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The Wanderer

August 18, 1994

National Youth Day Hears
Exhortation From Mother Teresa

By FRANK MORRISS

DENVER A spoken message from Calcutta by Mother Teresa and a protest at a Planned Parenthood facility and "education center" highlighted National Youth Day in this city, where Pope John Paul II led the giant World Youth Day just one year ago.

Planned Parenthood personnel at the clinic a few blocks from the state capitol building were taken by surprise when 500 young persons showed up in front of it. The clinic workers locked the doors and called police, though the protesters carried nothing more dangerous than rosaries and pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They had marched several miles in 98 degree heat, singing along the way, from McNichols Arena on the city's west side to the capitol hill clinic.

Leading them was Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. He said the demonstrators were taking a stand against contraception and abortion, both mainstays of Planned Parenthood's philosophy.

Earlier, the some 1,500 young people attending National Youth Day had heard Mother Teresa by loudspeaker in McNichols Arena. The nun, who had wanted to attend in person, prayed for the Mother of God to strengthen love within families and to draw Catholics away from violence and abortion. The message came after Denver Archbishop J. Francis Stafford opened the event by introducing the famed speaker.

National Youth Day is reported to be the idea of a group of young people from Santa Clara, Calif., who last year attended World Youth Day. Kevin Cunningham, NYD director, said it was a response to the Holy Father's urging that youth enlighten the world. Young people from many states came "to relive the experience of World Youth Day," in the words of Mark Davignon, a 28-year-old participant from Delta in western Colorado.

Though some 20,000 had been hoped for, attendance was somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000. However, Bishop Leo Drona of the Philippines, where the next World Youth Day will be held this coming January, told those who had returned to Denver that he was "happy to see that the enthusiasm and spirit of World Youth Day 1993 still lives among Catholic young people of the United States." Bishop Drona celebrated the opening Mass at the Denver follow-up event.

The Rocky Mountain News coverage of the event included a story about how both membership and youth interest in the Catholic Church had benefited from last year's visit of the Pope to World Youth Day. It cited a parish in northern Colorado, St. Peter's, Greeley, which had only a handful of young persons involved in parish programs prior to last August. But this January, 50 from that parish alone will be going to the Philippines. Some 200 are expected to go from the archdiocese. The Rocky Mountain News story reported that both new Catholics and new seminarians have grown in numbers since last August. The number of converts has reportedly doubled, and some parishes lacking youth organizations before the Pope's visit have been able to begin them.

Singing at the National Youth Day Mass was the John Paul II Chorale, formed last year during World Youth Day. It is made up of 135 singers, ages 13 to 39, who come from the Front Range of the Rockies. The chorale is raising money for a planned trip to Europe in September. It is the only U.S. group invited to compete for the Palestrina Prize competition in Italy.

 

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