Arvada parish marks half-century of Christian love, community

Pastor says hallmark of vibrant St. Joan of Arc Church is devotion

Roxanne King

On the feast of St. Joan of Arc, May 30, the only church in the Denver Archdiocese named after the 15th century French peasant girl turned soldier marked it’s 50th anniversary.

A mystic known for her devotion and courage, St. Joan is remembered on the day she was burned at the stake in Rouen, condemned as a witch and heretic. A quarter century later, the verdict that led to her death at 19 was nullified. She was canonized a saint in 1920.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila was the main celebrant of the Arvada parish’s anniversary Mass.

“As we celebrate this anniversary today…and as we celebrate the solemnity of St. Joan of Arc, it is a reminder of what it means to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,” the archbishop said in his homily. “To be those willing to deny ourselves in the steps of Jesus. That is the invitation that Jesus gives us…to heed the Gospel and to live it no matter what the cost.”

Father Nathan Goebel, the pastor, was a concelebrant of the Mass, as were three former pastors—Father Joseph Cao, Father Timothy Gaines and Father James Kleiner—and former parochial vicars: Msgr. David Croak, Msgr. Anthony McDaid and honorary parochial vicar Dominican Father Robert Staes. The parish’s assisting priest, Father James Cuneo, was unable to attend.

Charter members of the parish were recognized at the Mass.

“The parishioners are the lifeblood of every parish,” Archbishop Aquila said in his closing remarks. “The pastors and parochial vicars come and go but it is you, the people who are so dedicated and faithful to Christ and to the parish, that keep it sustained. So thank you to all of you for your great witness.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila greets parishioners following the 50th Anniversary Mass at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on May 30, 2017, in Arvada, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

At a festive, sumptuous reception after the Mass, a video and still photos honored the priests, deacons, laity and history of the parish.

“We’ve been blessed with an extremely devout community, one centered in Christ and in community,” Father Goebel told the Denver Catholic. Pastor for about a year, the 34-year-old priest added, “As soon I came in, I was impressed with the number of ministries here, especially spiritual ministries.”

The vibrant parish life is in keeping with the spirit of the saint it honors, Father Goebel said.

“St. Joan of Arc is known for her devotion,” he said. “She received a word from the saints inspired by God to be a witness for the world, which at the time was living in fear and resignation. If our parish emulates anything from her it would be that devotion: not only can they receive the word (of God) in their hearts but they live it out in their lives.”

The 50-plus parish ministries range from the parish preschool to sandwich line to perpetual adoration. Faith formation includes youth ministry, RCIA and the Neocatechumenal Way. Social groups range from Pint with a Priest for young adults to Seniors Club.

“I would put our Senior Club up against any [other] in the diocese,” Father Goebel said, only half-joking. “The Knights of Columbus council in our parish has earned the [organization’s] highest award in the state a number of times and even just this year, the [Knight’s] pro-life family of the year was from our parish, Dan and Jackie Murphy.”

Growth in Arvada led to the founding of the city’s second Catholic parish on Aug. 22, 1967. The pioneer pastor, the late Msgr. James Rasby, named it after St. Joan of Arc because of his special devotion to her.

Archbishop Aquila receives the gifts during the 50th Anniversary Mass at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on May 30, 2017, in Arvada, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Before the church was built in 1968, daily Masses were held in the rectory chapel at 58th Avenue and Oak Street, while Sunday Masses were held at Arvada West High School. Holy day liturgies were held at King of Glory Lutheran Church.

Today the modern, 800-seat sanctuary located at 12735 W. 58th Avenue, serves 2,200 households, said Deacon Rex Pilger, director of business and adult formation.

“This year we’ll probably increase to 2,300 households,” he said, citing rapid growth in west Arvada and the north Jefferson County area.

The parish’s anniversary logo features the message: St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, 1967-2017, “50 Years of Love.” The motto aims to highlight the years of Christian love and charity the parish is celebrating similar to the half-century anniversary of a married couple, Father Goebel said.

“It’s not meant to be an epitaph,” he said with his characteristic good humor. “I’m very blessed to be here in the 50th anniversary. It’s humbling because you realize you’re standing on the shoulders of a lot of other people who have sacrificed greatly to make this parish what it is.

“I don’t feel like I’m a custodian or curator of a museum,” he added. “We’re still developing, still growing. I think our parish is going to be here a long time.”

