Avery Cardinal Dulles says, "of course, he had a special affinity with the young."
At Madison's St. Paul's University Catholic Center this weekend, a scene that would make Pope John Paul II Second proud.
"Early on in his priesthood, he spent many years just living with young people," Father Randy Timmerman says.
Here, a sea of young faces watch, listen and learn. The annual series of workshops teach youth how they can bring their faith to the streets and the minds of college campuses across the country.
"People have come from Oregon, New Jersey, Florida, Texas ... many from Illinois and Wisconsin. We've got more than 330 people," Timmerman says.
All of them carrying out a mission embraced by the Pope while watching for word of his fate. UW student Peter Weiss says, "It's been kind of difficult. It's a new situation for me because I've grown up with one pope my whole life."
This community's pastor says hearts are tender. Timmerman says, "in the midst of that opening of the heart, people want to come together, need to come together and how powerful an experience for 300 young people to come together in the name of Christ, in name of the church in union, in prayer with the Holy Father in his time."
Avery Cardinal Dulles came from New York to share his experiences with these young Catholic leaders. He will travel to Rome for the pope's funeral. "I won't be part of the conclave because I'm over 80 years old, but I will stay around for election of pope and his installation."
But with the end of one pope's rich ministry, comes the opportunity for another. "I don't know what the next pope will do; he'll probably have a very different style. I don't think he can hope to imitate John Paul II in his particular style," Cardinal Dulles says.
Meantime, a message from Pope John Paul reads "be not afraid, " survives in the hearts and minds of the faithful.
Dulles says, "I just feel that he's going onto his reward. Certainly if he doesn't get the reward, the chances for rest of us are pretty slim."