Archbishop consecrates Archdiocese of Denver to Immaculate Heart of Mary

Therese Bussen

On the centennial of Our Lady’s final apparition to the Fatima children and the Miracle of the Sun on Oct. 13, hundreds were gathered in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and thousands more gathered in parishes across the archdiocese as Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila consecrated Denver to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Watch the prayer vigil here

The event, which was live-streamed across the world and into participating parishes in the archdiocese, began with a procession and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After some moments of silence, Father Ryan O’Neill, vocations director at the Archdiocese of Denver, led the congregation in the rosary, followed by an exhortation.

Father O’Neill called attention to the day of Friday, the 13th, which is typically considered a superstitious, unlucky day to some. But instead, the archdiocese was gathered on such a day for sacred blessing.

“We are here in the darkness on an unlucky day to celebrate a beautiful, holy thing, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima,” Father O’Neill said. “Today is a very lucky day for us, any by lucky, I mean blessed. In the midst of our fears comes a woman dressed in white.”

After some time of silent adoration before the Eucharist, Archbishop Aquila also addressed the faithful before the final prayer of consecration, recalling the miracle that occurred 100 years ago to the day.

“Our Lady said, ‘In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph,’” Archbishop Aquila said. “And in that, we see the heart of Mary and her love for Jesus. Her last recorded words were, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ She constantly reminds us of her son and her deepest desire is that we be as pure in heart as she is pure of heart.”

Archbishop Aquila reminded the faithful that Our Lord “promises to give us a new heart,” and that Mary wants us to open our hearts to salvation and to Jesus.

He went on to emphasize four themes that will lead us deeper in intimacy with Jesus: The gift of faith, conversion, praying for peace and remembering Our Lady’s message of hope.

“Mary invites us to put our faith in God, to believe in his love for the world and to put our trust and confidence in him,” Archbishop Aquila said. We also need to pray for our own conversion, as well as the conversion of the whole world, he continued.

“She also reminds us to pray for peace in the world,” Archbishop Aquila pointed out. “We may not be in a World War today, but there are many small wars going on. We see threats of war with North Korea and there’s that angst — but how often do we ask the Lord, grant our world peace?

The Consecration of the Archdiocese of Denver to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on October 13, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

“The peace the Lord gives is not without suffering or the cross,” he added. “But it is strong. It is the peace Mary knew at the foot of the cross…so, we are praying for that peace today.”

Archbishop Aquila concluded by reminding the archdiocese that with Mary’s apparitions always comes a message of hope — that life has meaning, and that there is eternal life.

Father O’Neill also highlighted three events in Mary’s life that offered us an example of her virtues to imitate: The Annunciation, the wedding feast at Cana, and her love of the cross.

In the Annunciation, Father O’Neill said, “Mary receives the gift God wants to give her,” and that, often, we wish for things other than the great blessing God is trying to give us.

At Cana, Mary exhibited humble confidence. She points out a need and is very confident that Jesus will answer it the way he wants, Father O’Neill said.

“St. Therese prayed like that,” Father O’Neill said. “She said that even if things don’t go the way you want, remember that Jesus loves you so much that if you could see it, you would die of ecstasy. It’s not about what he gives, it’s about who he is.”

The third example of her virtue is at the cross.

“It didn’t feel good, but there was a choice. She chose the cross,” Father O’Neill said. “Every cross is a preparation for a greater blessing, a ripening of our soul for greater grace. I want you to see the cross as something really good coming your way.”

As the archdiocese joined the Archbishop in prayer of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the faithful prayed, “May every country and every person in the world come to know your maternal love for them…through your intercession, may every human being encounter you son, Jesus Christ, and become the person he desires them to be.” ­­

Hundreds of faithful were gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on October 13, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

“As we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let us pray for faith… to love Jesus as Mary loved Jesus, and pray for peace and let us pray for hope, rooted in the promise of eternal life,” Archbishop Aquila concluded. “It is only by keeping our hearts fixed on Jesus that this will come about.”

COMING UP: Vietnamese parish community raises $80,000 for storm relief

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About 800 Vietnamese refugees, immigrants and their relatives gathered on Veterans Day at Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Parish event center in Wheat Ridge, raising more than $80,000 for survivors of recent storms in Texas, Florida and central Vietnam.

“We dedicate this event to God, and to Mary,” said co-organizer Viet Hua. “We’ve been praying and asking for help, in God’s way, to glorify him in our effort to help those who suffer.”

