Archbishop Peter Wells has been many places: Germany, Rome, Australia, South Africa and more. As a former Vatican official and current papal nuncio to South Africa, he often travels at the beck and call of his superiors and even the pope.
But it was his nieces Tori and Lydia Wells who called him to his first-ever Steubenville conference the weekend of July 13.
“It’s life-giving,” he said of the event. His nieces asked him to attend the conference when they learned he would be on vacation in the United States for Steubenville STL Mid-America Week 1.
A native of Guthrie, Okla., Archbishop Wells served in the Section for General Affairs in the Vatican starting in 2002, and in 2009 became the office’s assessor. He was appointed apostolic nuncio to South Africa by Pope Francis in 2016.
He also praised the conference’s “eucharistic center” as well as the theme “Revealed.” He compared the word to the Italian equivalent, “velare” meaning “veil.”
“We’re taking away the veil” over Jesus’ eucharistic presence and God the Father’s love, he said. He related this revelation to the need to evangelize, saying young Catholics should make the revelation of God known in their lives.
“We should never be afraid in expressing who we are,” he said.
While he has not attended a Steubenville gathering before, he has gone to many similar gatherings between World Youth Days and events in South Africa.
“When I come back, it’s like I’ve been on a retreat. I come back reinvigorated.”
A former member of the Roman Curia, Archbishop Wells sees a close link between conferences such as Steubenville and the upcoming synod on young people in Rome.
“It’s absolutely germane to what’s happening in Rome,” he said. “When we see young people come together like we’re seeing here, they are making their presence and their voice known to the leadership of the Church.”
“Your bishops very clearly see what’s going on here, and cannot help but be impressed and moved by it.”
He emphasized listening in this relationship between young people and the Church hierarchy, asking what they need from the Church.
“What do we need to do as a Church to address that and to accompany them in their pilgrimage of faith?” he said. He highlighted “the importance for young people to have elderly people listen to them, but also to listen to their elders.”
Speaking about the Church in South Africa, he noted that there are distinct churches for Catholics of European and of African descent, and that the latter group is experiencing growth among its youth. “It truly is a generation of great promise,” he said. He cited the importance of families in this, who in South Africa are “very religious” and open about the faith.
“Any time that we are open about our faith and willing to speak to others about it, the Spirit moves in them. Not only moves in the person who is witnessing, but also those who are lucky enough to hear the witness.”
He also said that while ultimately we do not know what the Holy Spirit has in store, he is “optimistic” about the young Church, and said that “in the next decades, we could see a real Renaissance in our faith and in our Church, and it will always be different than the one that we think that we need.”