An occasion worth celebrating


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”  Hebrews 12:1

I love being Catholic in November. I like to think of this as the month that the Church reminds us that we’re not alone. Those who went before us are still, in a very real way, with us. We can pray for them. And, once they have entered into glory, they can and do surround us and see us and pray for us.

We think of the saints, rightly, as role models. They have walked in our shoes. They’ve faced trial and temptation and suffering, just as we do, and they have finished the race.  But sometimes, we stop there. We can emulate them, we can ask them to pray for us. But the relationship is pretty one-sided. It’s us looking up to them — literally and figuratively.

But I have found that there’s a lot more to it. The saints want to do more than just passively wait for us. They want to be part of our lives. They want a much more direct, two-way relationship.

A couple of years ago, I told you the story about how my friend, the late Father Michael Scanlon, TOR, reached out in a very real, concrete way to let me know that he is praying for me. That incident was stunning in its clarity. It left me no doubt that he, although no longer in this world, is aware of and interested in what is happening in my life, and that through his prayers he has become an active participant.

This November, I want to tell you about a different and somewhat more subtle experience I had.

Everyone who knows me knows about the tremendous impact St. John Paul II had on me. His Theology of the Body quite literally derailed my life. After I discovered it during my senior year of college, I was determined to share its message as widely as I could. Which turned out to be far wider than I could have ever imagined. Instead of marrying and having children, I spent the next 20 years traveling around the world, speaking on the Holy Father’s vision of love and marriage. I earned a Master’s degree from the program he founded, the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. I wrote two books based on his message.

I never really met him during that time. We spoke at the same events a couple of times. But while I eagerly listened to every word of his addresses, he was not sitting in the audience during mine. I “met” him during a papal audience once, but he was very ill and it was kind of a “department store Santa Claus” set up where we had our pictures taken with him, but no real introduction or conversation happened. I was told at one point that he knew who I was and was familiar with my work. But that’s about as close as we ever got.

Nine years after his death, I traveled to Rome for his canonization. The way that trip came about was really nothing short of miraculous and gave me the distinct impression that “somebody” wanted me there.

While in Rome, I was praying one day at the church of Santo Spirito, the Divine Mercy shrine. It’s a beautiful place, with a side chapel with a large, beautiful picture of St. John Paul II. While I was praying there, I suddenly had what I can only describe as an awareness of his presence. I felt, as strongly as ever, my love for this man who so beautifully radiated Christ. And I heard, in my heart, his deep Polish voice saying “Now I choose you.” I knew, I just knew, that he was telling me that he knew me, and that he was choosing me to be his spiritual daughter — to pray for me, and to help lead me to Christ.

I wept. A lot. It was beautiful.

Could it have been my imagination? Sure. But I don’t think so. And even it if was, I know what St. Paul told us — that our departed brothers and sisters in Heaven are not far from us. They surround us. And thus, the man who influenced my life so profoundly is still real and still present and active in the world, and in my life.

This is not just about me. He influenced thousands of us — perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands. I’m sure many others have had similar experiences, and many others would if they remained silent long enough to hear him

All of us who were touched by his life are his spiritual children, and they are my spiritual siblings.

And what do we do when we’re family? We celebrate important milestones together, of course. And there’s a big one coming up. My spiritual father’s birthday is coming up. St. John Paul II was born on May 20th, 1920. Next year will be his big 1-0-0. And I want to celebrate it. With all of you.

I will be leading a pilgrimage to Poland, “In the Footsteps of St. John Paul II,” next May. We will visit the major sites of his life, and those of other Polish saints like Maximilian Kolbe and St. Faustina. And, best of all, will be in Krakow, the center of so much of St. JPII’s life in Poland, on the date of his 100th birthday.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. For me, and for everybody who loved him.

I would very much like you to join me. If you’d like to learn more, go to

Because family should be together on special occasions.

Featured image by Lucía Ballester/CNA

COMING UP: What parents want most from their child’s school — and how Catholic schools fulfill it

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By Carol Nesbitt

What do parents of school aged kids want most of all from their child’s school?


Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic

It’s probably first and foremost to know they’re safe — not only from physical harm, violence, and drugs, but also other negative influences kids have to navigate in today’s complicated and confusing world, including cultural pressures to do what ‘feels good’ instead of what is right, just and moral.

This past year, some news media outlets questioned the safety of students in Denver’s Catholic schools because of sex abuse from decades ago. The reality is that the Church and all of the Archdiocese of Denver’s Catholic Schools have worked diligently to ensure the safety of all students. In fact, many parents say they specifically chose Catholic schools here because they feel their children are safer than the alternatives. But the term “safe” is much broader in today’s society.

