Archbishop to new transitional deacons: Look to the examples of Sts. Peter and Joseph

Aaron Lambert

On Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila ordained six men to the transitional diaconate during a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Marking this important step toward the priesthood were John Alemeida, who is studying at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary; John Croghan, who is studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass.; Sean Conroy, Anthony Davis and John Stapleton, who are all studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary; and Peter Srsich, who is studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

In his homily, Archbishop Aquila noted the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter and spoke of the readings for the day, taken from the book of Jeremiah.

“In our readings for today, we hear the Lord speak to the prophet Jeremiah, and he speaks to you too,” the archbishop told the men. “‘I formed you. I dedicated you. I appointed you. I send you. I command you. I am with you to deliver you. I place my words in your mouth.’ And all of those point to action of God in your lives.”

In meditating on these words, Archbishop Aquila said, it becomes apparent that the vocations of the six men – and each of God’s children – was God’s will from the beginning.

“You, my beloved sons, your vocation began at the time of your baptism. And that is true for each and every one of us,” he asserted. “In making us at our baptism his beloved sons and daughters in Jesus Christ, the Lord pours out his love upon us, unconditionally and freely.”

Citing the Gospel of Matthew, Archbishop Aquila explained that even today, there is still confusion about who Christ is, but as Christians, we must look to the example of Peter and the apostles, who states, “You are the Christ, son of the living God.”

This is a proclamation all sons and daughters of God must make, the archbishop said, and in doing so, we “respond that Jesus is the son of the living God. That he is the Lord. That he is the savior. He is the redeemer. He is the brother and friend. And it is living in that relationship and believing it and trusting it and opening our hearts to receive it that we discover our vocation.”

The archbishop then urged the men to always remember the vocation to which the Lord has called them, that it is not their own will that they should seek to do, but the will of the father.

“In your preaching, you must have confidence in the Holy Spirit and in the words given to the prophet by God: ‘I place my words in your mouth,’” Archbishop Aquila said. “You are not to preach your opinion. You are not to preach your personal preferences. You are not to lead people astray. You are to lead them into the truth of Jesus Christ. You are to lead them into the encounter with Jesus. You are to preach Jesus’s words. And certainly, you are to use personal examples of where you have encountered Christ, helping people to see that, yes, in 2020, it is possible to encounter Jesus Christ.”

In the wake of media reports on Querida Amazonia and the question of priestly celibacy, Archbishop Aquila urged the men to accept their celibacy as gift from Jesus Christ, so that they can offer their vocation as a self-gift for God’s people.

“The priesthood is not functional, it is sacramental. And so, too, is celibacy,” the archbishop told the men. “You give witness to the truth and to the world that the virtue of chastity can be lived. In this sex-crazed culture that we live in, it needs more than ever that witness to the gift of chastity and to how to live that virtue and the incredible freedom and joy that it gives you.”

In the struggle of celibacy, the archbishop suggested the newly ordained men to look to the example of St. Joseph, who he said is the “best example of spiritual fatherhood and what it means to be a father as a celibate.”

“St. Joseph was called by the Father to be the father of Jesus in his humanity, and in that call, he responded wholeheartedly,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He became the protector of Jesus and Mary and he lived that out in his lifetime. That encounter with Joseph can teach us what it means to be a spiritual father. Listening to the words of Jesus, ‘I have come not to do my own will, but the will of the Father. My very food is the will of the Father.’ St. Joseph was obedient to that.

“You are making a lifelong commitment today,” the archbishop concluded. “Stay faithful to Jesus in that. Remain strong and steadfast in Jesus.”

Featured image by Daniel Petty

COMING UP: Catholic schools plan to reopen for in-school learning this fall

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Having endured a rather challenging last few months of the school year, parents of Catholic school students can now rest easy with the knowledge that Catholic schools will be open this fall.

In a letter issued May 29, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Denver Catholic Schools Superintendent Elias Moo announced plans to reopen Catholic schools for in-school learning for the 2020-21 school year. At the forefront of these plans is the health and safety of students and faculty.

“We will carry out in-person instruction with increased health protocols and processes to ensure that our schools are going above and beyond to protect the health of every member of our Catholic school community, especially our most high-risk members,” said Archbishop Aquila and Moo in their letter. “We are confident our schools’ protocols and processes will keep our school environments as healthy and as safe as possible for all members of our communities.”

To help ensure healthy school environments are maintained, a task force composed of school leaders, nurse practitioners, doctors and a virologist has been assembled. This group is working with schools to identify the best health measures and policies in preparation for the coming school year.

For those parents who may not feel comfortable sending their children to school for any in-school learning, the archdiocese and Office of Catholic Schools are also formulating a virtual distance-learning option. Families who are interested will still be able to receive instruction in core content areas while remaining connected to their local school community. More details on this option will be available at the end of June.

Recognizing the unique challenges parents have faced over these past few months as schools have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Archbishop Aquila and Moo expressed sincere gratitude for their increased efforts in making distance learning a success.

“None of this would have been possible without the incredible efforts made by our parents to play an even bigger role in their children’s education,” they said. “While balancing your own work, caring for your families and other day-to-day responsibilities, you have stepped up to make sure we had a productive finish to the school year.”

Given the fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Archbishop Aquila and Moo said that Catholic schools will continue to abide by mandated health protocols while working to keep Catholic schools operating for the good of the communities they serve.

“Our Catholic schools are a critical part of the educational ecosystem and fabric of our state, and we remain committed to working in a spirit of cooperation with our local and state officials when possible as we all seek to advance the common good of our communities,” they concluded.

As plans for reopening Denver’s Catholic schools are continually developed, parents are invited to participate in a survey to help school leadership consider the needs of the community so they can open schools in the safest possible manner. The survey can be accessed by visiting denvercatholicschools.com.