Cardinal Stafford librarian celebrates two decades of service

Lyn Cotton and her fellow staff members at the Cardinal Stafford Theological Library will never forget the summer the library’s smoke alarm went off.

Perhaps it was the cause of the alarm that etched the incident into their memories. As it turns out, seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary were dusting the books and shelves in the library basement, said Cotton.

“They raised such a cloud of dust that the smoke alarms went off,” she said, cracking a smile.

Cotton, a library assistant at Cardinal Stafford, has truly seen it all.

And although she will retire in May — just one month before her 20th anniversary at the library — her dedication will continue as she serves as a weekly volunteer.

“The fact that she wants to come back says a lot about the kind of place that we are, but also the kind of person she is,” said librarian Tamara Conley.

“Some people would close the door and get out of here,” she added. “They wouldn’t want to see it again. [Cotton] cares about this place, and she cares about the people here.”

Library director Stephen Sweeney is grateful for Cotton’s service and looks forward to the next 20 in her volunteer capacity.

“The library has an amazing, dedicated staff that work to serve the needs of the seminary community while being available to the larger archdiocesan community and the public who find us,” said Sweeney.

“Lyn has been here at the library since before St. John Vianney Theological Seminary was instituted in 1999, which gives her a unique perspective on our history,” he added.

For Conley, working with someone as loyal as Cotton is an immense help.

“The continuity is amazing,” she said. “To know that she’s seen things from the beginning projects to end is really, really beneficial for us. You can’t put a price on that.”

Many features of the library have kept Cotton coming back each year.

“The place itself is just gorgeous,” said Cotton. “The library is the gem of the seminary and the chapel is the jewel.”

Cotton is a member of the Protestant Church, which has made working at a Catholic library unique, she said.

“I really didn’t know much about Catholics when I started,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about the Catholic faith.”

Between the library’s faith-based atmosphere and the people she works with, Cotton has always found that the positive experiences outweigh the challenges she’s faced over the years.

“I first came in as a part time archivist,” said Cotton. “At that time when I first got here, we had one computer.”

Besides the technological advancements that have occurred since 1998, Cotton has also taken on a variety of roles at the library.

She has experience working with archives, cataloguing, and managing volunteers who come in each week to help with a multitude of tasks.

Whether she’s covering a book or helping a volunteer, Cotton makes the library run smoothly, said Conley.

“She sits quietly in the back and holds everything together,” she said. “She does a million things. I couldn’t even tell you all the small things she does.”

Through it all, Cotton has built a relationship with the seminarians who pass through the library’s doors each day.

Some of them come back years down the road to say “hello,” and others end up working at the seminary, she said.

“That is really fun to have them go all the way through and then come back to us and help out,” said Cotton.

“I don’t know the ones now as well as I didn’t when we first began because there were a lot fewer then,” she added. “But they’re all very polite and good guys.”

For Conley, the thing that makes the Cardinal Stafford Theological Library special is also what might inspire someone like Cotton to volunteer after retirement.

“I think the sense of community that we have here — all bonded by a love for Christ — is what keeps people coming back,” she said.

Cotton admits she’ll continue to look forward to coming to the library as a volunteer each week.

“I’ve just had so much fun,” she said. “It’s just been a pleasant, holy place to work.”

COMING UP: Q&A: Outcasts documentary a call to action, producer says

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Q&A: Outcasts documentary a call to action, producer says

Film shows suffering of the poor in five countries, hope brought by Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

Roxanne King

Powerful. Disturbing. Beautiful. Inspiring. That’s how viewers are describing award-winning Outcasts, the latest film by Joe Campo, owner and producer of Grassroots Films.

For mature audiences, Outcasts documents the hard, dark struggle of the poor living in New York and New Jersey, Nicaragua, Honduras, England and Ireland, and the light and hope of Christ brought to them through the ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (C.F.R.). Seven years in the making, it won “best film” at the Justice Film Festival last fall.

Campo, 65, a Third Order Franciscan, also runs St. Francis House in Brooklyn, N.Y., a home for young men in need of a second chance.

“The film company comes second, the guys come first,” Campo, whose’ Grassroots Films was also responsible for 2008’s award-winning The Human Experience, told the Denver Catholic.

The home Campo oversees was established by his friend, the late Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., who co-founded the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal order in New York in 1987. The friars live in poor neighborhoods around the world and have a two-fold mission: to care for the physical and spiritual needs of the destitute and homeless, and to evangelize.

A July 13 screening of Outcasts at Light of the World Parish in Littleton drew 400 people. Campo recently spoke to the Denver Catholic about the documentary.

DC: Why did you make Outcasts?

JC: I’ve been with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal since 1988 and I know the work that they do and their great love for the poor, which I share. I thought it would be a call to action — that people would see this film and their hearts would open up. Hopefully, through this film, people will experience things about working with the poor that normally they would never be able to see their entire lives.

DC: What is the film about?

JC: It’s really about the poor. It’s more about the poor than it is about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The friars don’t do any preaching in this film, the poor do. You see the friars, but you don’t hear them. The words of people speaking about God are from the poor: the destitute, the drug addicts, those suffering from HIV.

DC: The trailer features a voiceover from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, which is incredibly moving juxtaposed against scenes of people suffering. What was the inspiration for using that speech?

JC: We actually had another trailer for Outcasts, but we ultimately couldn’t use it. We were fortunate to be able to get Charlie Chaplin. It was a comedy of errors, really, which proves that God writes straight with crooked lines.

DC: What do you hope people will take away from the film?

JC: An understanding of the poor. I hope that as people are introduced to the friars through this film their hearts and minds would be changed toward those who are poor or destitute and that they’ll see that these people are victims. When you talk with the poor and experience their lives you begin to realize three things: 1) That it could happen to anyone. 2) None of them planned for their life to turn out this way. 3) All they want is to be accepted — not for what they do, the negative stuff, but as people.

Outcasts producer Joe Campo (center) with some of the Fransiscan Friars of the Renewal who appear in the film. (Photo provided)

A lot of people don’t realize this: the poor will always be with us (Mk 14:7, Jn 12:8, Matt 26:11). So, it’s really our duty — and it should come from our hearts — to help those we can help.

Too, there’s not one person that doesn’t need to find a way to forgive someone or to be forgiven. That’s where we start in all of this — in our families and we go from there.

DC: How would you describe this film?

JC: It’s really a work of evangelization, but we never say that in our films. The world is always telling people: don’t age, don’t die and don’t suffer. But we all experience suffering. And we learn from the poor, from people who are suffering, how to suffer.

DC: The screening of Outcasts at Light of the World in Littleton drew a full house. What was that like?

JC: First, I want to thank Kathryn Nygaard [LOTW communications director], Dakota Leonard [who fundraised the $4,000 screening cost], the pastor Father Matthew Book, [parochial vicar] Father Joseph LaJoie and all the people who attended. I was tremendously overjoyed.

The questions people asked at the Q&A after the screening were fantastic. People could sign up for different ministries after seeing the film: Catholic Charities, [Christ in the City] homeless ministry, prison ministry, [Light of the World parish ministries]. Some did. I was overjoyed. You always want your films to be a call to action.

Outcasts

To view the trailer or to schedule a screening, visit: outcaststhemovie.com