“Their physical safety, as well as the safety of their souls, is something that is always on our minds as parents,” said Kelsey Lynch, a parent of two school-aged children. She and her husband, Michael, said that knowing their children were safe in school was one of the main reasons they chose St. Mary’s Catholic School in Greeley.

“St. Mary’s has proven over and over that our children’s safety is on the forefront of their minds,” she said. “They are taking every preventative step possible to keep our children safe from the evils that are so prevalent in our world today. With open communication, facing the hard topics instead of shying away from them, and vetting all people that our kids will come in contact with, we feel a Catholic school is the safest place for our kids to receive an education.”

The safety of their children’s souls is equally as important to mom Kelsie Raddatz and her husband, Justin, who have five children. Their two oldest attend St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Loveland.

“There is truly no greater lesson to learn than to know that you are so incredibly loved by God and that God is so good. These crucial lessons aren’t allowed to be spoken in public schools,” Kelsie said.


Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic

That’s why the Raddatzes make the financial sacrifice to send their kids to St. John’s, with the strong belief that not only will their children be physically safe, but that they will fully understand that their purpose in life is to share Jesus’ love with others through everything they do; whether it be in the classroom or on the playground, speaking to others the way they would speak to Jesus.

“Every single moment is an opportunity to see Jesus present and to serve Him as well,” Kelsie continued. “What a blessed environment for our kids to learn and practice such crucial lessons!”

The Lynches say they can’t do it alone. For their children to become the saints they are called to be, the Lynches know that they need to work in partnership with their school community.

“Our kids’ teachers and classmates get more time with our kids during the week than we do, so it’s important that the people they are surrounded by are also helping them grow into the individuals God created them to be,” Kelsey said. “Our kids are learning what it is really like to have a strong faith family and the importance of a community that stands together in prayer and action to serve each other and the world around them, in both good and trying times.”

Kate McGreevy Crisham and her husband John echo the Lynch’s in their desire to have a strong faith foundation in their children’s education. That’s why they send their kids to St. Vincent de Paul in Denver.

“We are so fortunate in Denver to be able to choose Catholic schools because they are academically excellent AND thoroughly Catholic,” Kate said.

She and her husband wanted their faith to surround their children at home and at school. “We wanted God to be a part — actually the center — of the educational process of drawing out, igniting curiosity, working with challenging concepts and, as important, failing, struggling, and building resilience,” Kate shared. “Catholic schools value that process, encourage it, and love kids through it.”


Photo by Brandon Young

She said she can see Jesus incarnate on a daily basis at St. Vincent de Paul.

“I see Jesus when I see an 8th grade boy stop to high five a group of kindergarteners. When I talk to the teachers of my kids, I see Jesus in their pure interest in what is best for my child — not what I want to hear — yet their words are delivered with professionalism and yes, love.

“From the maintenance staff to the principal, hearts are aligned in the work being done to educate the whole child.”

After exploring various options for preschool for their eldest child, Christy and Scott Kline toured Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, and although there was a free public school across the street, there was no question where they would send their kids. The decision was about so much more than simply educating their child.

“We have a ‘caught caring’ award (at the school) that is multi-faceted,” Christy said “Children are recognized for doing good — not academically — but in ways that benefit society and communities as a whole. Teachers and administration are ‘looking for the good’ in the school and finding it. When you look for something, it stands out.”

She feels that by looking for the best in people, you bring out the best. Kline also believes that strong parental involvement helps keep the school as safe as possible.

“The onus is on all of us to create an open, safe, transparent culture going forward, not just in Catholic organizations, but in all organizations and activities where children are involved,” Christy said.


Photo by Brandon Young

That same responsibility is on parents to choose schools that will reinforce the values they’re working to teach their children at home. David and Kathy Silverstein have had four children in Catholic schools in Denver over the past 20 years. Although there were many options for schools, including a charter school near their home, once they stepped foot inside St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Longmont, they knew it was the ‘only choice’ for their kids. As their children transitioned into high school, the Silversteins found that Holy Family High School was another perfect fit.

“In today’s world, finding a school that excels at education, sports and extra curriculars is challenging enough, but to find a school, particularly a high school, that prioritizes kindness, morality, personal responsibility, strength of character and just plain old being a good person — that is the uniqueness of Holy Family High School,” said Kathy. “An atmosphere of respect lives within the halls, between teachers, between students. It’s expected.”

For these families and countless others, they have experienced that it is the overall commitment by Catholic schools to keep students safe, to help them truly know they are loved by God, to incorporate faith into every subject area, and to set high expectations for students which reinforces parents’ decision to choose Catholic schools for their kids.

“My greatest desire for my children is for them to know how deeply they are loved by Jesus (and us, too!) and that their whole purpose in this life is to share Jesus’ love with others through every single thing they do,” Kelsie Raddatz said. “The classrooms are such a beautiful example of Jesus’ presence!”