Two years ago, in the midst of the pandemic, I read a book about the life of Saint John Paul II and I was deeply moved when I came across these words written by the Polish Pope:
I testified that Divine Providence led me by the hand during the war. And it was then that I discovered my priestly vocation. Right in the midst of that tragic experience of the war, I found the way for my own life. (Gaeta, Saverio. John Paul II—The Story of My Life: Collected Memories. Pauline Books & Media. March 1, 2011.)
On September 1, 1939, the beginning of the Second World War, Karol Wojtyla was still a teenager at 19 years old. For this young man the suffering of the war represented the entrance door to holiness, the tool in the hand of Divine Providence to lead the young Polish man to discover the “way for his own life” as he himself called it. What a contradiction! What a beautiful mystery! A tragedy, such a war, turns out to be the root of a holy life! “My ways are not your ways; my thoughts are not your thoughts….” says the prophet Isaiah in reference to God. (Isaiah 55:8)
This led me to think that the suffering of the pandemic had to be the way to holiness for our teenagers as well. Right away, together with other missionary priests spread around the United States, I felt the need to organize pilgrimages for the youth to help them to discover their vocation, the “way” for their own life prepared by that same Divine Providence that led then Karol Wojtyla to discover his.
Last year, we missionary priests brought hundreds of youth on a pilgrimage to Gettysburg in Pennsylvania while, this summer, we decided to go to the root of our faith: the Holy Land. At first, I thought that it was going to be impossible because of the money. Our youths come from low‑income families and there was no way to financially support them so far away for at least 10 days. Then, the words that a holy man once told me dawned on me: “Never make a decision thinking about money. Make a decision only by asking yourself if it is the will of God…because if it is the will of God, don’t worry, the money will come.” Prophetic words. We put ourselves in the hands of the Lord. We told the youth that God was going to provide and give them a sign that he cares for them and it happened! The youth organized raffles, car washes, concerts in the streets and many other activities. Many benefactors also surprised us with their generosity (including Build the Faith)! God provided and we brought 500 youth to the Holy Land for 10 days!
During those 10 days Christ made His presence felt among us. Many of the youth came loaded with their sins and found forgiveness, burdened with sufferings and found consolation, trapped in their own rebellion against their parents and found reconciliation! In addition, many, many of them discovered, like Karol Wojtyla, that God was calling them to the consecrated life. How do I know this? Well, I will explain. On the last day of our pilgrimage we gathered with the youth from all over the US on the mountain where Jesus gave us the Beatitudes. We were more than 8,000. Amazing!
After the proclamation of the Gospel and a vocational catechesis we asked who felt that God was calling him or her to the consecrated life. Remarkably, approximately 200 boys expressed their desire to enter the seminary to become priests and 300 girls expressed their desire to enter the monastery!!!
As the evil of Second World War mysteriously turned into a good for Karol Wojtyla, so, too, has the evil of the pandemic been for our youth!
My name is Andrea Povero. I was born in a town called Ivrea, close to Turin, Italy.
I am almost 35 years old and I am the last one of 4 children.
When I decided to enter the seminary, I chose to enter into a “missionary seminary.” I went to a retreat close to Rome and there, together with 300 young men, I put my name into a basket. In another basket were the names of the all the missionary seminaries around the world. When my name was pulled from one basket, it was matched with the name “Boston” from the other basket.
I was sent to Boston in November 2007. I became a priest by the grace of God on May 19, 2018.
For the past three years I have been the Parochial Vicar of three parishes: St. Thomas Aquinas and Our Lady of Lourdes in Jamaica Plain and Saint Mary of the Angels in Roxbury.