Faith and basketball crossover at Catholic Families Night Feb. 25

Aaron Lambert

For the the fourth year in a row, the Denver Nuggets are hosting Catholic Families Night at the Pepsi Center on Sunday, Feb. 25, where they will face-off against the Houston Rockets for a regular season game. As with last year, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila will be the special guest for the evening’s game, and Catholic youth from around the archdiocese will have the chance to be directly involved with the game, including VIP experiences, the flag presentation, and forming a high-five tunnel for the Nugget before the game.

Catholic Families Night was originally organized in 2013 by Gold Grown Foundation CEO and former Denver Nugget Bill Hanzlik, in conjunction with Jeff Stemper of the Denver chapter of the Saint Sebastian Project, Tom Sauer and Mark Strawbridge, director of the Denver Catholic Schools Athletic League.

One of the big draws of the event, besides being able to attend a Denver Nuggets game for cheap, is the Basketball clinic for youth that takes place before the big game.

“The clinics are really good. It’s just fun for the kids,” Hanzlik said. “We tell them to wear their school basketball uniforms if they can.”

A portion of the proceeds from Catholic Families night will once again benefit the Denver chapter of the Saint Sebastian Project, a nonprofit organization that provides grants to schools for their athletic programs. The Saint Sebastian Project began in Los Angeles in 2008, and Stemper started the Denver chapter in 2011. Last year, Catholic Families Night raised $9,000 for Saint Sebastian.

The grants Saint Sebastian offers generally go to new sports uniforms or equipment for the schools. However, they also do what Stemper called “scholarshipping,” which helps to address the fees associated with enrolling a child in an athletic program. Stemper said that a lot of families have a hard time affording these fees, and are sometimes even forced to turn their children away from athletic programs, simply because they can’t afford them.

“We’ll grant money to help the schools pay those fees,” Stemper said. “We’re up to about 18 schools that we currently help in the Denver Metro area.”

Annunciation Catholic School in Denver is one example of a school that Saint Sebastian has actively assists with paying athletic fees. Other schools they’ve helped include Arrupe Jesuit High School, where they bought new soccer uniforms for the soccer team, and St. Francis de Sales School, where helped them buy a new scoreboard.

Catholic Families Night

Denver Nuggets vs. Houston Rockets
Sunday, Feb. 25, 6 p.m.
Pepsi Center
1000 Chopper Cir. Denver, CO
Tickets: Lower/club level: $55, Upper level: $18
Purchase: www.nuggetstix.com/1718cfn

 

Pre-game activities

To be involved in the clinic and pre-game activities, youth can purchase a ticket at the above link and then contact Mark Strawbridge at mark.strawbridge@goodsheperddenver.org

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.”