By ANDREW HANSEN
GLEN CARBON — Alexandra Uram loves Hawaii. Vacationing to the island of Maui with her family several times, most recently in 2021, the Father McGivney Catholic High School (Glen Carbon) sophomore has especially fallen in love with Lahaina, a town on the island.
“Great restaurants, fun activities including snorkeling and dolphin and whale watching, art galleries, and museums,” Uram said. “I thought it was a welcoming community with friendly, awesome people. My family and I love Maria Lanakila Catholic Church. It is architecturally beautiful and has vibrant parishioners. The singing at that gorgeous church, not just by the members of the choir, but by the entire parish, was angelic every time we attended. You just felt awesome and uplifted after attending Mass at Maria Lanakila, because God's presence was so powerful.”
Her personal connection to the island and its people made the images of the August wildfire that engulfed Lahaina and other parts of the island, killing at least 115 people, “hard to believe” and “absolutely chilling,” she said.
Miraculously, Maria Lanakila Catholic Church was spared, despite that everything around it had been reduced to ashes.
“That beautiful church, which is in the heart of Lahaina, will remain the heart of the city,” Uram said. “You just knew that God's hand was present when you saw that the church was unharmed.”
With the people of Maui and Lahaina in particular experiencing devastating losses, including family members, friends, pets, homes, possessions, schools, and jobs, Uram wanted to do something to help. So, she came up with an idea.
Father McGivney Catholic High School has a program that encourages students to support worthwhile causes. That program allows students to have dress down days (school uniforms do not have to be worn) in return for a contribution. A $5 donation is suggested, but students regularly exceed that amount. Principal Joe Lombardi further encourages participation by allowing the students to suggest the charitable causes to be supported. So, Uram suggested raising money for the people of the island. After getting the approval, the school held a dress down day, raising at least $2,300.
“It is important to let them (the people of Lahaina) know that people care about them and want to help,” Uram said.
The money will go to the Hawaii Knights of Columbus. Uran said they chose the Knights because they are already soliciting donations and distributing funds directly to those in need in Lahaina. For example, the Knights have already constructed a temporary school, as the school which was adjacent to Maria Lanakila Church, Sacred Hearts School, was destroyed in the fire. They are also distributing funds directly to those in need.
Uram’s efforts to help victims aren’t ending with just her school, expanding the scope across the diocese. She says Marquette Catholic High School in Alton agreed to have their students join the fundraising effort, as well as St. Mary School in Edwardsville, so that $2,300 donation will only grow.
“My Catholic faith, first learned at home and reinforced through years of Catholic education, has taught me to pay attention to the needs of others,” Uram said. “It has also taught me that we are called to help those in need, not just to sit on the sidelines. I would also like to ask anyone who reads this article to pray for and to support the Lahaina families.”
Where in the Bible does it say that a priest cannot be married, or is this something that was decided by the Church leaders? And, where in the Bible does it say that women cannot be priests, or is this something that was decided by the Church leaders?
– Sue in Troy
Hey, Sue! Both priestly celibacy and the male priesthood are well-attested to and rooted in Scripture, and moreover, in the life and ministry of Jesus Himself.
Let’s take the male priesthood first. It is clear from the testimony of the Old Testament that the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood was passed from father to son (cf. Leviticus 7:34 and Numbers 18, for example). This Old Testament priesthood is a type (a sort of prefigurement) of the priesthood established by Jesus Christ, and while Jesus clearly does some “new” things with those who He has called to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, in practice, He does not anywhere in Scripture abolish the Hebrew custom of an all-male priesthood. One would expect to see Christ overturn this praxis if He wished for women to participate in the ministerial priesthood, but He does not.
To our modern sensitivities, this might seem unfair or as though Jesus had left women out of His ministry, but that is certainly not the case. Jesus was not unfamiliar with the cultural norms of His day which tended to suppress the roles of women — and time and again, Jesus proved Himself above such limited human perspectives (cf. John 4:27 or Luke 7:36-50, for example). Yet His priests (the Apostles) were all men. Frankly, if Jesus were going to ordain any woman to the priesthood, it should have been His own mother, Mary; if we were abiding by human logic, she’s certainly the ideal candidate: sinless and perfectly obedient to the will of God!
