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Planned Parenthood surrounded in prayer for over an hour

More than 1,800 faithful participate in March 5 procession

Aaron Lambert

It was a powerful, solemn scene at Planned Parenthood in Stapleton on Saturday morning as Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila led some 1,800 Catholics in a Eucharistic procession seven times around the abortion clinic, essentially surrounding the facility with silent prayer for over an hour.

“It was truly a moment of grace, a moment of blessing, a moment of praying to our Lord that hearts may be changed,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It was wonderful to see how many turned out today.”

The archbishop announced his intention to lead the procession in mid-February, and the response to the event was overwhelmingly positive, said Karna Swanson, the communications director for the archdiocese.

 

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Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila led a Eucharistic Procession around the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton on March 5. It was a solemn moment of silent prayer that drew 1,800 faithful. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

“We set up a simple website with a no-nonsense invitation for people to come and pray with the archbishop, and immediately we were hearing from people just thanking the archbishop for doing this,” Swanson said.

“No shouting or arguing,” the Archdiocese of Denver website stated in describing the event. “Only prayerful witness to the love and mercy of God.”

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Fitting 1,800 people onto the sidewalk of a city block was a logistical challenge for the organizers of the March 5 Eucharistic procession around the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic).

To ensure the sacred nature of the Eucharistic procession, the archdiocesan liturgy office set the tone for the event and organized the logistics of the transferring the Eucharist to the site, in addition to providing prayer books for those in attendance.

Before the procession began, Father Scott Bailey addressed the crowd and emphasized the importance of silence. “Silence is an essential part of the procession as we unite our voices with those who have been silenced by abortion,” he said.

 

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A police officer watches over 1,800 faithful participate in the March 5 Eucharistic procession around the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic).

Seminarians from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary led the people in the hymns and prayers each time the procession passed around the building. They also assisted with crowd management.

“We were honestly expecting 500-800 people,” Swanson noted. “Three times that number showed up. This provided a bit of a challenge for us logistically, as 1,800 people don’t exactly fit on the sidewalk of a city block.

“We wanted to make sure everyone who wanted to participate could, but we also didn’t want to give any reason for the police department to shut the event down.”

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Many of the 1,800 faithful at the March 5 Eucharistic procession around the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton were seen praying the rosary as they walked. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

Though the procession spilled out into the street, local off-duty police officers were on-hand to ensure that it didn’t impede traffic or cause an inability for cars to enter or leave the facility.

“There was wonderful teamwork on the ground, between the seminarians, the AMDG Cycling group, the police officers, and the participants,” said Swanson. “It was obvious to all that we were just there to pray. And pray we did, nearly everyone in the crowd was holding a rosary in their hands, and small groups throughout the crowd were praying the rosary together. We definitely stormed heaven with our prayers.”

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The AMDG Cycling club volunteered at the March 5 Eucharistic procession to help keep the overflowing crowds from impeding traffic. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

Families with young children were well-represented in the crowd, as well as religious sisters. The Nashville Dominicans, the Sisters of Life and the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo were all present. Dozens of seminarians were on hand from both of the seminaries of Denver, as well as many members of the clergy.

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The Nashville Dominicans were one of several orders of religious orders that attended the March 5 Eucharistic procession. Others included the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, the Sisters of Life and the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

The Martinez family from St. Augustine Parish in Brighton was one of many families in attendance. Jaime Martinez, along with his wife, children and parents-in-law, came to the procession to pray as a family for the end of abortion.

“We came here to speak for the unborn children who are getting aborted every single day here, and to pray for those mothers who are thinking about aborting their children so they can think about walking a different path and choosing a different option,” Martinez said.

He added, “It was very touching to see a lot of people join forces to promote the pro-life movement. Hopefully we can see more of this in future.”

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The Martinez family from St. Augustine Parish in Brighton was one of many families in attendance. Jaime Martinez, along with his wife, children and parents-in-law, came to the procession to pray as a family for the end of abortion. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

Sam and Amber Bittner came with their two children, Matthew and Evelyn, as well as coordinating “Respect” and “Life” shirts. For the growing family—Amber is expecting their third child—they were there to “bring some joy.”

“We need to bring some joy into the situation, and show that we care, and that we love,” Sam told the Denver Catholic. “And it’s not just ‘you’re wrong.’”

“We came as a witness to our kids,” added Amber. “We wanted to show them that it’s really important to be involved to pray for those who are making the decisions, and also for the babies.”

