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

COMING UP: Pilgrim updates: From the Alps

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Mendicant pilgrim Ann Sieben is leading four men across Europe on foot for World Youth Day. Every week, we are updating you on their progress via their pictures and journal entries, which they are sending us throughout their journey. You can read the introductory post here


15 June

Sanctuario di Madonna della Corona

From the Apennines to the Alps, we’ve upped our pace this week. Even the Italians say, “There’s no much to see in the Po Valley”, However, everything is [something] to the rest of the country which, as we are discovering, is full of history and artifacts both secular and religious.


Even in the Po, we encountered such as Bologna and Mantua, noted even by Shakespeare. Focused on our destination, we crossed the Valley–14 kilometers—in three days, walking as much as a marathon a day. Such distances would have seemed impossible on day one, but such distances are now standard; our bodies are conditioned.

Kilometers add up and people we meet are impressed to know that we started in Rome and are incredulous to hear that it has all been on foot.

The pilgrimage group is walking from Rome to Krakow, and sending us updates along the way! Photo provided.

The pilgrimage group is walking from Rome to Krakow, and sending us updates along the way! Photo provided.

We are increasingly independent during the day, often walking alone for extended periods. Sometimes we cross paths during the day, and we certainly reunite during the evening at our pre-determined meeting place. We’re not a tour group, we’re independent pilgrims. As a result, our experiences are varied and individual at times, and yet share common themes ranging from receiving hospitality from strangers to finding places to swim during the day. The individuality provides for spontaneity.

The image of the Alps–at first viewed through a haze, continued to grow steadily and is now beneath our feet. We’ve entered the foothills and the next phase of our journey.


Another themes of our trip has been unity in the midst of diversity. For example, we’e visited three shrines this week and each honored Mary, but but each under a different title and with different traditions. Certainly the members of our group are diverse. We come from different parts of the USA and the world, bringing with us different personalities and perspectives. We are commonly asked where we all met or how we came together, yet it’s simply a matter of having a common goal. Another example of pilgrim magic.

Seven hundred and eighty two kilometers later, and nearly a month of living together, it’s hard to believe that our group gathered for the first time at the Vatican on day one.