Importantly, however, this does not mean that women are left out of the plan of Jesus; they are simply not ordained ministerial priests. All baptized Christians — men and women alike —participate in the common priesthood of the faithful, which is to say that we are called to offer to God the sacrifice of our lives. It may run contrary to our modern sensibilities that women are excluded from the ministerial priesthood, but this is the scandal of election that we see throughout the Scriptures: God consistently chooses one for the sake of all (He did it with Abel, Israel, David, to name a few; He deigned that Jesus become a Hebrew male and not a female Persian, for example). But when God chooses one (to the exclusion of something or someone else), He demonstrates over and again that it is always for the purpose that that “one” might exemplify His choice of all, to show forth His glory and invite all people to covenant with Him. Certainly, such is the case with the male priesthood.
As for the practice of priestly celibacy, that too is rooted in the witness of Christ Himself, to whom Scriptures never attribute a wife. But it is also demonstrated in Mt 19:12, wherein Christ instructs that there are those who choose to be eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church has always seen this verse as a reference to those who choose celibacy (i.e., forgoing the good of sexual intimacy) for the sake of pointing to the greater fulfillment that will be ours in God alone. It is the practice of the Latin Church to choose such celibate men as her ordained ministers, precisely for their confirmation to the way of life that Jesus chose for Himself and for the sake of living as an eschatological sign (i.e., pointing to the fulfillment that comes in the Kingdom of God).
There are many arguments from fittingness and points of resonance in Scripture that point to why God may have chosen these disciplines for His Church, but unfortunately, it would be too much for our current discussion.
One last thought, though: the beauty of our Catholic faith is that we believe that God has chosen to reveal Himself not only through Scripture, but through Scripture and apostolic tradition. So, while it’s good for us to look for the truths of God in Scripture, we find the apostolic tradition as revelatory of God and importance for the adherence of our faith as well. God, beautifully, allows these not to contradict each other, so we would do well not to pit them against each other, either!
Father Michael A. Friedel is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Decatur, chaplain at Millikin University, and associate vocations director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
By Andrew Hansen
Growing up in Laoang, a small city located in the northern part of Samar Province in the Philippines, Father Manny Cuizon had no idea what was in store for his life. Little did he know growing up that not only would he become a priest, but his journey would stretch to the other side of the world to Central Illinois of all places and lead him to becoming a citizen of the United States.
“I came to America in March of 2012, the Feast of St. Joseph the husband of Mary,” Father Manny recalls. “To make the long story short, it was the help and support of Father Jeff Holtman, OSF, who was then the pastor of Holy Family Parish (Granite City) and St. Mary and St. Mark Parish (Madison) in the southern part of this diocese (Father Holtman is now pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul in Alton). He introduced me to Bishop Thomas John Paprocki about my intention to serve in the diocese. I am thankful that Bishop Paprocki gave me a chance to serve in the diocese up to now.”
Since 2013, Father Manny has served in several parishes in our diocese, currently as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Springfield. The process of him becoming a U.S. citizen he says took him nearly six years. On August 30, Father Manny took part in the Naturalization Ceremony on the campus of the University of Illinois Springfield, and declared his allegiance to the United States of America, officially becoming a U.S. citizen.
When asked what it’s like being a U.S. citizen, his response is simply that is makes him “happy.”
“I can’t believe that America is now my new home country,” Father Manny said. “I am feeling grateful to God and to the kindness and generosity of the people who helped me to begin this my new life in this land of freedom and the home of the brave. What I love most about America is the diverse and vibrant culture, values, and tradition of immigrant communities that make this nation great and stronger.”
Enrollment continues to grow at Quincy University. This fall, the university welcomed 327 freshmen. This marks the largest freshman class in 50 years and a 7% increase over last year. Combining freshman with new transfers, there are 411 full-time new students at QU, up slightly from last year and the highest since 1990. The total of full-time undergraduate students at QU for the Fall 2023 academic term is 1,011, a 2% increase over last year.
