On Sunday, Oct. 14, I had the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist in Greeley with over 500 catechists from the Neocatechumenal Way. As The Way celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, my heart was again filled with gratitude to the Father for the gift that this Itinerary of Christian Initiation has been for the local Church in Colorado and in the Universal Church.
Since its founding in Spain under the pontificate of St. Paul VI in the 1960s, every Pope has encouraged The Way, seeing the great fruit that it bears. Pope Francis, on their 50th Anniversary, stated, “Your charism is a great gift of God for the Church of our time. Let us thank the Lord for these 50 years.”
I was first introduced to The Way in Lent of 1988 by a priest friend when I was doing graduate studies in Rome. Although I hadn’t heard about them, I was curious, as my friend had spoken highly of them and shared stories of conversions that he had witnessed through The Way.
I decided that I wanted to know more about The Way, so we went to a Lenten service. During the service, many young people got up and gave testimonies of how The Way had led them to encounter Jesus Christ, which radically changed their lives. Some were former drug addicts, others lived promiscuous lives with both men and women, others were involved in violence and still others were in abusive situations. Their encounter with Jesus Christ through The Way led them away from hopelessness and the patterns of sin they had entered and into an encounter with the mercy and truth of Jesus Christ. They firmly believed in the healing power and authority of Jesus Christ and that with God all things are possible (Mt 19:26).
I remember being filled with awe and some disbelief at their testimony. Speaking with my friend on the way home, I asked if I heard everything correctly. He assured me that I had. I had to confront my own skepticism and lack of faith in Jesus Christ, and it gave me much to meditate on. I asked myself the question, “Who do I believe, the world or Jesus Christ?” The young people there had a fire and zeal in them that only the Holy Spirit could bring about.
Through the efforts of then-Archbishop Stafford, he invited The Way to Denver, and then after World Youth Day 1993 requested a Redemptoris Mater Seminary be established in Denver. The Way responded and a seminary was established in 1996, later receiving permanent approval from Archbishop Chaput. We have been blessed with 28 priests from The Way who help staff our parishes, work in the seminary and promote the formation of The Way in our parishes.
The Way has also borne missionary fruit. We have two priests from our archdiocese who serve as missionaries in other countries, and 16 young men from the archdiocese who have participated in The Way as teenagers are discerning a calling to the priesthood at other Redemptoris Mater seminaries around the world.
During the Mass on Oct. 14, I again listened to the testimonies given by the catechists, some who have walked in The Way in our parishes over 20 years. There was no skepticism in my heart, but only gratitude for the fruit that The Way has borne in the archdiocese. The words of Jesus came to my heart, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). As Pope Francis taught in his encyclical The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Guadium), precisely through inviting people to encounter Jesus and by accompanying them in the communities and steps of The Way, an abundant harvest is found in our parishes. People come to know the vine, Jesus Christ, abide in him by putting their faith in him as he transforms their lives, and then they bear much fruit as they go out to invite others to come to know Jesus.
My prayer is for The Way to continue to grow in our archdiocese and in all our parishes as a part of the new evangelization. The Way has demonstrated by its fruit that it is of the Holy Spirit and the Church has confirmed its charism. In the times in which we live, The Way is one of the signs of hope in our archdiocese. It joins other fruitful movements of the Holy Spirit, such as our archdiocesan initiative More Than You Realize, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), Christ in the City, Amazing Parish, Families of Character, ENDOW, the Augustine Institute, ChristLife and so many others. In the universal call to holiness, and most especially in the times we are living through as a Church, we must always “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2).