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Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic

COMING UP: David Card and his goals for Regis Jesuit High School

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For David Card, sending his children to a Catholic school was an easy decision.

“I think there’s something fundamental and holistic about bringing your faith and your spirituality into your full development process,” he said. “I’ve never considered anything else for my kids.”

In August, Card began to serve as the first lay president of Regis Jesuit High School, and second alumnus in the role (Class of 1987). In his new role, Card says he hopes he can make the possibility of an education at Regis a “real option” for qualified students with little financial resources.

Card replaces Rick Sullivan, who served as interim president of Regis Jesuit since Father Paul Sheridan resigned from the post due to health issues at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Card worked as Director of Development at the school from 1999 to 2003, and has served on Regis’ board of trustees for the past year.

Most recently, he served as president of Escuela de Guadalupe, a dual-language Catholic elementary school in Denver. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Colorado Denver and a bachelor’s degree from Regis University in Denver.

Denver Catholic sat down with Card, to speak with him about his new role, the school, and his philosophy on Catholic education.

Denver Catholic: What are the emotions that come to mind in coming back to your alma-mater to serve as its President?

David Card:  I’m excited for sure. Through Ignatian spirituality, the spirituality given to us by our founder, St. Ignatius, one of the things that’s really been internalized by me is this idea of indifference. That it’s not really what I want, but “Where is it that I am to be?” I’ve had that feeling about Regis for a long time. So there’s a contentedness with that. Certainly, in reality I know it’s a big job, so I’m excited, and there’s also some anxiousness, but the support I’ve received from the community has been enormous.

Denver Catholic: Would you mind elaborating on the foundational pillars that a student at Regis Jesuit will be formed in upon graduation?

David Card: I think (the pillars) really reflect the kind of inquiry that we want our students to engage in. This is all in the foundational spirituality of our Catholic Church and our Ignatian tradition. One of the things Regis really excels at, and Jesuit education excels at, is it provides wonderful pathways, especially for adolescents, to develop an authentic relationship with God.

Also, through the process of discernment what we’re trying to develop is a listening skill in our students. . . This way, they can listen for the signs and ways in which God is calling them to be and to serve. They have many opportunities to explore their gifts and talents, to be really cognoscente of the larger community and the world they live in. Also, they have the opportunity to have real practice in service so they can animate their lives with that service.

Denver Catholic: What are your future goals for Regis Jesuit?

David Card: We adopted a strategic plan on the board a little over a year ago. Excellence, which pertains to our students, to our faculty, and our facilities is one of the pillars. We really want to focus on the inclusiveness of Regis in terms of its diversity. . .We constantly have work to do in maintaining and developing infrastructure for the school, strengthening our financial resources, and get better at marketing who we are and what we do.

I think in general I want to imagine a school that any family who desires especially a faith-formative, rigorous education and thinks “I want my kid to go there” also feels like that’s a real possibility. I’m not sure that’s true right now. So, I really want to work on that. . . I think the most important thing is to continue what we’re doing here and ensuring that our people are exposed to our Jesuit Catholic tradition and that they’re preparing to bring that forth into the world.”

Denver Catholic: Speaking through your experience, what is necessary to propel Catholic education as we continue into the 21st century?

David Card: I think we have to be intentional about our mission. I think we have to be ever more creative in the way that we convey that. I think our culture can be challenging for that. At the same time, we have to continue to recognize that God is present in our culture.

I think on a practical level, the biggest challenge facing Catholic education is financial accessibility. We wrestle with that here (at Regis) and we’ve got a lot of work to do to ensure that really any student who’s academically qualified, along with the parents of that student, feel like this is a real option for them. We do a lot to support that but certainly, we have to do more. There’s always a constant tension between having a quality faculty and putting the resources in place for that to occur, and then having a tuition rate and a financial aid program that can really be accessible to every family.

Denver Catholic: With so many options that parents have in educating their children, why Catholic education?

David Card: I think there’s something fundamental and holistic about bringing your faith and your spirituality into your full development process. To me it is, I’ve never considered anything else for my kids. So I do think that more and more families are hungering for that. Even if they don’t have a faith tradition, they’re concerned about the lack of boundaries for the development for their child.

We’ve always been strong academically. Kids get an excellent college prep education at Regis but if it were just that, we wouldn’t be all that distinctive. I think it really is engaging kids in service, having them really look at themselves and try to figure out “How is it that I am and is there really an opportunity for me to hear where I’m called to be?”