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Young and Faithful

Like so many Catholics his age, Conor Dugan (age 31) was touched deeply by the witness and pontificate of Pope John Paul II. He is now one of the organizers of the John Paul the Great Legacy Project, which was held October 17 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.

Dugan lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife of six years and their two children.

Fathers for Good: What is the purpose of the JP II project?

Dugan: The John Paul the Great Legacy Project was inspired by a desire to really make known all the various ways that John Paul the Great influenced the Church and society. Over his 26-year pontificate, John Paul II left a lasting mark on our common faith and the world. To name but a few: the Theology of the Body, the authentic and authoritative interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, the Revised Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Divine Mercy Sunday, and a tremendous number of contemporary canonized saints, including married saints.

In addition, there have been a deepened understanding of the human person, increased vocations and young adult faith through World Youth Days.

We want to begin a trend of truly discovering and celebrating what a great blessing the Church was given in the man Karol Wojtyla.

FFG: Do you have a favorite memory of the Pope? 

Dugan: I had the privilege of attending vespers at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 31, 1999, and being in St. Peter’s Square at the stroke of midnight January 1, 2000. Several days later, along with about 100 others, I had a personal audience with my hero John Paul II. 

When he gave me a rosary, I felt as if I was the only one in the room with him. It is a memory I will never forget. While it is hard to top that experience, I was also greatly moved and affected by my attendance at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. Seeing the Pope, as infirm as he was, making such an effort to be with us young people, was a great grace.

FFG: What aspect of his legacy do you appreciate the most?

Dugan: What moves me the most about John Paul II are not his numerous contributions to theology — which obviously are great — but his personal witness, the manner in which he lived such an integrated and free life. He is among a handful of Christians whom have I have known with such a free, lively, and engaged humanity.

This is a man who was robust in his love for life. For instance, he was a man secure in his promise of celibacy, yet never evincing a fear of that promise or a rigidity in living out his chastity. He closely collaborated with women. Too often we Christians want to reduce our humanity by latching onto moralisms instead of living a Christianity that flows from an encounter with the real person of Christ.

Two of my favorite lines from the late Holy Father are: (1) “[W]e shall not be saved by a formula, but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us”; and (2) “Before being a sum of doctrines or a rule for salvation, Christianity is the event of an encounter.”

John Paul II lived this with his whole being and he inspires me to live this way too.

For more information, visit the website of the John Paul the Great Legacy Project.