"Once again, Quincy University is breaking modern enrollment records because of the hard work of our faculty and staff and the accomplishments of our students," said Brian McGee, PhD, president of Quincy University. "Our Success by Design program, where each student has a personalized success plan, continues to make a difference in attracting students and families to QU. We are proud of all that is being accomplished at this wonderful Catholic and Franciscan university."
The class of 2027 comes to QU from over 240 different high schools, located in 31 states and 17 countries. Most students at Quincy University come from Illinois and Missouri, as has been the case throughout the history of the university.
I have just finished reading the book, Dressing with Dignity, by Colleen Hammond. In the book, it says how women’s clothing at Mass has become too revealing, not only for teens but for their mothers. St. Padre Pio was strict on who he’d allow in his confessional if necklines weren’t up high enough, and skirts weren’t low enough. The book also references what the Catholic Church teaches about appropriate modest dress, especially at church and if one isn’t dressed modestly, Communion can be refused. Why aren’t priests being more strict about this today? I feel like women would think twice about what they wear — especially to church — if they knew this.
- Anonymous in Dieterich
First, I acknowledge that the topic of modesty in dress, especially in church, tends to be controversial. Many people get defensive and argumentative whenever it comes up. This is probably the main reason why priests and others in ministry avoid addressing it. There is also the idea of “picking your battles;” fewer people are coming to Mass and priests are afraid of offending people so that even fewer show up. But this is only a short-term strategy. We have to address modesty, even if some people choose to be offended.
Let’s begin with the big picture. The primary question is not so much the choice of one specific article of clothing over another or exactly how much of the body should be covered. To some extent, those questions are endlessly debatable and there is admittedly a cultural element at play (see CCC 2524). Rather, when we knowingly choose to dress in an immodest or inappropriate way, the underlying problem is that we do not take God seriously enough and, as a result, we do not take ourselves seriously enough.
God created man and woman — all of us — in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26). Every human person is therefore a profound mystery and has immense dignity. We also know that we are not souls with bodies, but we are both soul and body. Pope St. John Paul II taught that “the body expresses the person.” Of course, the clothing we wear is not part of us, but it is a kind of extension of our body. We could say that the body expresses the person, and clothing in turn expresses the body. It is part of our body language. Within the context of human culture and traditions, we choose clothing to express ourselves as persons, to communicate ourselves to the rest of the world.
Now, the question is this: Knowing that we are made in the image and likeness of God, how should we dress to proclaim this truth? Yes, we believe that the human body is beautiful, which means it is worthy of admiration and celebration. But we also believe that the body is sacred, which means it is worthy of respect and reverence. Therefore, clothing should not simply “cover up” or hide the body, but neither should it unveil the body to everyone indiscriminately. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden … . It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons … .” (CCC 2521). Here we see that modesty is not some arbitrary limitation on our freedom but rather a virtue that protects our God-given dignity.
Immodesty is an offense against both ourselves and others. Christ’s second great Commandment is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). If we value and cherish ourselves, including our bodies, our clothing will reflect this. To dress modestly and appropriately for the occasion (a wedding is very different from the beach) also shows love and respect for all others present. It sends the message, “I take myself and you seriously.”
Finally, there is an additional consideration when it comes to the clothing we wear during Mass and other liturgies. Mass is not about you! Or me. Or any human being. It is about God and our coming into His presence to worship Him — period. Therefore, anything we do, say, or wear that draws attention away from Him and toward ourselves undermines true worship. Our personal preferences must die in the face of something infinitely more important. Since we are coming into the presence of God — and especially if we intend to receive Jesus in the Eucharist — our dress should express a certain seriousness. Mass is not just another human activity or gathering. We Americans have a reputation for being informal, especially in regard to clothing. Perhaps part of our immodesty in dress is a consequence of this general informality. After all, casual clothing tends to be more revealing, and women’s casual clothing tends to be more revealing than men’s clothing. This could explain why, even if men and women are equally guilty of dressing too casually for Mass, women are more often accused of dressing immodestly.
In closing, a famous exhortation of St. Paul perfectly brings together these themes: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1–2).