Parish Trivia

A few fun facts about St. Joan of Arc Parish:

  • Current pastor Father Goebel is part of a popular weekly podcast with three other young priests called, “Catholic Stuff You Should Know.”
  • At the time he served as the parish’s founding priest in 1967, Msgr. Rasby, who was then Father Rasby, was the youngest pastor in the archdiocese.
  • The parish has four deacons, one of which is retired Deacon Hugh Downey, founder of a ministry in Africa. Because of his apostolate, Deacon Downey lives in Africa half the year.
  • Director of Music and Liturgy Andi Weber was once a country singer.
  • Besides Msgr. Rasby, previous pastors include: Father Robert Durrie, Father Michael Walsh, Father James Kleiner, Father Timothy Gaines and Father Joseph Cao.

COMING UP: Relativism: An obstacle to the pursuit of truth

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When I was a kid, my favorite television show was The Partridge Family. Mostly because I was completely enamored of the late David Cassidy, whom I was convinced I would marry some day. But also because the show featured just the kind of mildly corny humor a seven year old is inclined to enjoy.

I remember one joke in particular. Keith (David Cassidy) is trying to give big brotherly advice to Danny (Danny Bonaduce). He says “If you just believe, you can be anything you want to be.”

Danny responds, “Great! I want to be a black woman.” Laugh track ensues. Because everybody knows that a pale white, red-headed, freckle-faced kid cannot grow up to be a black woman.

I was thinking about that scene as I was listening to Bishop Robert Barron Feb. 6, giving a riveting talk on relativism to a packed house here in Denver. As he spoke about the philosophical underpinnings of relativistic thinking, I realized that joke couldn’t be told today. Because, as a society, we don’t seem to agree that race, gender, or just about anything else, are based in any kind of objective truth.

Bishop Barron spoke of a video you may have seen. A rather short male interviewer asks college students what they would think if he told them he identifies as a woman. Then an Asian woman. Then a 6’4” Asian woman. They hesitate at times, but all ultimately agree that if that is his “truth,” then he is indeed entitled to be a tall Asian woman.

That is the ultimate expression of relativism.

Relativism, boiled down, is essentially the belief that there is no “objective” truth that is true for all. Rather, we as individuals, each establish our own subjective “truths,” and we live “authentically” to the extent that we honor these individual “truths.”

The speed with which we have descended down this path is breathtaking. When I was in my 20’s (which was not long ago at all — right???), I used to debate abortion at Berkeley. Not exactly a friendly audience — I remember mentally noting exits, including windows, that I could utilize if things got out of hand. But they showed up, and they listened, because there was still some understanding in society that there was such a thing as truth, and hence an openness to listen to others to see if together we could arrive at that truth. Or, at the very least, that I could employ the truth as I see it to convince you that your understanding of the truth is flawed.

Not so today. Open discussion of controversial issues is almost nonexistent on most college campuses. Of course. If I have my truth and you have your truth, what would be the point? We are just supposed to respect each others’ truths and move on.

But the problem is that we all have to play together in the same sandbox. Somebody’s truth has to rule our social interaction. If we can’t come to an agreement about whose truth is truer, then the only option left is force. And so, instead of listening to what you have to say, I attempt to forcibly shut you down. I smash windows. I disrupt your talk. Or, alternatively, I call on the authority of the university to do that dirty work for me while I hide in a safe space with my crayons and puppy videos.

Pope Benedict XVI called relativism a “dictatorship.” And, ironically, it is. The philosophy that purports to allow everyone to believe as he wishes, actually allows no one to believe in anything but relativism. And because there need be no rhyme nor reason behind any individual belief, enforcement through persuasion becomes impossible. Hence, the inevitable clash of ideologies. And it will be the stronger, not the most persuasive, who will prevail.

Parents, please — teach your children that there is such a thing as truth. That yes, we may disagree with others about what that truth is. That we respect people — all people — regardless of their beliefs. (Another objective truth.) But beneath the disagreement, there is a truth. There is a God or there isn’t. Jesus Christ is divine or He isn’t. Sexual expression has an inherent meaning or it doesn’t. Gender is fixed or it isn’t.

[And parents, if you want help with this, get your hands on Chris Stefanik’s book Absolute Relativism, and check out his YouTube videos on the same subject.]

In any disagreement about objective truths, someone is right and someone is wrong. Or perhaps both are partially wrong and neither grasps the full truth. But the truth is there.

In the old days, our goal was to find it.