Archdiocese of Denver bishops lend support to DACA

Put people before politics, the bishops urge

Karna Lozoya

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez released a statement Friday urging the Catholics of northern Colorado to support through action and prayer the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the 17,000 Colorado youth who would be directly affected if President Donald Trump were to eliminate it.

Read the letter here

“As the bishops of the Archdiocese of Denver, we are writing to ask your help and prayers on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters,” the statement begins.

The bishops noted that DACA has allowed “approximately 800,000 undocumented youth to live, go to school and work in the United States without fear of deportation,” and that despite its success, the program could be eliminated by President Trump this week.

“Brothers and Sisters, know that the beneficiaries of DACA are children who were brought to the United States as minors. For many, the United States is the only country they know,” the bishops stated. “They have been educated here and serve in many of our parishes.

“In fact, several DACA beneficiaries work for the Archdiocese of Denver. It would be devastating for our parishes and our Catholic community if we were to lose these young people.”

The bishops urged the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Denver to “support our youth with your voice” by calling the White House in support of DACA, of supporting the bipartisan DREAM Act, and to pray.

“Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,” the prayer reads, “To banish fear from our hearts, That we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister.”

The full text of the letter follows:

To all Catholics of Northern Colorado:

As the bishops of the Archdiocese of Denver, we are writing to ask your help and prayers on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, particularly the 17,000 youth of the state of Colorado, who will be directly affected by any changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Donald Trump is considering to eliminate as early as next week.

Since its inception, DACA has allowed approximately 800,000 undocumented youth to live, go to school and work in the United States without fear of deportation. Despite the success and popularity of the program, 10 state Attorneys General have recently threatened to sue the U.S. Federal Government if President Trump doesn’t put an end to DACA, citing concerns that the program is unconstitutional. The president has until Sept. 5 to make a decision.

Brothers and Sisters, know that the beneficiaries of DACA are children who were brought to the United States as minors. For many, the United States is the only country they know. They have been educated here and serve in many of our parishes. In fact, several DACA beneficiaries work for the Archdiocese of Denver. It would be devastating for our parishes and our Catholic community if we were to lose these young people.

As Pope Francis said in his 2017 Message for the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants, “Do not tire of courageously living the Gospel, which calls you to recognize and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.”

It is important to uphold the constitution, but we must always put people first in our politics. We ask that you call now, before the Sept. 5 deadline, to ask the President to remove any threat of deportation from the 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA.

And we want to encourage you to join us in supporting a bi-partisan legislative alternative to the DACA program, called the DREAM Act, which would alleviate the constitutional concerns cited by the Attorneys General.

Please, support our youth with your voice!

1. Call the White House today at 1-855-589-5698 and relay this message:

“I am calling as a concerned Catholic to strongly urge the President to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The approximately 800,000 young immigrants who have received DACA are vital members of our parishes, communities, and nation; they should not have to live their lives in fear of deportation.”

2. Support the DREAM Act today by sending a message to your elected representative. Visit JusticeforImmigrants.org

3. Pray: Please join us in praying the following prayer, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,
To banish fear from our hearts,
That we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;
To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity,
While responding to their many needs;
To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain
To learn the ways of peace and justice;
To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us,
To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.

Sincerely in Jesus Christ,

Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L.
Archbishop of Denver

Most Rev. Jorge H. Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver

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.”