It was an evening of food, music, dance and auction goods that sold for thousands more than market value in the spirit of exceeding an ambitious $75,000, one-night fundraising goal. Half the money will go to Gulf Coast recovery, and half will go to Vietnam.

Hua, a member of the parish’s Knights of Columbus chapter, said at least 100 men, women and children volunteered to organize and operate the event.

Denver-area businesses with Catholic and Vietnamese owners, managers and employees minimized overhead with donations of food, beverages, services and auction items.

It touches my heart now to help others – from a place where I can exercise my faith, where I can succeed, and where I can gather with community.”

“This is faith, fellowship and compassion at its finest hour,” said Sang Truong, marketing director of Denver’s Beverage World Specialties, which donated cases of Chilean Paso del Sol wine.

Two major hurricanes wreaked havoc along the Gulf of Mexico this year. As of Veterans Day, 12 tropical storms and typhoons had devastated parts of Vietnam.

Typhoon Damrey struck central Vietnam November 4, destroying nearly 3,500 homes, flooding 138,000 homes, killing 123 people and leaving 395,000 Vietnamese in need of assistance.

The scene is painfully familiar to most who head the 1,800 families that comprise Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs. They endured killer typhoons in the 1960s and ’70s, as communists invaded.

“Communists took over in 1975, and these people came here because they love freedom and they want to practice their faith,” said Pastor Louis Ha Pham, who escaped Vietnam in 1975 with 350 other members of the Congregation of the Mother Co-redemptrix religious community. “They want to use their freedom and faith to help others who suffer and lack the advantages of everything we have here.”

Co-organizer Hua barely survived a typhoon that slammed into his South Vietnamese village when he was a young child in the 1960s.

As water filled the family’s bamboo hut, Hua escaped with his mother and siblings to a neighboring residence. Water soon rushed into that hut, forcing Hua and other occupants to punch through the roof.

“We’re yelling for our lives in the middle of the night,” Hua recalled.

South Vietnamese soldiers pulled them from the water and onto a boat, but the suffering had only begun when Hua and his family reached dry ground in the mountains.

“You have no clothes, no food, and no fresh water. You have nothing,” Hua said. “So it touches my heart now to help others – from a place where I can exercise my faith, where I can succeed, and where I can gather with community.”

Hua escaped Vietnam by himself as a sophomore in high school in 1975. Communists had killed his father. They had threatened him and his family with machine guns.

“I remember they had us lined up, and my grandfather stood there telling them to shoot him,” Hua said. “He lifted up his dirty white t-shirt and said ‘shoot me. Just do it.’ I’m glad they didn’t, because that would have really messed me up as a child.”

Hua built his American life around Our Lady of Vietnamese Martyrs, thanking God each day for liberties the communists took from his homeland.

“I thank God, and I thank Americans for the opportunity to be here with resources to help people back home,” Hua said. “We thank you Americans so much for helping the Vietnamese to migrate here and live free.”

Que Truong, lead organizer of the event, said all Hurricane recovery is hard. It is worse in a dictatorship.

Items were auctioned off as part of a fundraiser held at Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Parish on Veteran’s Day to help raise money to provide aid to Vietnam, Florida and Texas, which were all recently hit by storms. In total, the parish raised over $80,000 in one evening. (Photos by Dede Laugesen)

“It is terrible over there,” Truong said. “In south Vietnam, we are not free to do anything. There, most people are poor. It’s a different story here, so we are very eager to help.”

Joining the Catholic parishioners were Vietnamese dancers and others from Denver’s Nhu Lia Buddhist Temple. Vietnamese from a Baptist church also participated.

“This is the first time we have all sat down and had dinner together,” said parish Vice President Hung Vu. “Refugees of any religion know how it is to have nothing – to have empty hands and empty stomachs.”

Vu’s father starved to death after a typhoon devastated the family’s village in 1978. Communists ruled the family’s church. Everyone in Vu’s life suffered deprivation of basic needs.

At age 8, Vu fled while working on a fishing boat.

“The boat next to ours planned to escape,” Vu recounted. “They waved me over. In an instant, without a moment to think about it, I jumped out and swam to their boat. They pulled me up and we started sailing out of the China Sea.”

The narrow, 35-foot vessel contained 97 “boat people” crammed together in fetal position. They quickly ran out of food and water, finally obtaining supplies from a passing ship.

“We wanted freedom of religion, and opportunity, and were willing to die trying to get it,” Vu said. “We have suffered. Now, we are so blessed to be here in the United States with all we have. We are so thankful for the veterans who have defended this way of life. This church is my family, and this family is blessed to help those trying to recover in Texas, Florida and Vietnam.”