These are natural
questions. Americans like statistics. We look for things we can
quantify to judge whether an event succeeds or fails. But with World
Youth Day, numbers never tell the story. Outsiders tend to think
of these gatherings as a fireworks display - a few days of very
entertaining light that quickly fades to black when the noise stops.
That's exactly the wrong image. World Youth Day is a seed, and like
a seed, it doesn't grow overnight. It takes time. But if the soil
is good, so is the harvest.
In the months
after World Youth Day 1993, no miraculous surge in faith occurred
here in Denver - at least not in way that garnered many headlines.
But looking back nine years later, the Church in northern Colorado
is dramatically different. God's done extraordinary things in the
lives of our people, and the evidence is all around us in our parishes,
our schools, and in our seminaries, which are literally running
out of room for candidates.
I said "seminaries,"
not seminary, for a reason. We have two seminaries for the Archdiocese
of Denver, and both are very much part of the renewal that began
here after World Youth Day. St. John Vianney Theological Seminary,
which opened in 1999, has one of the finest faculties and many of
the finest seminarians in the country. But they're not alone.
Just a few
dozen yards away, the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary
Seminary, which began in 1996, is forming an equally extraordinary
group of young men from around the world for priestly service in
our archdiocese. Their zeal for God's word - a mark of the Neocatechumenal
Way - is a reminder that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in
the Church, not just locally but globally.
Way received final approval for its rule of life just last month
from the Holy See. That great moment of joy confirmed nearly 40
years of international growth for the Way, and years of fruitful
evangelizing by the Way here in Colorado as well.
But over the
past nine years, the Way is just one of many wonderful renewal communities
and movements that have found a home or deepened their presence
in Denver -- the Christian Life Movement, the Community of the Beatitudes,
the Marian Community of Reconciliation, along with Cursillo, the
charismatic renewal, Focolare, Communion and Liberation, and others.
All of them root themselves in Vatican II. All of them have helped
the faith flourish here in the Rockies. And all of them, for our
local Church, are part of the legacy of World Youth Day.
So when reporters
ask me what World Youth Day 2002 will "do" for the Church in Toronto,
I have an easy answer, and the right one. I just tell them: Wait.