Multiple cultures at All Saints offer a glimpse of the ‘Universal Church’

Moira Cullings

When Monsignor Peter Quang Nguyen looks out into the pews during Mass, he is inspired by the diversity he sees.

“It’s giving me a true sense of understanding the universal church,” said the All Saints Catholic Church pastor.

“Different backgrounds give me a true sense of appreciation as the people of the holy mother Church gather throughout the world.”

All Saints, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Nov. 18, is made up of a mosaic of cultures — from Vietnamese and Hmong to Hispanic and Anglo.

For the parishioners, that variety makes their worship experience even richer.

“It’s exciting that we all come from so many different backgrounds, but we all share the same beliefs,” said John Altman, who has been a parishioner at All Saints his entire life.

“It especially struck me during the anniversary Mass when we were saying the Creed,” he said. “I was looking around, and we’re all from so many different backgrounds and countries. And we’re all standing here reciting the same words and believing the same things.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila presides over the 50th anniversary Mass celebrating the dedication of All Saints Catholic Church on Nov. 18. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila celebrated Mass for the parish’s anniversary, which was followed by a reception. The archbishop also blessed the parish’s new prayer garden, which includes statues of different saints, and parishioners enjoyed seeing the new 17 Stations of the Cross in place right outside the church.

Barb Serpa, who joined the parish two years ago, is grateful for Msgr. Quang’s leadership and the upgrades to the parish.

“Monsignor has a lovely way of pulling us all together and making us feel like one family in celebrating our diversity as opposed to struggling with it,” she said. “It’s a very comfortable place to be.”

Although Serpa is newer to the parish, she already feels right at home and spends one to two days a week volunteering for the music and bereavement ministries.

“Since the day I walked in the door, I have felt very welcomed,” she said. “Whatever services I can contribute, I always feel appreciated by the staff.”

Altman, who recently joined the finance council, has also felt closer to his parish family since taking on the role.

“I always felt like I belonged,” he said, “but because I’m involved more, I feel a sense of ownership.”

One of the things that strikes Serpa about All Saints is the liveliness she’s discovered there.

“I feel that there’s life here,” she said. “I’ve been at parishes in the past where you get a sensation that there’s stagnation or a lot of ritual, but not a lot of heart. I have to give the compliment to Monsignor for his vision that we are all brothers and sisters. It’s lovely.”

They can see that after 50 years, the church is still alive.”

The parish is thriving enough to offer three daily Masses — 6:30 a.m. in English, 7:30 a.m. in English and 6 p.m. in Vietnamese. Monsignor Quang even learned the Hmong language and says Mass for the community on Sundays at 1 p.m.

All Saints has around 1,500 registered families, and according to Msgr. Quang, that number continues to increase.

“All I can say is I’m grateful,” he said.

Monsignor Quang believes more parishioners are drawn to the parish because they “find some of those people that share the common faith and the culture and hopefully the zeal for evangelization.”

To keep up with the growth, the pastor is constantly working to enliven the parish both physically and spiritually.

“I believe that the people are so happy,” said Msgr. Quang. “They can see that after 50 years, the church is still alive.

“They were so proud and continue to pass on the flame of faith to the younger generation — not only for a small group of people, but a group of people from many different cultures.”

COMING UP: Catholic Baby University prepares parents for the real deal

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Heidi and Jim Knous had no idea that something like a Catholic childbirth education existed. But not long after finding out the great news that they were expecting their first child, Brady, they came across an article in the Denver Catholic introducing Catholic Baby University — a program designed to teach expecting parents the nuts and bolts of both childbirth and Catholicism.

“I think it’s special because it gives you an opportunity to step back from all the registries and baby shower… and to really take time to come together as a couple to think about this vocation, what parenthood is … and how you want that to look for your family,” Heidi said.

“I think there’s a lot of distractions when you’re about to have a child,” Jim added. “Everybody knows it’s going to be tough and you’re going through a lot. Everybody’s trying to tell you, ‘You should do this, you should do that.’ But Catholic Baby U really gives you a solid understanding of what having a child is going to be like and includes the values that we learned as a family in raising a baby in the Catholic faith.”

Jim and Heidi Knous and their son Brady, are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. (Photo provided)

 

The Catholic Baby University holistic program for parents — offered both as a weekend retreat or a six-class series — is the result of the partnership between Rose Medical Center and the Archdiocese of Denver and was inspired by the previously-founded Jewish Baby University.

The classes touch on topics dealing with childbirth instruction, postpartum experience, baby safety and the Catholic faith — and they are taught and facilitated by certified birth and safety instructors, mental health professionals, and members from the Office of Evangelization and Family Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Statistically, people become more religiously involved when they have children, so we want to respond to people’s desires to reengage their faith with the coming of their child,” said Scott Elmer, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver and also a facilitator of the program, in a previous interview. “We want to be there to welcome them, celebrate the new life, and give them the tools they need to incorporate God into their home life.”

For Jim and Heidi, who are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, the experience of having both the childbirth and Catholic aspects in this preparation did not disappoint, as they learned from each one.

“It was a great opportunity to come back and think about things from a basic level again and how to bring our child into the faith — things that you haven’t necessarily thought of or how you would teach a child something, [like praying],” Heidi said.

“Something we learned [that really made me reflect] was that the bond between me and Brady and between Heidi and Brady are very different. It happens at very different times,” Jim shared. “Right away when Heidi finds out she’s pregnant, then her bonding with Brady already starts all the way until Brady’s born. As a dad, it doesn’t start until he is born and I’m actually holding him.”

Heidi assured the concept of “gatekeeping” also helped them prepare for parenting better.

“[Gatekeeping] is when, as a mom, you get really wrapped up in, ‘Only I know how to change baby diapers, only I know how to feed the baby, only I know how to do this,’” Heidi explained. “And I am someone who I could’ve seen thinking that I could be the only person that knew how to take care of [my child]. But gaining that understanding helped us co-parent a lot easier from the very beginning because I was aware of it.”

“I would tell [expecting couples] that Catholic Baby University is a great place to start, to gain community, to meet other people that are in a similar place that you are in; having people in the same room who are just as excited, just as terrified who also want to learn,” Heidi concluded. “It’s just a really awesome opportunity to take advantage of.”