The Wilke family is an amazing family deeply rooted in their faith in Jesus and their love for one another and the community. Christopher Wilke was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Bile-Duct Cancer, very rare for a young boy of the age of 12. Christopher's soul went home to God on March 20th 2014 while being held by his Mother Lisa and Father Joe. He loved playing baseball and was a huge fan of the Angels.
I was so inspired by the faith of Christopher’s family and support showed by the community. He inspired me to embrace life with courage and with a gentle smile. I anointed Christopher moments before his soul went to the arms of our Lord Jesus. He is constantly in my prayers. I have decided to run in the New York Marathon on November 6th for which I am dedicating my run to his memory. I have trained for 6 months getting up at 4:30 AM to train for this event. There were times when my legs were sore and I was tired and felt like quitting but, instead of giving up, I said a prayer for the Wilke family and remembered Christopher’s courage and zeal for life that I kept on running.
If you would like to contribute to the Change Works Foundation to help other families enduring similar illnesses please do so. Also keep me in your prayers as I run 26.2 miles.
God bless you,
Father Steve Davoren
By John Yep
Why do 2.6 million young people from around the world crash for the night on a random field in southern Poland?
It’s all thanks to a priest.
I crossed the Polish border, picked up my rental car and drove into town. That town, was Krakow, and I was joining literally millions of others for World Youth Day 2016. This tri-annual event brings together young adults from all cultures for a week of faith activities culminating with a visit from the current pope. For those who have been, they can swear on their grandmother’s bread pudding that it’s an event charged with joy and the power of the Holy Spirit. Allow me to explain.
After dropping off my car and clothes at the Air B&B where I would be staying for the week I ventured into the city that first evening. The city was absolutely bubbling over with joy, the kind of joy that only humans under thirty years of age are capable of generating.
There were colors, sounds, and smells which manifested the catholicity of our Catholic faith. Pilgrims flowed through the ancients streets, singing, dancing, and giving praise to their common god. Other pilgrims merely watched their family in the Lord while sitting down to enjoy the best of Polish cuisine. And still others, lined up by the thousands to wait their turn for the ultimate spiritual soul wash; the Sacrament of Confession.
It was this first night, after walking around town, that I was overcome with my own thoughts. Whoever started these tri-annual worldwide Catholic family reunions was an absolute genius. Of course they are officially put on by the Vatican, who teams up with the local diocese, but who was the person who had the original idea?
And then his picture came into mind. He was a son of Poland, a survivor of two of the most evil regimes of the 20th century. He was a poet, writer, athlete, professor, scholar, and a genuine down to earth human being. But most importantly, he was a priest. A priest, who became Pope John Paul II.
Only if you had grown up on a remote Pacific Island could you possibly not have heard of the man; perhaps the greatest of the 20th century. He did so much, traveled so far, and influenced so many people.
“John Paul Two, We Love You”, was the cry that met his ears whenever he walked among the crowds. And the crowd in turn would hear, “John Paul Two, He Loves You!” He loved people and people loved him. They felt the very love of Christ come through his heart to them. For this reason he was exactly what a priest should be, a bridge between God and man.
And this John Paul, had a dream back in 1984. He wrote, “I dreamt about getting young people together from around the world so that they could experience Christ, who is forever young.” And thus the world youth days were born. They have attracted some of the largest crowds in human history. The fruits go without saying. An untold number of people have found their vocations here, whether to the married or consecrated life. And an even greater number have simply met Christ himself.
If Dante himself had stepped inside the world of World Youth Day 2016, I reckon he would have taken his, “all ye who enter here leave hope behind”, to become a sign for the World Youth Day entrance with the altered words, “all ye who enter here shall find hope inside.”
For hope is the word that best captures the spirit that reigned on the fields outside the city of Krakow in the dog days of the 2016 Summer. Hope, because 2.6 million young people had gathered together and had found the Lord.
Hope, because it gave me, a future priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a vision of what a priest could do if he was faithful to the Lord’s call. As I gazed upon the myriad number of individual faces, I remembered again the man behind these world youth days.
It’s all thanks to a priest, and I want to be like that priest. I want to bring many souls to Christ, and then fade away forever, into the annals of history.
By Jaime Garnica
If I had to decide on one thing which moved me spiritually and personally the most on the pilgrimage I was on this past July 25 through August 6, I would have to say that it is to not worry and simply keep all faith and trust in God. Our destinations for the two-week pilgrimage were Rome, World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, and the Holy Land. In total, there were about thirty-three pilgrims that I went with from St. Pius X in Santa Fe Springs. Amongst the group, was our chaplain Father Ismael Robles, a fellow seminarian from St. John’s seminary who will soon be ordained a priest in June 2017, Martin Gonzalez, and myself as a second year seminarian at the college seminary of Juan Diego House. Although I had been on a missionary trip to Nicaragua last year in March, I had never been on a pilgrimage before. By the time I decided to actually go on this trip, I barely had a month to pay for the trip but thanks be to God, the pilgrimage was paid on time.
