Even though youth and young adults were not even conceived during Pope John XXIII’s papacy, all have experienced his legacy through his successor Pope John Paul II.
“He cared. Along with Pope John XXIII, he genuinely cared for people,” said Jillian Ford of St. Francis de Sales parish in Sherman Oaks.
This sentiment is one shared by many youth and young adults who grew up during Pope John Paul II’s 27-year papacy.
“Pope John Paul II was the first pope I knew to have a pastor’s heart, close to regular people. That was extremely striking for me. He changed my view of the papacy,” said Vicky Villalobos of St. Raymond parish in Downey. Rosalynn San Jose of Christ the King parish in Hollywood concurs, saying that John Paul II’s humility and missionary and evangelical zeal were “truly inspirational.”
“With every spoken word, there was a sense of welcoming and warmth,” said Cristy Castillo, director of religious education at St. Jerome parish in Westchester. John Paul II’s message was transcendent, she added, recounting that his message brought about her realization that change to the Church was possible.
“I remember watching his address during the 2002 World Youth Day. At that precise moment, I knew that I wanted to work with teens and young adults,” she said. “Many times these two age groups feel neglected and forgotten. But if we can grab their attention, just like John Paul II did back in 2002, together we can bring about the difficult task of uplifting and building up the civilization of love.”
Anastacio Hinojosa of Denver agrees. He said that St. John Paul II called all of us to “dive in and love freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully” in thought, word, and deed.
The call, Hinojosa added, was not something he merely stated, wrote about, and studied, but rather “something he simultaneously lived and presented to the world.” In Hinojosa’s own life, that significant call guided his own decision to become a theologian “for our Holy Mother, the Church” and to “enter into matrimony with my lovely wife, Megan.”
Almost 10 years after his death, John Paul II’s example is not lost on the youth. For Leno Ceballos growing up as a child in San Diego, seeing the pope on television and learning from his mother about this good and holy man is an ongoing process.
“His writings help me understand my faith better and at the same time, I see more and more why my Mom said he was holy and the definition of a good man,” he said.
Lord Anthony Advincula of St. Peter’s Italian Church sees the late pope’s life as a lesson he hopes to exemplify and share with others.
“Pope John Paul II taught me the tenants of humility, dignity, service to others, prayer with forward action, living life simply, and understanding that the theoretical without putting into praxis is useless,” he said.
“If I can only be half the man he was,” added Advincula, “that would be an amazing accomplishment.”