Arland Nichols and Chris Stravitsch were friends at Texas A&M University in the early 2000’s. St. John Paul II was the only Pope they knew and from his witness and teaching their world-view developed.
St. John Paul II’s message to recognize the “urgency of the task” in proclaiming the Gospel of life and love spoke to co-founders Arland Nichols and Chris Stravitsch, who had been friends since their days at Texas A&M University in the early 2000s. While in Rome in 2013, and after many conversations and a great deal of preparatory work, Arland discerned the name, mission, and charism of a new organization that would be devoted to perpetuating St. John Paul’s legacy and passion for human life and for families.
Support from Church leaders came quickly as Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller and Archbishop José Gomez became Episcopal Advisors and Daniel Cardinal DiNardo formally recognized the St. John Paul II Foundation as “Catholic”. This was followed by the generous gift of a first class relic of the saint’s blood given by his personal secretary of 40 years, Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz. When outreach to friends yielded openness to spiritual and financial support, the founders were confirmed in their mission and “put out into the deep”.
The first initiative of the new Foundation was “Converging Roads”, which was based on an earlier program that focused on equipping Catholic medical professionals to practice the highest ethical and medical standards. In 2013, Archbishop García-Siller requested a conference modeled upon Converging Roads, but tailored for the priests of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Thus, the Shepherd’s Heart initiative was created. The Together in Holiness initiative was launched with a conference in 2014 in the Diocese of Orlando, as a response to a great need for marriage enrichment and support for young families.
The Foundation was officially launched in May of 2014 as the Church celebrated the canonization of St. John Paul II. From our founding, it has been our goal to grow a world-class Catholic organization rooted in the life and teaching of St. John Paul II. By God’s grace, and with the support of many incredible friends, the St. John Paul II Foundation will continue to grow and serve life and family.