“His works continue. His love endures.”
So reads the invitation to the memorial Mass and reception marking the 25th anniversary of the death of the famed Monsignor C.B. “Father Woody” Woodrich.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila will be the main celebrant of the Mass, set for 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Holy Ghost Church downtown. All are invited.
“We want to remember him well and beautifully,” Victoria McCabe, director of Father Woody Programs at Regis University, said about her former pastor. “We’ll gather as many family and friends as we can to celebrate his ministry here on earth—the ministry that continues with his shepherding from heaven.”
Father Woody, a former New York City adman, co-founded Samaritan House, the first facility in the nation built specifically to shelter the homeless; started a renowned Christmas dinner with gifts and a holiday money-giveaway that still serve thousands of poor each year; headed archdiocesan communications; served as editor of the Denver Catholic Register (now the Denver Catholic), where he more than tripled the circulation; pastored Holy Ghost and Annunciation parishes, and ministered as a hospital chaplain.
When he died suddenly at age 68, an obituary in his former newspaper called him “Denver’s patron saint of the hungry and homeless.”
It seems providential that the 25th anniversary of his death should occur in the Year of Mercy, as mercy was the mark of his priesthood, McCabe said.
“Every person mattered to him—every person,” she said, adding that he was led by Christ’s admonition, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Mt 25:40).”
Father Woody’s legacy of mercy continues today in ministries he either started or inspired. Key among them:
- Samaritan House, which annually provides 127,000-plus nights of shelter, serves 455,000 meals and houses 2,250 people. Now run by Catholic Charities, Samaritan House began when Father Woody famously opened the doors of Holy Ghost Church to give warm refuge to hundreds of homeless people one bitterly cold winter. That action eventually led to present-day Samaritan House, which next month marks 30 years sheltering the homeless and achieving great success helping them to become self-sufficient.
- Father Woody Programs, in which more than 100 college students annually serve inner-city youths, the homeless and the elderly around the city, riding to their destinations in a fleet of vans called Father Woody’s Wheels.
- Father Woody’s Haven of Hope day shelter, which provides hot sit-down meals, private showers, laundry service, clothing and counseling to the homeless. Haven of Hope is currently adding a four-story wing to its facility, which will expand services to include classes for GED, employment readiness and money management; dental, eye and mental health clinics; and legal services.
“His work has not been diminished one iota,” said Lovey Shipp, who nicknamed the blunt talking but quick smiling Father Woody “the Master Pastor” when she served as his secretary the last five years of his life.
“He’s got an army of people following in his footsteps,” McCabe said.
All priests are welcome to concelebrate the Mass, which will be followed by a Reception of Remembrance.
“We’ll have a lot of his art on the walls and the video ‘In His Footsteps: The Legacy of Father Woody’ running,” McCabe said. “He had a message of love and was intent on getting it to everyone. We couldn’t help but find it contagious.”
Father Woody Memorial Mass
When: 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 10
Where: Holy Ghost Church, 1900 California St., Denver