WYD marked a milestone in their lives

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The life and faith of thousands of youth of the time was deeply impacted and transformed by World Youth Day Denver 1993. The fruit of their participation in the event went farther than happy memories. We interviewed four leaders of our Church who were present as a small sample of what the event meant in the lives of the thousands of participants that listened to St. John Paul II say, “The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference… It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father.”

Ana Tiscareño
Hispanic leader, Holy Rosary Parish

WYD 1993 helped Ana Tiscareño grow deeper in her faith.

Tiscareño had immigrated from Mexico to Colorado and although she had been baptized Catholic, she had never received much formation in the faith. She received a few invitations to join a protestant church, but something told her she had to remain being Catholic. In this context, she decided to participate in WYD. “There was something, perhaps insignificant to many, that caught my attention [during WYD],” she recalled. “While we were walking through Denver, some people offered us cold water outside of their homes. I still can’t explain why that gesture of kindness touched my heart so deeply.

“Twenty years later, when I was on my second year of Biblical School, I read, ‘And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple. Truly, I say to you, he shall not lose is reward’ (Mat 10:42).”

While we were walking through Denver, some people offered us cold water outside of their homes. I still can’t explain why that gesture of kindness touched my heart so deeply.”

In 2013, Tiscareño had the opportunity to send her daughter to WYD in Brazil. Before saying bye at the airport, the group chaplain celebrated Mass and, in his homily, said, “When you go on pilgrimage, something very special happens: God fills it with so much grace that it manifests itself throughout your life.” When Tiscareño heard this, she felt much joy. “I learned many things [at WYD], among them my desire to know the beauty and truth of my faith. I’m very proud of being Catholic! I love it! I love sharing a little bit of what God has blessed me with,” she said.

Rodolfo José Cárdenas
Journalist, Director of the radio show “Hablemos Hoy”

Rodolfo José Cárdenas covered WYD Denver for Telemundo in 1993.

This Venezuelan journalist covered WYD Denver for Telemundo in 1993. “Our newscast was the only Spanish newscast in local television, so covering the visit of the Supreme Pontiff did not only present a great professional challenge, since we were a very small team and with few resources, but we were also very much aware of the significance of such event for our Hispanic community, Catholic per excellence,” he said.

“The excitement of this opportunity was so great that it made us disregard our technical constrains and we focused on providing all the details of the papal visit to our community,” the journalist recalled. “Being able to offer our Hispanic viewers our own stories with our own images was something that made us feel extremely proud.”

What impacted him the most was “the excitement of all who attended, their religiosity, their Catholic conviction, their joy, the happiness of being part – perhaps – of one of the most important events in their lives.” Cárdenas remembers how impressed he was when he saw there were people not only from the United States, but from all over the world. And he assured that the witness of the youth “was something impressive…Thousands and thousands from all over the world, united in prayer and in one faith.”

The excitement of this opportunity was so great that it made us disregard our technical constrains and we focused on providing all the details of the papal visit to our community.”

Moreover, he said that the access media outlets had “was fantastic,” and that “journalists from all over the world were there.”

Father Felix Medina
Pastor at Queen of Peace Parish

Father Felix Medina felt God speaking to him through Pope John Paul II at WYD 1993.

Felix Medina, a young mathematics student at the University of Salamanca had already been part of previous world youth days in Santiago de Compostela in 1989 and in Czestochowa in 1991.Some of the youth from his community of the Neocatechumenal Way in Spain said to him, “Let’s go to Denver!” and he responded, “Let’s go!” What he remembers the most from the event is St. John Paul II’s homily at Cherry Creek Park, when he swayed them to not be afraid of proclaiming the Gospel.

“John Paul II said that life was under attack, that there was a fight between life and death. I heard for the first time that God was calling me personally, that God was telling me, ‘Be not afraid, it’s not a time to be ashamed of the Gospel.’” From that moment on, he was certain that God was calling him to the priesthood. With time, this vocation was “purified and confirmed,” he said. Then, he was assigned to Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Denver, which was established as one of the first fruits of WYD. Father Medina formed part of the first class of seminarians and was ordained to the priesthood in 2004. “Out of all the places where I could have been sent, now I am right by Cherry Creek, which is about five minutes from my parish. I always pass by there and I remember that moment that changed my life,” the pastor of Queen of Peace Parish concluded.

I heard for the first time that God was calling me personally, that God was telling me, ‘Be not afraid, it’s not a time to be ashamed of the Gospel.’”

