As His Beatification Nears, the JPII Generation Tells Its Story


Beloved Pope John Paul II, already acclaimed “the Great” by so many, shaped the faith of millions of Catholics for whom he was the face and mind of the Church all during their formative years. With his beatification nearing, we are journeying together to a very special Lent. In addition to the graces of any Lenten season entered with a genuine longing for holiness, this Lent is shaping up to be a time of special reflection on the impact of John Paul II.

Such a historic and world changing papacy will reward years and even centuries of scrutiny.  But John Paul would be the first to say that changing the world is a task that passes by way of the human person. Every person matters.  Every person has the capacity for the greatness of the call of Christ, into which he or she may boldly enter, leaving fear behind. “Be not afraid!”

It is thus to persons that we turn, to persons who lives were changed forever by John Paul II, to their stories.  Greg Schlueter is one of those with a story to tell. He begins like this:

The year was 2001. My wife and I had only three of our current seven beautiful children (one in heaven).  I was serving as director of the Diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Erie.

Following the 9/11 tragedy (2001), many said we’d be foolish to try and organize a faith event that would take young people out of the country. What’s more, it would cost a lot of money, be quite uncomfortable and challenging, and “it’s summertime… kids just aren’t interested in faith.” So they said.  But JP II asked us to step out in faith, to join him and thousands of youth around the world in Toronto for World Youth Day in July, 2002. In the midst of a culture that distorts and diminishes our God-like identity, he invited us to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ “from the rooftops.”

That Toronto World Youth Day, coming on the heels of 9/11, coming at a time in his life when JPII was touching the world with his great witness to dignity in aged physical suffering, would forever etch itself into the hearts and minds of the participants. Throughout this Lent, for eight weeks, leading up to the beatification of JPII on May 1, Catholic Lane will join with Greg Schlueter in reliving WYD 2002 through the personal stories of eight people who were there, including several who subsequently became priests. Catholic Lane will bring you their stories and link to actual video footage of WYD 2002, culminating in footage from the Mass celebrated by JPII on July 28, 2002.

Whet your appetite now by visiting and reading the rest of Greg’s story.  Find out the surprising reason why his months of preparation for WYD 2002 did not result in him seeing the pope in Toronto after all. Just click on “The Story” at  Click on “WYD Message” to recall Pope John Paul II announcing the theme of WYD in words that still ring in the hearts of all who heard him:

“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world”…

It is the nature of human beings, and especially youth, to seek the Absolute, the meaning and fullness of life. Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart. You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society. Read more…

We start with the first story, that of Fr. Rich Toohey, on Friday, March 11. We hope it will prompt your memories and you will share your own stories with us — of World Youth Days past, or of how JPII impacted you.  This Lent, let’s celebrate together the legacy Pope John Paul II left us in the JPII generation.


About Author

Mary Kochan, former Senior Editor of CatholicExchange, is one of the founders and Editor-at-large of Raised as a third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Mary worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996. Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs. To arrange for Mary to speak at your event, you may contact her at