HIGHLAND — While searching for high-quality, beautiful outdoor Stations of the Cross for St. Paul Parish, Father Pat Jakel, pastor, came across some remarkable handcrafted pieces of art. They are custom molds of the Stations of the Cross in St. Ludwig Church in Darmstadt, Germany, that were hand-carved in 1905 by brothers and master sculptors Wilhelm and Franz Albermann. Incredibly, the originals survived the bombing during World War II, mostly intact, and are the only set in existence. More recently an artist, Mark Gabriele, obtained special permission to spend two years transposing the original sculptures into relief carvings.
Because Father Jakel believed that these Stations were far outside the financial reach of the parish, he put the idea to purchase them on the back burner. However, through the power of the Holy Spirit, a generous parish family came forward and offered to donate the cost of the Stations and their installation. Pete and Jane Korte and their family, including daughter Karen Boulanger, offered this beautiful rendition of Christ’s Passion to the parish as a memorial to a beloved family member, Jon Boulanger, who passed away unexpectedly in 2021.
Father Jakel and his campus growth team then worked directly with Gabriele, and his company, Artisan Granite, to see the project through to completion. The entire process took nine months to complete and included work by Woltering Welding Service who created the pedestals and Station numbers and installed the Stations, and Korte & Luitjohan Contractors (Highland) who donated the concrete work. These outdoor Stations are beautifully executed works of art and will be a fitting and lasting memorial for centuries to come.
On July 16, the Korte family and a large gathering of parishioners participated in a ceremony dedicating the Stations. The parish community of St. Paul invites all to come see them and pray.
By FATHER JOE MOLLOY
Special to Catholic Times
School is back in session and just as it is important for students to learn about history, math, science, literature, and all the rest, so, too, is it very important that students learn about Jesus and our Catholic faith every week in faith formation classes at parishes such as PSR, our Catholic schools, but most importantly, at home.
I want to add something very important to the idea of Catholic formation of our young people. There is nothing more important to the formation of our youth, for their growth in the Catholic faith, and their love of Jesus, than the Eucharist! Nothing! The Eucharist is the most important ritual we Catholics celebrate and do. As Vatican II said in its document on the liturgy, “The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.”
That said, I see students in our faith formation classes each week, but I don’t see them at Mass each week. I know the same is true at other parishes across our diocese that have Catholic schools. How can that be? Yes, it is great to have them at class to learn more about their faith and the Lord. But, for parents/guardians to not bring them to Mass each week is not only is a sin, but it says to children that Mass is not that necessary, doesn’t it? And nothing could be further from the truth.
That is why our diocese has special Year of the Eucharist going on now, part of the nationwide Eucharistic Revival. It is a time to focus on the centrality of the Eucharist in our faith. It is a vital part of our belief. Jesus told us at the Last Supper to “do this (the Eucharist) in memory of Me.” Yes, the Eucharist celebrates the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus, and nothing is more
important than that. We need to teach our young people to obey the Lord’s command — the third Commandment of keeping holy the Sabbath Day, which means going to Mass.
May we all see the absolute necessity of the Eucharist in our lives. We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ each time we gather. We remember how much He did for our salvation. See how easy it is to understand why the Eucharist is the summit of our faith? Ask yourself, “Is Jesus important to me?” If you answer “yes,” and I hope you do, then come visit and receive Him every Sunday. He’s there, waiting for you.
Diocesan seminarian to be ordained to transitional diaconate in Rome
By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
On Sept. 28, Troy Niemerg, a seminarian for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois who has been doing his theology studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, will be ordained to the transitional diaconate at St. Peter’s Basilica. He’s looking forward to that day, when he will share his joy with several members of his family who are traveling to be with him.
“Fortunately, most of my immediate family will be able to make it to my ordination,” he said. “It’s certainly a huge request for me to make, but they have been looking forward to the ordination for a long time and never thought twice about coming. That’s just one more thing for which I am incredibly grateful.
“My parents and my upbringing were everything to me,” said Niemerg, who calls St. Isidore the Farmer in Dieterich his home parish. “I don’t see how I could have ever discerned my vocation without them. My whole family has always practiced the faith, and we are lucky enough to live in a community that has always put faith and family first.”
