Rally to defund Planned Parenthood draws nearly 200 supporters

Aaron Lambert

A crowd of nearly 200 gathered outside of Planned Parenthood in Stapleton Saturday, calling for the defunding of the organization.

The rally was one of 228 similar ones that occurred across the nation and were sponsored by Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal and the Pro-Life Action League in conjunction with local pro-life groups all over the country.

The event featured several speakers, including Bethany Janzen of Students for Life of America and Father Andre Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka’s Maronite Catholic Church in Lakewood, who led the group in prayer.

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Fr. Andre Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church, leads the crowd in prayer during the rally to defund Planned Parenthood across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on February 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Father Andre Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church, leads the crowd in prayer during the rally to defund Planned Parenthood across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on February 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

The protest was peaceful in nature and was met with little opposition at the site. Protesters sought to send a message of love and argued that the federal funds allocated to Planned Parenthood be directed toward other federal health centers that don’t provide abortions.

“The main message is that there is hope, that life is valuable, human life at whatever stage, age, development and that we can actually stand, we can make a difference, we can love both the mother and child,” Janzen said.

Hours after this rally, Planned Parenthood supporters gathered outside of Senator Cory Gardner’s office to call on him to vote to keep the organization funded.

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Bethany Janzen, the Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator for Students for Life, speaks during a rally to defund Planned Parenthood across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on February 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Bethany Janzen, the Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator for Students for Life, speaks during a rally to defund Planned Parenthood across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on February 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Planned Parenthood claims that without federal funds, thousands of women would be left without affordable reproductive healthcare, including access to contraception, testing and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases, and other services such as breast cancer screenings. However, controversies regarding the services Planned Parenthood actually provides have arose in the past.

For those women looking for alternatives to Planned Parenthood for health care, Denver is home to a variety of clinics that offer that same sort of care and support, including Marisol Health, a Catholic-run organization that provides free ultrasounds, STD testing and treatment, OB/GYN services and more.

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.”