Archbishop Aquila installs Bishop James R. Golka as third bishop of Colorado Springs

On the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the spirit of these two great saints was very much present as a new bishop was ordained in Colorado Springs.

Bishop James R. Golka was consecrated and installed as the third bishop of the Diocese of Colorado Springs following the retirement of Bishop Michael J. Sheridan’s, whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis earlier this year. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila was the chief consecrator and celebrant of the Mass, which took place at Holy Apostles Church in Colorado Springs.

Listen to Archbishop Aquila’s full homily from Bishop Golka’s ordination:

It was a fitting day for new bishop to be ordained through the laying on of hands by Archbishop Aquila, Bishop Sheridan, Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Bishop Golka’s home diocese, and the other bishops present. After all, it was Peter who was the first bishop of the Church, and through the apostolic succession of the Church, his episcopal lineage could be traced through history to that day on June 29, when Bishop Golka was infused with the same Holy Spirit as St. Peter was, over 2,000 years ago.

Archbishop Aquila pointed to the examples Sts. Peter and Paul and related them to Bishop Golka’s new episcopal duty as the shepherd of the faithful in Colorado Springs.

Photo by Corey Davis/The Colorado Catholic Herald

“What you are entrusted with today is to wash the feet of all of the faithful of the Church in Colorado Springs,” Archbishop Aquila told Bishop Golka. “You are to be the one who, like Simon Peter, points ton Jesus Christ, like Paul, who in his experience and encounter with Christ, was able to cry out, ‘I live by faith in the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me. It is no longer I who live, but I am crucified with Christ, and it is he, Christ, who lives in me.'”

In the challenges that will be presented as a bishop, Archbishop Aquila urged Bishop Golka to rely on Jesus Christ first and foremost, to allow him to carry the new bishop through the struggles and trials, and to always point the faithful toward Christ in all that he does.

“He and he alone is the one who can rescue us, and it is to him we must point,” Archbishop Aquila said. “In the midst of the trials and sufferings that you may experience as a bishop, depend on Jesus Christ. Not your power, not your authority but the power and authority of the one you serve, Jesus Christ, and proclaiming that Gospel. He will give you the grace and the strength you need to be his witness in the times in which we find ourselves.

The archbishop also stressed that there will be times when Bishop Golka will be called to fraternal correction and holding others accountable to the Gospel, and that it must be tough yet also tender and rooted in mercy. Christ is the example for this too, the archbishop said, pointing to the times when he rebuked Peter in the Gospels.

“We must be those who take the fullness of the Gospel, knowing that it is only living the fullness of the Gospel that we will experience its joy,” Archbishop Aquila concluded. “Jesus has taught us that we must always be attached to him, that he is the vine, and we are the branches. My beloved brother, stay attached to him and know that he is faithful, that you will bear fruit the more you attach yourself to him. For as he teaches us in John 15, ‘apart from me, you can do nothing.'”

Photo by Veronica Ambuul/The Colorado Catholic Herald

Bishop Golka is formerly a priest of the Diocese of Grand Island in Nebraska, where he has served for over 25 years. In addition serving as parochial vicar and pastor of various parishes, Bishop Golka has also held posts as the Director of Ongoing Formation of Clergy, Director of Diocesan Youth Retreats and Vicar General for the Diocese of Grand Island.

During the traditional solemn vespers that take place the evening before a bishop’s ordination, Bishop Golka shared an experience in prayer that he had a few weeks prior during a retreat in which Jesus washed his feet.

“How key it is to allow Jesus to care for you,” Bishop Golka said. “To allow Jesus to wipe you clean. To alllow Jesus to love you. At the the end of that day, I had spent a day just being loved by my Lord, and I could not wait to go and tell people about it. For anybody who is a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, we’ve got to first know how much Jesus loves us. He’s fascinated by you. Our Savior has come and he shows us the way. Then maybe after we’ve been loved by the Lord, then we can become more like him for the rest of the world.”

Featured Photo by Corey Davis/The Colorado Catholic Herald

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”