Niemerg is the youngest of his siblings, but just barely. “I am technically the youngest because I have a twin brother, Travis, who was born 16 minutes before I was,” he said. “That makes me the little brother, and no one lets me forget it!” Troy and Travis have three older siblings, Craig, Cory, and Candace, and they are all the children of Duane and Annette Niemerg, who live in Dieterich. He also has two nephews, Henry and Calvin, and one niece, Amelia.
Niemerg felt from age 11 that God may have been calling him to the priesthood. “It was nothing dramatic, no voices or grand epiphanies. It was more like a spark of a desire to serve God and His Church that slowly grew over time. I didn’t seriously consider a priestly vocation until I was 17, and I felt more confident that this persistent desire was more than just my own daydreams, but the actual will of God.”
After his senior year at Dieterich High School, he applied to the seminary. “I completed my studies in philosophy at Marian University in Indianapolis while I lived at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary,” he said. “After four years of college, I was asked by Bishop (Thomas John) Paprocki to do my theology studies in Rome.” A good friend from college seminary, Deacon Samuel Rosko from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, will be at Niemerg’s ordination to vest him.
“Living in Rome has been one of the greatest blessings of my life,” he said. “Of course, moving from a town of 650 people to a huge and ancient European capital involved some unique challenges. While I credit the discovery of my vocation to my upbringing and family, that definitely meant it was difficult to be 5,000 miles away from them all, too. The transition to life in Rome was the biggest in my life, but I fell in love with it just as soon as I got over the culture shock. I have been able to see and experience so much of the universal Church with new friends I’ll have for a lifetime, and for that I am grateful,” he said.
Niemerg returned to the Springfield Diocese this summer to spend time serving at Immaculate Conception Parish in Mattoon. “I have been blessed in a big way by being assigned to Immaculate Conception with Father John Titus,” he said. “He is a model pastor and example of what it means to be a priest. Clerics are ordained to serve the people of God by configuring their lives to Christ. Among the many things I have learned from him this summer, one of the most important is to never forget that we are ordained for humble service. Bringing people to Christ and preaching the life-changing truths of His Gospel is what being ordained is all about.”
When speaking about younger people who wonder where God is calling them, Niemerg has some good advice. “I would just remind him or her that everyone has a calling from God. He has a plan for each of us, but it’s our responsibility to seriously pray and discern what that vocation is. God desires us to find perfect happiness and fulfillment in Him, but we can only do that by discerning and following His will for our lives. God will never fail to make His will known to those earnestly seeking Him in faith.”
Niemerg concludes that not only has he prayed for guidance, but he also appreciates it when people pray for him. “I would just like to thank everyone who has prayed for me and supported me throughout my time in the seminary. Please continue to do so! I have been blown away by the generosity and encouragement of all the great people in our diocese, and I’m so excited to minister to them in the near future.”
Suicidal fears and authentic accompaniment
When we realize that someone we love may be suicidal, it can be complicated to figure out how best to respond. The threat of suicide from a friend or family member obviously needs to be taken seriously, and we need to respond with loving support and accompaniment. Providing such help, however, will not necessarily be synonymous with granting every request or affirming every assertion they make.
Suppose that a friend shares that he has just lost his entire personal fortune in the most recent stock market crash. He tells you know that he is going to commit suicide unless his investment accounts somehow get shored up to the same levels they were prior to the crash. Even though you wish to show compassion to him in his difficult situation, and would want to do everything you could to deflect his suicidal thinking, it wouldn’t be appropriate to go along with his demands by replenishing all his accounts with your own funds.
That your friend is threatening suicide reveals that on some level, he has adopted a false understanding of himself, where he perceives himself as valuable only when he possesses substantial sums of money. To support him authentically would mean assisting him to break free of this illusion, so he can grasp the liberating truth that his personal identity and self-worth do not depend on his financial assets.
Clinical psychotherapist Lisa Marchiano shares another example: “If I work with someone who’s really suicidal because his wife left him, I don’t call his wife up and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come back.’ …We don’t treat suicide by giving people exactly what they want.”
