Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal steps up in dramatic fashion

Unique times call for unique action and the Archdiocese of Denver met the call of those in need in new ways this year. The Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal provided vital support to its parishes and its people in their time of crisis.

Many generous members of the Church of Northern Colorado stepped up when their Church called on them with donations that answered the immediate funding needs of more than 40 ministries, but the Appeal is still only covering 67 percent of its goal.

Traditionally, the Appeal kicks off two weeks after Easter, but this year the pandemic forced changes in both the Appeal roll-out and the dramatic new needs of the ministries that the Appeal supports.

Virus restrictions on Masses resulted in drastically reduced offertory funds that are used to sustain parish operations. Many parishes were faced with fears of forced layoffs. The archdiocese stepped in to protect parishes by dedicating the first $1 million raised from the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal directly to parishes as emergency relief.

“The archdiocese recognized the extreme pressures its parishes have been experiencing,” said Keith Parsons, Chief Operating Officer of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Funds were quickly sent to grateful parishes.

“Thanks to the support from the Appeal, we were able to keep our parish staff and cover expenses during these difficult times,” said Father Wojciech Gierasimczyk, pastor at St. Anthony of Padua.

But that was just the beginning.

The Archdiocese of Denver found creative ways to continue administering the sacraments, such as Baptism and Marriage. The 37 Catholic schools in the archdiocese found inspiring ways to teach. The archdiocese ordained five new priests in May and livestreamed masses for at least 63 parishes — some in two languages.

Ministries like Centro San Juan Diego assisted more than 500 people in the Hispanic community during the first few months of the crisis and even started a support group for new moms who welcomed their babies this year.

“To be in this country is a blessing and Centro offers you a lot of things to succeed,” said a Centro client and small-business owner.

The Church continues to welcome new faithful through Catholic formation classes and the newly engaged want to learn about creating a Catholic marriage.

But the financial need of 2020 continues. The Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal is the best way to help support these ministries and many more. Many Catholics have already been inspired to make sacrifices to help their brothers and sisters in faith.

Parishes are asking parishioners to come together to support the Appeal at Mass on September 19-20.

If you have already given, thank you for your generous support. If you would like more information or are unable to attend Mass on Appeal weekend, please visit archden.org/givenow.

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.”