Mary Beth Bonacci
Author and speaker

Mary Bonacci was one of the speakers at WYD prior to de arrival of Pope John Paul II at Mile High Stadium Aug. 13, 1993.

The young Mary Bonacci was one of the speakers at WYD prior to de arrival of Pope John Paul II at Mile High Stadium Aug. 13, 1993. “The talk itself was not the highlight,” she said. “The audience was there to see the pope, not me.  I don’t remember what I said in my talk, but I do know that, with such a big stadium and so much of the audience so far away, a lot of people weren’t listening.”

Bonacci remembers how the streets in Denver were filled with youth “wearing Catholic t-shirts, smiling and greeting each other. Everybody was excited to see so many others who were like themselves — Catholics who loved the Holy Father,” she recalled.

“When [John Paul II] arrived in Mile High Stadium that night, I was crying. We were all crying.  It seemed like there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere.  He loved us,” Bonacci said. “And he brought to us a love that was not his own.  It was the love of Christ, radiating through an extraordinarily holy and loving man.”

Although there were other events during WYD, Bonacci admitted that “none was as exciting as that first evening, when we welcomed our beloved Holy Father to Denver.”

COMING UP: The Pell case: Developments down under

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In three weeks, a panel of senior judges will hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unjust verdict rendered against him at his retrial in March, when he was convicted of “historical sexual abuse.” That conviction did not come close to meeting the criterion of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is fundamental to criminal law in any rightly-ordered society. The prosecution offered no corroborating evidence sustaining the complainant’s charge. The defense demolished the prosecution’s case, as witness after witness testified that the alleged abuse simply could not have happened under the circumstances charged — in a busy cathedral after Mass, in a secured space.

Yet the jury, which may have ignored instructions from the trial judge as to how evidence should be construed, returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. At the cardinal’s sentencing, the trial judge never once said that he agreed with the jury’s verdict; he did say, multiple times, that he was simply doing what the law required him to do. Cardinal Pell’s appeal will be just as devastating to the prosecution’s case as was his defense at both his first trial (which ended with a hung jury, believed to have favored acquittal) and the retrial. What friends of the cardinal, friends of Australia, and friends of justice must hope is that the appellate judges will get right what the retrial jury manifestly got wrong.

That will not be easy, for the appellate judges will have been subjected to the same public and media hysteria over Cardinal Pell that was indisputably a factor in his conviction on charges demonstrated to be, literally, incredible. Those appellate judges will also know, however, that the reputation of the Australian criminal justice system is at stake in this appeal. And it may be hoped that those judges will display the courage and grit in the face of incoming fire that the rest of the Anglosphere has associated with “Australia” since the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.

In jail for two months now, the cardinal has displayed a remarkable equanimity and good cheer that can only come from a clear conscience. The Melbourne Assessment Prison allows its distinguished prisoner few visitors, beyond his legal team; but those who have gone to the prison intending to cheer up a friend have, in correspondence with me, testified to having found themselves cheered and consoled by Cardinal Pell — a man whose spiritual life was deeply influenced by the examples of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More during Henry VIII’s persecution of the Church in 16th-century England. The impact of over a half-century of reflection on those epic figures is now being displayed to Cardinal Pell’s visitors and jailers, during what he describes as his extended “retreat.”

Around the world, and in Australia itself, calmer spirits than those baying for George Pell’s blood (and behaving precisely like the deranged French bigots who cheered when the innocent Captain Alfred Dreyfus was condemned to a living death on Devil’s Island) have surfaced new oddities — to put it gently — surrounding the Pell Case.

How is it, for example, that the complainant’s description of the sexual assault he alleges Cardinal Pell committed bears a striking resemblance — to put it gently, again — to an incident of clerical sexual abuse described in Rolling Stone in 2011? How is it that edited transcripts of a post-conviction phone conversation between the cardinal and his cathedral master of ceremonies (who had testified to the sheer physical impossibility of the charges against Pell being true) got into the hands (and thence into the newspaper writing) of a reporter with a history of anti-Pell bias and polemic? What is the web of relationships among the virulently anti-Pell sectors of the Australian media, the police in the state of Victoria, and senior Australian political figures with longstanding grievances against the politically incorrect George Pell? What is the relationship between the local Get Pell gang and those with much to lose from his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances?

And what is the state of serious investigative journalism in Australia, when these matters are only investigated by small-circulation journals and independent researchers?

An “unsafe” verdict in Australia is one a jury could not rationally have reached. Friends of truth must hope that the appellate judges, tuning out the mob, will begin to restore safety and rationality to public life Down Under in June.

Featured image by CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images