by Jack Figge
Special to The Leaven
Before the gathering of American youth at World Youth Day, Rick Cheek ran into an old acquaintance — Bishop Robert Barron, founder of the Word on Fire Institute.
Bishop Barron was walking toward the stage to speak to the 20,000 American teens gathered in Parque da Quinta das Conchas on Aug. 2 when he was briefly interrupted.
“I called out to Bishop Barron, saying, ‘Hey, this is Rick Cheek,’” said Cheek. “He waved and walked two steps before he stopped, turned around and said, ‘You are Jared’s dad.’”
“Him stopping by and saying, ‘Hey, I just want you to know that I think of Jared often and pray for you often’ — that was beautiful,” said Cheek.
The consultant for the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation for youth, Cheek met Bishop Barron in 2011, six years after his son Jared died.
Jared was a seminarian for the archdiocese and was taught by Bishop Barron when he was on the faculty at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois.
“When I first met Bishop Barron, he said that he still has one of Jared’s papers that he refers to once in a while. That really touched my heart — that he still frequently thinks about Jared,” said Cheek.
After catching up with Cheek, Bishop Barron spoke about the new evangelization and called on Catholics to leave behind “safe spaces” and embrace their mission.
“A religion that puts a man on a cross is not a religion that prioritizes safety,” he said. “The saints don’t strike me as people that focused on safety.”
Applause broke out as Bishop Barron concluded his talk. Seminarians from the archdiocese chanted, “MVP! MVP! MVP!”
“What really hit me the most was the call to mission at the end when he said that our religion put a man on the cross,” said College II seminarian Jimmy Mendoza. “Our religion is not one that holds up safety.
“To me, that was a call to mission, of motivation that the Lord is calling me to action, to not just live out of fear but live out of love and joy.”
Later that night, the 20,000 young people gathered in the park fell silent and dropped to their knees during a eucharistic procession.
“[Eucharistic] adoration was incredible,” said Mendoza. “Everybody around me was standing and talking. I couldn’t see anything. But as soon as Jesus processed by, everyone knelt [and] was silent for the entire hour.
“With 20,000 Americans, I don’t know any other time it has been silent for longer than five minutes.”
To view the full album of photos from World Youth Day, click here.