‘John Paul II’s dedication to young people revitalized the face of the Catholic Church’

Emily Stimpson, a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, was 25 when she first read Karol Wojtyla (who would soon to be Pope John Paul II)’s book, ‘Love and Responsibility.’

“Through his eyes,” she says, “I saw for the first time just how precious and how miraculous each human life is. I also came to understand my own dignity, not just as a person, but as a woman. John Paul II opened my eyes to a world of beauty and truth that I never knew existed.”

Known for his tremendous love for young people, many in the U.S. are remembering Pope John Paul II, who died Saturday at the Vatican, for the profound strides he made in reaching out to the youth of the Church.

Fr. Michael Scanlon T.O.R., chancellor of Ohio’s Franciscan University of Steubenville, said that he credits the pope’s proclamation of the “New Evangelization” as one of the key inspirations for the University’s development over the years.

"The most important occasion for the University”, Fr. Scanlon said, “was when I presented him with an honorary doctoral degree as well as a spiritual bouquet from hundreds of our students…The pope read each student's name and kept repeating, 'Ahh, the students, good.' Subsequently on very many occasions he mentioned Franciscan University to people, saying, 'Ahhh, a good university.'"

John Peirick, a junior theology major at Franciscan University said that, "I still have sorrow that this pope who is the model of my faith and the only pope I've ever known has died, but there's a sense of joy. The Church is gaining a new great saint, and he is no longer suffering but passing on to his next great adventure of living in the glory of God."

Jennifer Swanson, spokesperson for the international Catholic youth ministry, Life Teen, said Saturday that, “John Paul II's dedication to the youth of the world has revitalized the face of the Catholic Church. Life Teen, Inc. is grateful to the contributions made by the Holy Father during his time as Pope, including his commitment to World Youth Days.”

Life Teen said that earlier in the year, they produced a music video for teens around the world “honoring the life and holy example of the Pontiff, based on a rap song, Giovanni Paolo, written by Tom Booth, accompanied by Fr. Stan Fortuna.”

“The video”, Swanson said, “serves not just as a biography, but as a tribute to the Pontiff's courageous life.”

Barbara Morgan, a theology professor at Franciscan University added that she thinks John Paul would be saying, 'Don't be afraid of me not being here, and don't be afraid of what is happening in the world.”

“In Toronto, at World Youth Day 2002, he chronicled for the young people 80 years of dark things: Nazism, communism, terrorism. Yet he went on to say that there is nothing that can crush the hope that the Holy Spirit gives…That was coming from a man who was arrested by the Nazis and came within a hair's-breadth of going to a concentration camp.”

Added Stimpson: “He had the mind of a genius, the soul of a saint, and the heart of a poet. There is more loveliness in the world because he lived in it.”

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