Instead, a good psychotherapist helps a suicidal husband navigate his new situation by offering support and encouragement, and by assisting him to understand who he really is, despite the absence of his wife. His suicidal thinking indicates he has not fully grasped the fact that his own identity and existence still remain objectively good, dignified, and worthwhile even if his wife may have painfully walked away from their marriage.
Similarly, imagine a girl wants liposuction, despite the fact that she is thinner than a pencil from years of battling an eating disorder. She is very unhappy, and even suicidal, on account of her delusion that she is massively overweight. We could not encourage or consent to liposuction for her as an “affirmation strategy,” but would need to support her in addressing the mental and personal issues that underlie her morbid fear of gaining weight and the disturbed perception of her own body.
Dr. Paul McHugh, formerly Psychiatrist in Chief of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Psychiatry Department, offers a parallel analysis for the situation of gender dysphoria. He notes that the belief by a male that he is a female trapped inside a male body is similar to “the feelings of a patient with anorexia nervosa that she is obese despite her emaciated, cachectic [wasting away] state. We don’t do liposuction on anorexics. So why amputate the genitals of patients? … We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.”
Gender dysphoria is a particularly sensitive area that needs to be addressed with charity and truth-centered compassion. Those who struggle with gender dysphoria have significantly elevated rates of suicide compared to the general population. Regrettably, some physicians who prescribe puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones, or who perform transgender surgeries on young people, will use this higher rate of suicide to pressure parents to support so-called “gender-affirming” interventions for their children. The implication is that parents should do whatever their children ask for, to stave off a possible suicide.
In the case of a boy who declares he is actually a girl, if a parent expresses any hesitation about proceeding with surgeries to remove healthy sexual organs, some physicians have been known to ask, “What do you want? A dead son or a live daughter?” Such a query offers a false dichotomy, suggesting only two possibilities, while leaving out the third and most important option, namely a “live son” who is led away from his suicidality and false notions about his gender through professional supports, including appropriate psychotherapy, and through strong, loving familial and personal accompaniment.
When loved ones manifest an elevated likelihood of committing suicide, it makes no sense to adopt a posture of automatically yielding to every request they make, nor is it reasonable to affirm untrue assertions they may be focused on or even obsessed with. Rather, we need to care for them in a more truthful way — accompanying, supporting, and helping them to address underlying personal and psychiatric issues — so they can begin to find real healing and experience a new wholeness and integration in their lives.
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. See www.ncbcenter.org and www.fathertad.com.
‘I will remember the people I met and the places I saw for the rest of my life’
Priests, young adults from our diocese have experience of a lifetime at World Youth Day
By ANDREW HANSEN and CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY
“Be not afraid,” Pope Francis told young Catholics Sunday at the closing Mass of World Youth Day (WYD) 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, echoing the well-known call of his predecessor and the founder of the international youth gathering, St. John Paul II.
“Dear young people, I would like to look into the eyes of each one of you and tell you: Be not afraid, be not afraid,” he said Aug. 6 on a sunny morning in what organizers dubbed the “Field of Grace.”
“I tell you something very beautiful: It is no longer me, it is Jesus Himself who is looking at you in this moment, He is looking at you,” the pope continued. “He knows you, He knows the heart of each one of you, He knows the life of each one of you, He knows the joys, He knows the sadness, the successes and the failures.”
Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the Feast of the Transfiguration for an estimated 1.5 million people, where young people and their leaders had camped out overnight following a prayer vigil. Approximately 10,000 priests and 700 bishops concelebrated.
Amongst that crowd were several Catholics from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. That included Father Steven Arisman, Father Dominic Rankin, Father Zach Samples, Sam Doellman, Hope Glidewell, Nathaniel Ed, and Emily Kite. Their 14-day trip was an experience the group says they will always remember and one that inspired them in profound ways.
“The importance of World Youth Day is that it provides us with an opportunity to understand the universality of our Church and of our faith,” Father Samples said. “Looking out over the sea of 1.5 million people at the closing Papal Mass, you could see flags from every corner of globe. 1.5 million Catholics gathered to celebrate Mass with the successor of St. Peter is an incredibly moving experience of faith — to see so many young people gathered together to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and with His Church filled me with hope, peace, and joy.”
