Archbishop Aquila issues update on Independent Reparations Program

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila

October 16, 2020 

Dear brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Denver, 

Today, the Oversight Committee of the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (Program) released an interim summary of the program’s work, including statistical information and the Committee members’ thoughts on the effectiveness of the process. 

When the three dioceses in Colorado announced this program in 2019, our sincere hope was that any survivor who had not previously come forward would do so, and any survivor who hadn’t previously received compensation from the Archdiocese would have that opportunity through a simple and non-adversarial process.  

As part of what was reported by the Oversight Committee today, the Program received 66 claims involving allegations of abuse by Archdiocesan priests, of which 56 were deemed eligible by the program administrators. 52 of those survivors have accepted the reparations offered by the administrators and been paid by the Archdiocese. To date, no victim has rejected the program’s offer to them. Four offers remain pending. Of the 56 survivors deemed eligible by the administrators, approximately half came forward for the first time.  

To all of the survivors who came forward and participated in the Program: I have met with all of you who requested a meeting in which I could offer an apology to you in person, and will meet with anyone else should you desire to do so. I know others have chosen a different path for healing and I, of course, respect your wishes. Please know, on behalf of myself and the Church, I am deeply sorry for the pain and hurt that was caused by the abuse you suffered. I remain steadfastly committed to meeting with any survivor who desires to meet with me and doing everything I can so that the problems of the past never repeat themselves. I know that money cannot fully heal the wounds you suffered, but hope that those of you who came forward felt heard, acknowledged, and that the reparations offer a measure of justice and access to resources. 

And, to those survivors who still have not come forward: while the claims period to seek help through the reparations program is now closed, the ability to seek help and support from the Archdiocese remains open. I encourage you to come forward and to report your abuse to law enforcement and then to our Office of Child and Youth Protection. Even if you do not wish to receive assistance from the Archdiocese, we can help you find other resources that will provide the assistance you need. 

Importantly, all allegations made by victims as part of the Program had to be reported to local authorities, and the information was also provided to the Attorney General (Phil Weiser) and the Special Master (Robert Troyer), who with the Church’s support and active participation previously studied and issued a report in 2019 on the sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church in Colorado. We know that some substantiated allegations in the Program were made against priests not previously identified in the prior report. From the outset of our cooperation with the Attorney General, I have pledged transparency, and it was always anticipated that there would need to be a supplement to the Special Master’s report to capture information that came forward as a result of the Program. Consistent with my pledge of transparency, the identity of priests who were accused of wrongdoing in the Program process where those allegations were deemed substantiated, as determined by the Special Master and Attorney General, will be included in an addendum prepared by the Special Master, which is presently anticipated in November.   

None of the survivors who participated in the Program reported abuse in the last 20 years—meaning that the abuse alleged in the Program, like that set out in the Special Master’s original report, involves incidents that occurred decades ago.   

As the Program is winding down, I would like to again thank Senator Hank Brown, the Honorable Jeanne Smith, retired Judge David Crockenberg, victims advocate Nancy Feldman, and community leader Laura Morales for their time and effort in over-seeing this program. I would also like to thank program administrators Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros and their team for their work with the survivors, especially during the middle of a pandemic. Like the Committee, we are glad this outreach to survivors has been able to reach so many survivors in such a short period of time, and without the adversity and pressures placed on survivors by our civil justice system.   

I also want to reiterate the promises I have made to everyone in our Archdiocese. This independent program and the independent review conducted by the dioceses in Colorado in cooperation with the Attorney General have put a spotlight on a horrifying chapter in our history, but it has also shown that the steps we have taken over the past 30 years—including our training and empowerment of thousands of faithful parishioners and volunteers across the Archdiocese—have been effective. Most of all, it has taught us to be open and care for victims of abuse as they deem best, and to always be vigilant to make sure the Church is a safe place. 

Today, I am confident that the work and commitment of our priests, deacons, employees and volunteers are making our Churches and schools among the safest places in our state for children. However, this process continues to remind us that we can never be complacent, that evil lurks in all corners of our society, and that we must always work to stamp out those who wish to do harm and violate the trust of our children. This work has undoubtedly reaffirmed our resolve to do everything we can to protect children in our Church and beyond. 

Please join me in praying for all survivors of abuse, and for continued healing for them, their families, and our Church. 

In Christ, 

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila 

COMING UP: ‘I have seen the Lord’: St. Vincent de Paul’s new adoration chapel honors St. Mary Magdelene’s witness

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“I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18). 

One couple from St. Vincent de Paul parish took these words to heart with urgency last year during the pandemic and decided to build a Eucharistic Adoration chapel for their fellow faithful to be in the Lord’s presence themselves. 

Mike and Shari Sullivan donated design and construction of the new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene adjacent to their parish church to make a space for prayer and adoration that they felt needed to be reinstated, especially during the difficult days of COVID-19. 

The chapel was completed this spring and dedicated during Divine Mercy weekend with a special blessing from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. 

“It was invigorating to have the archbishop bless the chapel,” Mike said. “The church has been buzzing.” 

Mike has been a Catholic and a member of St. Vincent de Paul since his baptism, which he jokes was around the time the cornerstone was placed in 1951. The Sullivans’ five children all attended the attached school and had their sacraments completed at St. Vincent de Paul too. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila dedicated the St. Mary Magdalene adoration chapel with a prayer and blessing at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church on April 9, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

The 26-by 40-foot chapel is a gift to fellow parishioners of a church that has meant so much to their family for decades, and to all who want to participate in prayer and adoration. 

The architect and contractor are both Catholic, both of whom helped in the design of the Catholic structure, and the construction crew broke ground in mid-December. The Sullivans wanted to reclaim any Catholic artifacts or structural pieces they could for the new chapel. Some of the most striking features of the chapel are the six stained glass windows Mike was able to secure from a demolished church in New York. 

The windows were created by Franz Xaver Zettler who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century.  The Munich style is accomplished by painting detailed pictures on large pieces of glass unlike other stained-glass methods, which use smaller pieces of colored glass to make an image. 

The two primary stained-glass windows depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, the chapel’s namesake, and they frame either side of the altar which holds the tabernacle and monstrance — both reused from St.  Vincent De Paul church.  

The Sullivans wanted to design a cloistered feel for the space and included the traditional grill and archway that opens into the pews and kneelers with woodwork from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. 

The chapel was generously donated by Mike and Shari Sullivan. The stained glass windows, which depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, were created by Franz Xaver Zettler, who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Shari is a convert to Catholicism and didn’t grow up with the practice of Eucharistic adoration, but St. Vincent de Paul pastor Father John Hilton told her to watch how adoration will transform the parish. She said she knows it will, because of what regular Eucharistic adoration has done for her personally. 

The Sullivans are excited that the teachers at St. Vincent de Paul school plan to bring their classes to the warm and inviting chapel to learn about the practice of adoration and reflect on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

The words of St. Mary Magdalene “I have seen the Lord,” have become the motto of the chapel, Mike said, and they are emblazoned on a brass plaque to remind those who enter the holy space of Christ’s presence and the personal transformation offered to those inside.

The St. Vincent de Paul  Church and The Eucharistic Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene is located at 2375 E. Arizona Ave. Denver 80210 on the corner of Arizona and Josephine Street. The chapel is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Visit https://saintvincents.org/adorationchapel1 for more information about the chapel and to look for updates on expanded hours as they occur.