In 1993, Saint John Paul II came to Denver, Colorado, for World Youth Day. It was covered by the media, both Catholic and secular, and by all accounts, it was a peaceful, joyful, inspirational experience.
Among those young people who attended that event were several young men who were discerning a vocation to priesthood in the Diocese of Brooklyn from the now-defunct college seminary in Douglaston, including now Fathers Robert Adamo, John Cush, Fulgencio Gutierrez, Christopher O’Connor, Luke Trocha and Msgr. Cuong Pham.
In that same group was a young woman from Guardian Angel parish in Brighton Beach, Linda Graffeo, who now serves the Church as Sister Mary Loretta of the Sisters of Life.
And there were many more young people at that World Youth Day, and in the ones that had occurred before and since, who were inspired by the events to serve the Church as a priest, religious, or dedicated lay person.
Now we come to this World Youth Day, this time in Lisbon, Portugal, with a different Holy Father, Pope Francis, and with other young people.
Different location, different pope, different young people, and yet the same goal: For young people to come together, as a family of faith, in the presence of the Holy Father, to be inspired and to be inspiring.
The Diocese of Brooklyn will again have a full contingent of young people, chaperones, priests and our own Shepherd, Bishop Robert Brennan as they seek to grow not just in a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus, but also an ecclesial encounter with the Lord Jesus as they experience the Church in her Four Marks: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
The Church our young pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens will encounter is One. She is united in the faith for which sainted martyrs died, even if it may seem that she might be more divided than ever on some very important issues, both pastoral and dogmatic.
The Church our young pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens will encounter is Holy. She is the spotless Bride of Christ and the Mystical Body of Christ, and, theologically, as such is sinless. We who make up the Church, every one of us, clergy, religious, and laity, we are sinners and are in need of redemption.
The Church our young pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens will encounter is truly Catholic, meaning universal. There, like in our own diocese, they will encounter the rich diversity of the Church spread throughout the world, from many languages and cultures, all of which are united in the one true Catholic faith.
The Church our young pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens will encounter is Apostolic. She is founded on the firm foundation of Christ and rooted on the rock that is Peter (Cephas), the first apostle and the apostolic band.
It is not just in Portugal that the youth of Queens and Brooklyn can encounter a Church that demonstrates her four marks of Unity, Holiness, Catholicity, and Apostolicity. No, these young women and men can find that waiting for them in every single parish in our diocese.
We who minister and pray at the parishes, Catholic academies and high schools, youth programs, and faith formation, need always to remember to welcome the youth, the Catholic leaders of tomorrow, to a deeper, richer life in Christ and in his Church.
As we pray for the youth pilgrims of Queens and Brooklyn, we should never forget to encourage the youth with whom we are blessed in the Diocese of Brooklyn.