are in; having people in the same room who are just as excited, just as terrified who also want to learn,” Heidi concluded. “It’s just a really awesome opportunity to take advantage of.”