Msgr. Horrigan remembered as “humble, faith-filled man”

Therese Bussen

Msgr. Leo Horrigan, after suffering from a long illness, died Sept. 17, 2017, after serving for 56 years as a priest. He was 83.

The longtime Denver resident was born one of seven children on Nov. 20, 1934, in Shenandoah, Iowa, to Edward and Evelyn Horrigan. When he was just three years old, his family moved to Denver.

He attended grade school at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Denver and graduated from St. Francis de Sales High School in Denver in 1952. He attended Regis College from 1952-1953 and St. Thomas Seminary in Denver from 1953-1956. He was ordained on Dec. 20, 1959, in Rome by Archbishop M. O’Connor, and went on to receive his S.T.L. from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1960 and an M.A. from the Catholic University of America in 1966. He was appointed a Prelate of Honor by Pope St. John Paul II on Sept. 25, 2000.

Some of Msgr. Horrigan’s assignments include pastor at St. Philomena Parish, Blessed Sacrament Parish, where he served for 13 years, and Notre Dame Parish in Denver, where he served for four terms. He also served as the Archdiocesan Scout Chaplain and as the ordinary confessor of the Franciscan Motherhouse in Coloorado Springs.

Msgr. Leo Horrigan in 1975, from the Denver Catholic Register archives.

He also served in various Archdiocesan positions including Vicar for Clergy. He was the first to have the position in the diocese, under Archbishop James V. Casey. He retired June 11, 2010.

Father Robert Fisher, who knew him professionally, remembered Msgr. Horrigan as a “tremendously faithful” man.

“I knew him to be incredibly knowledgeable and a very good pastor. He was at the Cathedral while I was a seminarian,” Father Fisher said. “He was a tremendous guy, incredibly faithful. Those that I know who had him as a pastor absolutely loved him.”

Msgr. Horrigan celebrating Mass at Blessed Sacrament in 1976, from the Denver Catholic Register archives.

Msgr. Thomas Fryar, current pastor at St. Thomas More Parish, also served as Vicar for Clergy and explained how the position is a difficult but rewarding one, and that Msgr. Horrigan is remembered as a good pastor because of his experience with that role.

“He was the first one in that role under Archbishop Casey. He helped overseeing priests and their roles in their parishes, and he did it in a very humble way,” Msgr. Fryar said.

Monsignor Fryar knows people who still remembered Monsignor Horrigan as a faithful pastor.

“One thing I’m very aware of is that he had such a profound impact on people that they still remembered him even now. You enter the lives of people and you have no idea how it will touch people in later years [as a priest],” he said. “He was a gentle, loving and faith-filled presence in the community.

“Even in retirement and infirmity, he helped bring the sacraments to people. He was always wanting to be available to share the grace of God with others. He’s a man I really looked up to.”

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.