Next week the Holy Father will be visiting Cuba and the United States for the first time. What a terrific opportunity for the church and the United States to be able to host this great leader who will be addressing a joint session of Congress and meeting with the president of the United States and other dignitaries. He will also be meeting with prisoners and others on the margins of our society and visit the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center.
The main purpose for his trip is the World Meeting of Families, which is hosted by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and my dear friend and fellow Kansan, Archbishop Charles Chaput. (He and I attended the same seminary high school in Victoria, Kan.)
From the Diocese of Green Bay, 100 pilgrims will be traveling to the World Meeting of the Families and I am really looking forward to accompanying them for most of this trip.
This pope is mightily pushing us as a church — as bishops and priests, as lay leaders and the whole family of the church — to reach out to a world which has become increasingly busy and distracted from keeping centered on the things that really matter in life: the love of God and the love of others, especially the marginalized and the poor.
His visit to this country will both encourage and challenge us to live the Gospel of Jesus, the Gospel of Life and the family, while reaching beyond our own comfort zones. I have been able to be in his presence and to meet him for about 15 seconds in June 2014, but pastoral love pours from his heart to the people.
I remember when Pope John Paul II visited Denver in 1993. Several priests, Bishop Arthur Tafoya and I took around 400 young people from the Diocese of Pueblo to World Youth Day in Denver. His visit transformed the whole State of Colorado and the surrounding region. As the Archbishop of Denver at the time, Cardinal James Stafford, said: “Wherever the shadow of Peter falls, great graces and challenges (crosses) follow.” The pope’s visit to the Northeast will bring great blessings and challenges.