By Jorge Paredes
It is amazing to look back at my own life and realized with joy the many wonders that God has planned for me. I am a member of the Christian Life Movement, I was born in Peru, and I used to live in Miami, Florida.
Back in the 90s, the world was not as connected as it is today. Cities and countries seemed more distant and traveling was not that common for someone in their early 20s. When my friend Gustavo encouraged me to go with him to World Youth Day 1993 in Denver, it sounded so exciting but unrealistic.
Traveling to Denver was out of my budget, at the same time I could not resist the opportunity to join thousands of young people from all over the world with Pope John Paul II for WYD 1993. We had to be creative to make it happened. To reduce costs, we decided to drive instead of flying, we rented a van and invited more friends to join us in our adventure to Denver.
After 3 long days of driving literally half of the country, we finally arrived in Colorado. Downtown Denver was like the city of joy! Crowds of young people were singing in the streets in different languages, foreign drivers greet each other with a smile while being lost in the city (remember there were no GPS back then) however it was like a glimpse of paradise on earth.
Not everyone had the opportunity to attend all the events, however, we were lucky to get tickets to the Mile-High Stadium. That event was an extremely joyful celebration. Young people, seminarians, nuns, priests, and bishops all got together singing “We are one body, the body of Christ and we do not stand alone.”
I never felt more united with the universal Church until that time in my life. Our hearts were on fire and the sense of unity was amazing. Most all the participants were wet due to an afternoon storm but that did not stop the enthusiasm in the crowd. Suddenly the rain stopped and the sun came out along with the helicopter carrying Pope John Paul II arriving in the distance.
The stadium was full of energy and you could feel the Christian faith alive. The Pope had a great connection with the youth. He was a pastor that revealed the real presence of Christ. A day later at Cherry Creek State Park, we were all inspired by the words of the Pope when he said; “Do not be afraid.” Those words of encouragement resonate all the time in my heart, back then when I used to do ministry with young adults, and now while doing ministry with families. The Pope also invited us to always share the good news of the Gospel and by doing it I found so much joy and happiness in our journey to follow God’s plan.
It is very interesting that God’s plan for me included moving to Denver and work for the Catholic Church. 14 years ago I was hired by the Archdiocese of Denver to work in the Communications office. I learned so much working in Catholic Communications under the leadership of Archbishop Charles Chaput (now Archbishop of Philadelphia) and Bishop Jose Gomez (now Archbishop of Los Angeles). Later along with my wife Viviana we founded “Dios Entre Nosotros” (God With Us) a marriage and family life ministry for US Hispanics. Currently, I am very blessed to work at the Augustine Institute in New Media and Evangelization serving the Catholic church all over the world.
Denver is not the same after World Youth Day. The visit of Saint John Paul II revitalized the Church in America and many vocations, ministries, and initiatives were inspired by his visit to Denver. I am proud to say that our faith is more alive than ever and while the Catholic Church is also facing many challenges and tribulations at the same time as brothers and sisters in Christ we are all united in our journey to become better Christians. “We are one body, the body of Christ and we do not stand alone.”