A Call for Hope: 20,000 faithful share phone conversation with Archbishop Aquila

Aaron Lambert

Social distancing provides a great opportunity to do something many of us likely don’t do much of anymore: speak on the phone.

And on Sunday, March 22, that’s exactly what 20,000 people of the Archdiocese of Denver did with Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and former CDC virologist Deacon Rob Lanciotti. The call was hosted to answer the faithful’s questions about the coronavirus outbreak and how the archdiocese is responding.

A multitude of topics were touched upon, including a spiritual reflection from Archbishop Aquila on how we as Christians are to respond in this pandemic, what Easter Masses are going to look like, what it means to “flatten the curve,” and much more.

We’ve assembled some quotes and highlights from the call for you below. You can also listen to the full call here.

Archbishop’s comments

On whether God created coronavirus

“…We need to understand that it is not God who creates the plague or the virus. This is something of nature. It happens. And and with that, the Lord certainly permits it. And it is to him that we truly need to turn during this time and and certainly seek his wisdom in all that we do and in the decisions that are made certainly in our own time.”

On what the Lord is teaching through this

“…As we reflect on it from a spiritual point of view, we can see that the Lord perhaps is desiring to bring good out of this, and that is to wake us up to the truth that we are not God, that we are creatures, that we have been created by God and for God, and that it really calls us out of indifference. It calls us out of seeking our own preferences. And it truly is a wakeup call.”

On how the Easter Triduum will be celebrated

“…All of the parishes, through a decree that came from the Holy See within the last few days, gave to all parish priests permission to celebrate in their parishes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday without a congregation. And so the parishes that are able to livestream that will be livestreaming it. And we’ve encouraged them to do that.\And I, too, will be celebrating the Triduum liturgies at the cathedral without a congregation present. And these liturgies will all be livestreamed for the faithful to participate.”

On what to pray for

“I want to give you encouragement, continue to pray, continue to open your heart to the Lord and really put your trust in him, and especially to exercise the virtue of charity and especially for caring for the elderly. It is the people who are 60 or older who are most impacted by this virus. And so it will be important in the weeks and even months ahead to be cautious and to follow all of the directives of health care providers and and so that they do not get sick. And it’s important to stay in touch with our elderly and to give them encouragement during this time, because it’s difficult for them as they’re confined to their homes or confined to their rooms if they’re in nursing homes or in assisted living places, most of them are confined. And so keeping them in prayer and holding them up to the Lord and also really praying for health care officials and and praying especially for scientists.”

Deacon Lanciotti’s comments

On how we can overcome the virus

“The challenge is we’re facing a highly transmissible respiratory virus that’s been introduced into a population that has essentially no immunity at all. That’s what is the foundation of a pandemic. And so it’s I think it’s important to understand that what will ultimately end this pandemic is immunity in the population – people developing antibodies and other activations in their immune system to combat this virus. Now, immunity is only achieved two ways. One is by getting infected naturally. And the other is by vaccination. And so that’s really the goal, is for the population to develop immunity to this virus. I know there’s a vaccine that’s already in people in trials in Seattle, but that’s what we need. We need immunity. What these measures are designed to do is slow down the number of infections so that everybody can be adequately treated in a hospital.”

On social distancing and flattening the curve

“One analogy to think of is if you took all of the crime that occurs in Denver in a year’s period and condensed it into one night, what would happen? It would be a disaster, because a lot of people that would normally be treated and and taken to a hospital and cared for, a lot of those people would needlessly die because there just aren’t enough personnel, ambulances, so forth and so on. And that’s essentially what these measures are designed to do. We want to slow down this epidemic such that everybody who is infected, it can occur over a longer period of time so that everyone can be treated comprehensively. That’s what we mean by flattening the curve. In a typical epidemic where you do nothing, you get an incredibly logarithmic or rapid rise in cases. And it all happens fairly quickly in a matter of weeks or maybe a month.\These measures are designed to slow things down so everyone can be treated.”

On how we should respond

“I would just remind everyone this is the time to take precautions to do the right thing, but not to panic. At the end of the day, we’re talking about a virus that in the majority of cases will not cause severe outcomes. There are many people that are suffering from this, but it is a virus that is is going to have a minimal effect on the majority of the people. And so we have to be safe and we have to show love and charity to those around us by not transmitting it. There really is no cause for fear. We just have to wait this out, follow what we’ve been told and pray that in addition to all that we can do to slow this down, that God will intervene as well and help us.”

Call-in comments

Gratitude for Archbishop Aquila’s leadership

“Your Excellency, I’m just calling to thank you so much for your care and prayers for us and for your words of encouragement that is helping us to get through this difficult time. Thank you especially for caring and for protecting our priests. Know that there are many, many of us that are praying for you daily, for the most powerful intercession of Mary and St. Joseph, for your protection, strength and peace, and good health. Thank you, your excellency.”

