by Jack Figge
Special to The Leaven
Deacon Jody Madden’s phone pinged.
It was a text from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann asking how the group was doing after the all-night prayer vigil at World Youth Day.
During his time in Lisbon, the archbishop often tried to escape the hotel where the U.S. bishops were staying to check in on his flock. But when that was difficult, he sent texts and called the chaperones to make sure they were safe.
“They take good care of us bishops on these pilgrimages,” said Archbishop Naumann. “But our pilgrims really lived this kind of heroic life, in a crowd of 1.5 million, that can be kind of scary for somebody coming from Kansas.
“I’m so grateful to our chaperones, our priests and all the people that take care of them. But ultimately, it’s my responsibility. And there’s a lot of things that can go wrong on a pilgrimage like this. So, I want to check in and see [if] our pilgrims need anything.”
Archbishop Naumann flew with archdiocesan pilgrims from Chicago, stayed with the group in Fátima for two days, frequently celebrated daily Mass for them and joined them for events.
“Personally, this pilgrimage has been a grace to be able to spend time with brother bishops in a more informal atmosphere than that at our meetings,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“But the greatest grace is that World Youth Day gives me great hope for the future,” he continued, “to be with our pilgrims and to see their openness to the Lord and their love for the Lord.”
Pilgrims like Brennan Johnston, a college student from Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park, were grateful for his frequent appearances.
“Archbishop Naumann is one of the coolest people I have ever met,” said Johnston. “He is a great spiritual father [and] such an amazing shepherd.
“The way he loves the Lord and burns for God — to have that example with us while we do things that aren’t fun, like sleeping in a mud pit at the vigil — to see his care and love for us as well as God has been such an incredible grace.”
While the youth have learned from the archbishop’s example, they, too, have inspired him.
“I think we can get discouraged in the United States,” said Archbishop Naumann. “We talk about Mass attendance decreasing in some places, and we can have this sense of the churches growing smaller.
“But when you come here and see people from all over the world, it’s really great encouragement to be together with the church throughout the world and see its youth, to see its vibrancy.”
To view the full album of photos from World Youth Day, click here.