“Being my first time out of the country, I was amazed in seeing the sheer number of people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds all gathered together,” Sam Doellman of Quincy said. “As different as we all seem on the surface, it’s only when we truly stop and get to know another that we see how similar we are. This was only enhanced through the shared values of our Catholic faith. Throughout our time in Portugal, God continuously reminded me of His deep love for me. I was reminded of this through the generosity of strangers, the growth of new and old friendships, and time spent in prayer, to name a few. I was honored to hold the prayers of so many with me throughout the pilgrimage and to share my experiences with others through updates on my social media. Allowing people from back home to experience this powerful pilgrimage with me from my updates was a joy and reminder that we are all in this journey of faith together. I look forward to bringing that joy experienced on World Youth Day home with me to my faith communities!”
Arriving in Libson on July 26, the group spent several days in the Diocese of Leiria-Fatima doing various activities, site sightseeing, and spiritual enrichment in that area. On July 31, the group returned to Lisbon for the opening ceremonies and Mass of World Youth Day on Aug. 1. Throughout that week, the group did a walking tour of Lisbon, attended several catechesis and festival events, participated in a prayer vigil, and attended more Masses.
“It is hard to describe with words just how much this World Youth Day experience has meant to me,” Emily Kite of Quincy said. “Since being home, one word has continued to ring in my mind — grateful. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and explore a new culture. I am grateful to have met so many new people and grateful for the opportunity to foster both new and old friendships. Most importantly, however, I am grateful to be part of a Church that is truly universal and alive. It is very encouraging to see such a massive outpouring of joy, love, and faith from youth all around the world. We witnessed first-hand that the young Church is not only alive, but is on fire for Christ. This experience has rejuvenated my hope for the future of the Church and given me courage to continue to live out my faith in my everyday life.”
After World Youth Day, the group continued their pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal. At Fatima in 1917, Our Lady, the mother of God, appeared to three children: siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their cousin Lúcia dos Santos. This Church approved apparition is regarded as one of the most important, as Mary’s message reminds us that our future is in being with God in heaven forever, and that we are active and responsible partners in creating that future for ourselves and helping others to do the same. The group also took a day to visit Nazare, Batalha, and Alcobaca in Portugal and concluded their trip with a day at the beach.
“One of the major takeaways from my experience in Portugal is the reality that Christ dwells in His Mystical Body,” Hope Glidewell of Quincy said. “A common experience among the 1.5 million pilgrims is that we were all pretty vulnerable. Traveling to a foreign country, hiking in record heat, and living minimally in hostels and on gym floors reveals the reality that we need to rely on each other. If someone needed help, there was never a question about sharing resources, a helping hand, or simply an acknowledgment of solidarity. It did not matter if a person was with your group or from your country, you just helped and learned to receive help. It truly was an experience of Christ working through and in others and myself. The second takeaway I have is in regard to the architecture. When I travel to Washington, D.C., and look over the landscape, it all feels cultivated in a grandiose way to impress, hiding an ugly reality underneath. When I looked over the landscape in Portugal, it felt authentic. I think the difference is that D.C. was built in honor of men and is set up to impress. Europe (for all its current issues), was built in honor of God and is set up for worship.”
“It was amazing seeing more than one million other young Catholics come together for Christ, crammed into a city that already has a population of a half million,” Nathaniel Ed of Springfield said. “We were crammed into public transportation like sardines, barely able to breathe, but it’s all part of the pilgrim experience. There’s so much that happened, and the days blur together. The most impactful part of the trip for me was praying at Fatima, in the chapel built on the very spot where Mary appeared to the children. It’s truly life-changing to be in such a significant place. We also got to see Pope Francis as he drove by, standing a mere 15 feet from him. Meeting people from a variety of different cultures was a strong reminder of the universality of Christ’s Church. It was fun just coming up to random people, asking where they come from, and learning more about them. Our new Australian friend, Aidan, even let me try some of his Vegemite. Overall, it was phenomenal, and I will remember the people I met and the places I saw for the rest of my life.”