Archbishop reveals a personal side

Establishes link with faithful during first-ever TeleForum

It was a few nights before Christmas, when all through the land, Catholics picked up their phones to hear the archbishop’s greeting and message of great joy.

“Hello, this is Archbishop Samuel Aquila,” was the recording thousands of parishioners heard when they answered their phone around 7 p.m. Sunday.

The archbishop’s Christmas call marked the first TeleForum event for the Archdiocese of Denver, in which the archbishop spoke to thousands of Catholics of northern Colorado in a live town hall-like phone call.

During the hour-long event, he shared insights on the gift of Christmas, his own personal encounter with Christ, and he answered 13 live questions from participants on everything from what’s it like to be an archbishop to difficulties in parish life.

The TeleForum is a live phone event developed by the Highlands Ranch-based company Broadnet, and donated to the Archdiocese of Denver as a way to open communication between the archbishop and the everyday Catholic in the pews.

“This Christmas it would be good for each of us to ask the Lord to draw near to us and show the Lord how much we love him in return of his love,” Archbishop Aquila said in his opening comments.

He said the way to return love is to receive it first. He advised faithful to listen to the Lord’s call of love—whether it’s to a particular vocation, to reconcile with a family member, to let go of fears or pray daily—and to not be afraid.

“The important thing is not to be afraid, to become an authentic and intentional disciple of Jesus who humbled himself to enter our world as an infant, as a child,” he continued. “He came to save us all. He offers that gift of salvation to us at Christmas and throughout the year.”

By the time the archbishop was ready to take questions, dozens of participants were waiting in line for their opportunity to speak live with the archbishop. During the entire hour, about 460 people had either asked a question or left a voicemail message for archbishop.

One participant, Linda, asked how to share the truth of the faith with fallen-away Catholics who hear secular media’s skewed reports on Pope Francis.

“It’s important to really clarify and look at what the Holy Father said and how the Holy Father said it,” the archbishop answered. “People will take sound bites from Pope Francis and they’ll manipulate them in different ways.”

He then suggested media outlets that are trustworthy, including the Vatican website www.vatican.va.

The questions callers posed were as varied as the caller’s ages. One 70-year-old woman, Marie, asked about receiving financial help for herself and her disabled daughter, and a 12-year-old boy, Adrian, called with his mother from Basalt.

“Is it easy being bishop?” Adrian asked.

“Parts of it are easy and parts of it are challenging,” the archbishop said. “But for the most part it is a real gift and blessing.”

The archbishop then spoke to the young boy about praying to God and asking him to reveal his vocation.

“Jesus has a call for every human being that only you and you alone can fulfill, and no one else can fulfill that,” he said. “It’s very important for you to open your heart to Jesus and to ask him and pray about what his plan is for your life.”


One caller, David, posed a heavier question.

“We have so much strife going on in our country right now,” he stated to the archbishop. “How can we keep focus on the positive and the good going on in this season right now?”

The archbishop said the battle between good and evil is very real, pointing to recent events—the execution of two New York police officers over the weekend and the slaughter of school children in Pakistan—as examples.

“The Christian message is that no matter how strong the persecution may be, no matter how evil presents itself, we know Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and God is stronger than evil,” the archbishop said. “So it becomes all the more important for every Christian, every Catholic, to give witness to Jesus Christ.”

He said the world will not improve until “we live our faith out and live it out authentically—and inviting others to come to know the Lord and encounter the Lord and truly be joyful witnesses.”

At the end of the event, the archbishop wished “a very blessed and holy Christmas to all of you,” and extended his blessing on the participants.

Participants also voted in polls during the interactive call. Polls revealed the Denver Catholic Register is the preferred source of Catholic news for 49 percent of the participants who were listening, before their parish bulletin or the Sunday homily. About 73 percent responded that they were interested in participating in more calls with the archbishop.

The live TeleForum event was the first for any archdiocese in the nation, according to Broadnet. Since 2004, the company has managed interactive phone calls involving politicians, world leaders, professional sport teams like the Denver Broncos and other faith-based organizations.

To hear the recorded phone call, visit www.vekeo.com/ro.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

4,471 largest number of participants at one time
1,900 stayed on the call for 20-35 minutes
268 left voicemail messages
192 asked questions
13 questions were answered live

 

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash