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: Father Jan Mucha remembered for his ‘joy and simplicity’

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When Father Marek Ciesla was 11 years old, he encountered a priest in his hometown in northern Poland who was visiting his parish on mission.

“I was impressed,” said Father Ciesla. “A couple of my friends and I were talking about how energetic, how wonderful this priest was. I think in this way he inspired us a little bit to follow the call to the priesthood.”

The priest was Father Jan Mucha, and little did Father Ciesla know that decades later and an ocean away, he would reunite with the man that inspired him and his friend to pursue the priesthood.

In 2010 when Father Mucha was retiring from his role as pastor of St. Joseph Polish Catholic Church in Denver, Father Ciesla was sent from Poland to the Archdiocese of Denver to take his place.

The priests spent two days together, and Father Ciesla was struck by the familiarity of Father Mucha.

“For some reason, the way he was talking and the words he was using, something rang a bell,” he said. “I asked him if he remembers visiting my parish. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I had it on my list. I remember.’”

Father Ciesla was amazed that the man he was there to replace was the same one who had impacted his life all those years ago.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Father Ciesla. “I never thought I would meet him again.”

Father Mucha passed away March 21 after serving the archdiocese for 40 years. He was 88 years old.

Father Mucha was born March 16, 1930 in Gron, Poland to parents Kazimierz and Aniela Mucha. He was one of five children. Father Mucha attended high school in Kraków and went on to study philosophy and theology at a seminary in Tarnów.

Father Mucha was ordained December 19, 1954 in Tarnów by Auxiliary Bishop Karol Pękala. He served at St. Theresa Parish in Lublin, Sacred Heart Parish in Florynka and as a Latin teacher at Sacred Heart Novice House in Mszana Dolna.

He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Denver on April 20, 1978. Before he was granted retirement status in August of 2010, he served at St. Joseph Polish for nearly 40 years.

“Father Mucha was dedicated to his people and there was a joy about him,” said Msgr. Bernard Schmitz, who had known Father Mucha since his own ordination in 1974 and more recently within his former role as Vicar for Clergy.

“I admired his joy and simplicity,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He seemed to have no guile and what you saw is what you got. He was very proud of his Polish heritage and was unafraid to be Polish.”

Father Mucha’s move to the United States came about after he visited St. Joseph Polish while on vacation. The pastor at the time was sick, and parishioners asked Father Mucha to stay.

After receiving approval from his superiors in Poland and the archbishop in Denver, Father Mucha did stay, and ended up serving the parish for nearly four decades.

“He was happy to serve here,” said Father Ciesla. “All the time, he was a man of faith. He kept his eye on Jesus.”

Msgr. Schmitz believes Father Mucha’s faithfulness and tenacity as a priest will leave a lasting impression on those he served.

“He was dedicated to the priesthood and didn’t want to retire until he was sure his people would be well taken care of,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He could come across as tough, but really he was a compassionate person [with] a heart open to the Lord’s work.”