Featured Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic

COMING UP: Church and state partner to carry out corporal works of mercy during pandemic and beyond

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In times of great need and crisis, we find strength in unity and collaboration, and amid the coronavirus pandemic, this truth remains within the Archdiocese of Denver.

For many years, the Archdiocese of Denver and local Colorado government officials have found ways to work together toward common goals and better serve the people of Colorado, which often includes carrying out corporal works of mercy such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. And through the COVID-19 pandemic, these partnerships continue to be a crucial part of Colorado’s and the Church’s response to those in need.

The City of Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver have a history of partnering to support people in need. During the pandemic, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and his administration have worked with the archdiocese to safeguard the homeless population and extend testing for COVID-19 to communities at higher risk of struggling with the virus.

“These types of true collaborative relationships really make the difference because you can call on your partners [and] you have established relationships that are built on trust and built on true engagement and true focus on a mutually agreed upon mission,” Mayor Hancock told the Denver Catholic. “Catholic Charities and the archdiocese have been just tremendous partners over the years with us.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver told the Denver Catholic that “the Catholic Church is motivated to care for the poor and needy by Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us.

“The coronavirus pandemic,” he added, “has highlighted this important work and underscored the essential role the Catholic Church plays in fostering a society that upholds the God-given dignity of every person.

“It has been a blessing to be able to work with the City of Denver over many years to serve these vulnerable populations.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and the Archdiocese of Denver have partnered with Mayor Michael Hancock and the City of Denver in the past to better serve people in need, and they’ve continued those collaborative efforts through the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Catholic Charities)

Recently, on July 10 and July 23, Mayor Hancock and the City of Denver hosted events in partnership with Ascension Catholic Parish in Montbello to provide testing for COVID-19 and a mobile food pantry to the local community.

“We have been looking for opportunities to be in the communities, to do the testing, to meet people where they are. And we recognize that Latinos and African-Americans in particular have been most vulnerable to this virus,” Mayor Hancock said. “We needed to really just make sure we took the opportunities for testing to those communities.”

Then, on Aug. 6, Ascension hosted another event in collaboration with the City of Denver where the mayor’s office gave away free backpacks with school supplies, healthy food baskets, baby products, feminine hygiene products and more.

“I am very thankful for Mayor Hancock’s collaboration to help the people of Montbello,” said Father Dan Norick, pastor of Ascension Parish. “I also thank God for the people in Montbello who are caring for each other in these difficult times. May Jesus be praised!”

Mayor Hancock said that hosting these events at Ascension Parish made sense because of the established relationship the City of Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver have developed over the years.

“When you’re looking for who you partner with during these opportunities, you turn to who’s most familiar with you and who you’ve had a trusting collaboration with,” he said. “And it just so happens the archdiocese and the parish there have been the ones that we’ve worked with over the years. So it was very natural. It’s a place where people are familiar and a place they trust.”

It’s not only during the pandemic that this partnership has been fruitful, though. A strong partnership between Samaritan House and the city has existed for quite some time, and this relationship has borne much fruit over the years. Samaritan House strives to be more than a just a homeless shelter, providing education, life skills classes and one-on-one support for its residents to empower them to break free from the cycle of poverty and support themselves independently.

In August 2017, the City of Denver and Catholic Charities of Denver cut the ribbon on the first all-women’s shelter in the city. Called Samaritan House Women’s Shelter, it follows Samaritan House’s established model of helping those experiencing hard times find a way out of poverty and ultimately, bring hope to their lives. Each night, it offers 225 beds for women who are in need of immediate shelter.

Back in April, Catholic Charities teamed up with the City of Denver and took the lead on an auxiliary women’s shelter set up at the Denver Coliseum. (Photo by Catholic Charities)

Back in April, in response to the pandemic and out of a need to maintain social distancing protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the City of Denver and Catholic Charities of Denver partnered to set up the Denver Coliseum as a 24/7 auxiliary emergency women’s shelter that’s that was able to accommodate up to 300 women. Catholic Charities staff took the lead at the shelter with full support from the City of Denver. The auxiliary shelter has since returned to the regular women’s shelter facility, but this collaboration between the city and Catholic Charities was crucial as cases of COVID-19 climbed in April.

“When the pandemic hit, Catholic Charities had to find a way to social distance the ladies in its Women’s Emergency Shelter,” said Mike Sinnett, Vice President of Shelters and Community Outreach. “We also had to provide them 24/7 care to honor the governor’s Stay-at-Home order and triage for the virus. Working with the City of Denver staff, we came together as a shelter community and obtained the use of the Denver Coliseum downtown. We were able to better provide social distancing, 24/7 shelter with three meals a day and other amenities, including showers and case management.

“We believe this effort with the city protected our most vulnerable community and helped prevent the spread of the virus. But more importantly, we made it safer for women experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.”

Featured image: Father Dan Norick hands out supplies during a community giveaway event hosted at Ascension Catholic Parish in Montbello in conjunction with the City of Denver. (Photo provided)