Story Behind (Join us!)

Go to and join our 8 week journey through Lent leading up to the beatification of John Paul II - featuring a new video and reflection every week!

Greetings Fellow Sojourners in Christ!

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."

We had a great, faith-filled team, and threw the net out. Within months over 500 jumped on board. We were one of the largest groups in the United States. It would be an eight-day pilgrimage full of Spirit-filled prayer, music, catechesis, culture, conversation, adventure.

For me this was quite personal. John Paul II had been monumental in my faith formation. He helped me more fully understand the great dignity of the human person as imago dei (image of God).  He helped me navigate my vocation through seminary into discovery of my uniquely "priestly" identity and calling as a husband and father. Complementary to this he helped me understand sacramental priesthood and consecrated life as revelations of our eternal destiny; we were fashioned to give ourselves completely to God.  Family is not only called to image the Trinity, but the mutual, self-giving love is a participation in the very life of the Trinity! Family makes God known to the world! Family living its identity and mission is thus the cornerstone of civilization. This awakening informed our calling, our founding

Back to pilgrimage planning, there was one, huge but beautiful "bump" in the road. You would think that with all the logistics associated with this pilgrimage, with all our hopes and expectations, that two, graduate school-educated adults open to God's greatest gift of life could do some basic math!  A couple months into our pregnancy we discovered that our fourth child would be due the same week as the pilgrimage! I would not be able to experience the grand finale of our year of preparation, to meet my hero. Needless to say, we recognized in this a paradox so common to faith: our "decrease" would precisely correspond to an "increase" - an opportunity to more intimately share in the work of John Paul II.  On July 31 we gave this faith a name: Catherine.

Moving with that theme, many of the other parishes came with flags representing their countries or parishes. Our flag was quite idiosyncratic: a pair of blue footprints, one foot in front of the other, on bright yellow. These flags were seen many times that week through various news venues  throughout the world. Many asked us if we were from "Footopia."

The symbol signified two things: (1) Along with Our Lady (blue), our desire to constantly be moving forward in Christ, to trust in Him for everything, and; (2) Our commitment to the protection of unborn children. After all, the vast majority of these pilgrims were survivors of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision (1973) that took away protection of the unborn through all nine months of pregnancy.

We gave Max a camera and told him to capture everything. He overnighted the tapes. I kept producing back at home.  By today's standards, the visual quality is wanting, but it's "Bethlehem stable" perfect... capturing the humble reality of so many hearts deeply discovering God's love, purpose and presence in their lives.

It's amazing to see what God has done with these participants since then. A good number who were seminarians (or even just in a high school youth group) are now priests. At least four have made professions to religious life. Many now are in beautiful, Catholic marriages with families of their own... all joyfully embracing their role to build a civilization of love.

As our pilgrimage was eight days, we will release one video corresponding to each day of that pilgrimage, a new one every week (beginning with Day 1, the following week, Day 2, and so forth), leading up to the Beatification of John Paul II (May 1, 2011). We do this with great gratitude, and continued prayer for God's will to be done "on earth as it is in heaven." We invite you to join us in praying every day the Abandonment Prayer we had been praying throughout the pilgrimage.  Blessed John Paul - pray for us!
------------------------------- (Heaven begins here) is an outreach of (a nonprofit organization). Our mission with M2W is to invite all, particularly those who profess to be Catholics, to more fully, deeply discover the love of God that impels us to a life of worship! Stay tuned!