Upon arriving in Europe, we first got to see St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City, and got a tour of Rome. The following day we flew to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day. While in Poland, we visited the Divine Mercy Shrine, the Sanctuary of St. Pope John Paul II, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Wadowice, the monastery of Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, and spent a majority of our time in Krakow. We were also blessed to have Pope Francis pass right in front of us in his first audience in Błonia Park. During our stay in Poland, there were two precise moments which moved me not only as a young adult, but as a young Catholic adult who is living in an ever more secular world which not only tries to push God out of society, but also tries to impose “values” which simply go against our consciences. The first moment was in Auschwitz-Birkenau when we were walking through the camps and a friend asked “How can God have allowed this to happened?”. I had been asked that question before concerning other events, but for the Holocaust I could not think of an answer. I myself found it difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that millions of innocent people were systematically killed in the very grounds which we were walking on, just for being who they were. I did not know what to respond with then, but the only thing I could think of, was to pray and hope to have the same faith and courage that many of those victims had. To have courageous faith like that of St. Maximillian Kolbe who volunteered to take the place of a man who was going to be executed was all I could think of while there. Since then, I have only noticed myself asking more and more for his intercession; to have courageous faith, indiscriminate of the circumstance or the consequences.
The other moment was when we went to Czestochowa to visit the monastery of Jasna Góra. While we were waiting outside, a group from the Neocatechumenal Way (“the Way”) were singing and praising. Some from my group and I joined them and while we were praising, another group from the Way arrived and joined us. Their instrument players went to the center of the crowd, tuned their instruments, and got in sync with the group that was already playing. The other members formed another dancing line and also got in sync with us. These were young Catholic adults who were from completely different cultures and backgrounds, yet we were all praising in unison the same true God. It was no more than twenty minutes, but in that short time I was able to witness just a portion of what I would continue to see while in World Youth Day: a young, vibrant, universal church full of energy and ready to set the world on fire.
Not long after WYD, we flew to the Holy Land to begin our spiritual journey in the land where Jesus lived, died, and resurrected just two millennia ago. The day we arrived, we celebrated mass in a retreat house by the Sea of Galilee and it was after celebrating mass that it was starting to hit us that we were actually in the Holy Land. Growing up you imagine what it looks like and what the Holy Land is, so it was a bit difficult for me to actually realize that I was actually in the land where Jesus Christ used to be. Not long into our trip, our tour guide asked me how I felt and I told him that I felt strange knowing I was in the Holy Land. The advice he gave me was simple and straight to the point: “Forget what you think you know. You are here where our Lord Jesus Christ lived and walked. Forget what you imagined as a child, you are here now and as a Christian this is your home”. Throughout our trip there we would be reminded that the Holy Land was our home as Christians, that Christianity is the salt of the land.
When we were staying in Bethlehem, we were able to visit the major churches and got to do the Via Crucis through Jerusalem and we ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Many of the pilgrims were in tears while we were there but for me, I felt a sense of sadness while at the Church of the Nativity. At the Nativity, we were able to do a procession and celebrate mass but the entire time we were there, I knew that this little child which came into our world was going to have a fate which no man should have to go through: he would be falsely accused, betrayed by his friends, tortured, and killed- all this while his mother watched. I saw the baby Jesus as an incredible gift to us and yet we would only betray and sin against him. At the Holy Sepulcher, I saw joy: Christ dies but he resurrects- he conquers death.
Near the end of our trip and realizing that we would be leaving, I only had gratitude for everything that I was able to experience. I got to know people from my group who were once strangers but are now family, with people from where my ancestors came from (Spain), and also with fellow Americans from around the US. I learned a variety of things from them, but what we all had in common was that we all sought Christ, in one way or another. They have hope in Martin, all seminarians, and I that we would be formed to be another Christ and that we would not be one with the times, but instead stand out just as Jesus did and help others. The pilgrimage let me see the universal church active and alive during World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. We ended with visiting the Holy Land, the place where a man named Jesus Christ would come to challenge the status quo, and to teach us of the infinite mercy and love of God. The pilgrimage did what any pilgrimage would hopefully do and it reminded me of the amazing, loving God that we all have, and reinforced my trust in the Lord that the vocation I am following may truly be mine. I do not know why God may be calling me to the priesthood but what I do know, is that there is a void that cannot be filled with material objects or anyone on this Earth, but only with Christ. If I am able to help in the mission to bring others to the peace and love which I found in Christ, then I humbly answer the call and hope that it is truly what God asks of me.
O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them and
shield them from the world's contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit and
may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation
here and in heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.
- St. Therese of Lisieux