Archdiocese of Denver bishops lend support to DACA

Put people before politics, the bishops urge

Karna Lozoya

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez released a statement Friday urging the Catholics of northern Colorado to support through action and prayer the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the 17,000 Colorado youth who would be directly affected if President Donald Trump were to eliminate it.

Read the letter here

“As the bishops of the Archdiocese of Denver, we are writing to ask your help and prayers on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters,” the statement begins.

The bishops noted that DACA has allowed “approximately 800,000 undocumented youth to live, go to school and work in the United States without fear of deportation,” and that despite its success, the program could be eliminated by President Trump this week.

“Brothers and Sisters, know that the beneficiaries of DACA are children who were brought to the United States as minors. For many, the United States is the only country they know,” the bishops stated. “They have been educated here and serve in many of our parishes.

“In fact, several DACA beneficiaries work for the Archdiocese of Denver. It would be devastating for our parishes and our Catholic community if we were to lose these young people.”

The bishops urged the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Denver to “support our youth with your voice” by calling the White House in support of DACA, of supporting the bipartisan DREAM Act, and to pray.

“Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,” the prayer reads, “To banish fear from our hearts, That we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister.”

The full text of the letter follows:

To all Catholics of Northern Colorado:

As the bishops of the Archdiocese of Denver, we are writing to ask your help and prayers on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, particularly the 17,000 youth of the state of Colorado, who will be directly affected by any changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Donald Trump is considering to eliminate as early as next week.

Since its inception, DACA has allowed approximately 800,000 undocumented youth to live, go to school and work in the United States without fear of deportation. Despite the success and popularity of the program, 10 state Attorneys General have recently threatened to sue the U.S. Federal Government if President Trump doesn’t put an end to DACA, citing concerns that the program is unconstitutional. The president has until Sept. 5 to make a decision.

Brothers and Sisters, know that the beneficiaries of DACA are children who were brought to the United States as minors. For many, the United States is the only country they know. They have been educated here and serve in many of our parishes. In fact, several DACA beneficiaries work for the Archdiocese of Denver. It would be devastating for our parishes and our Catholic community if we were to lose these young people.

As Pope Francis said in his 2017 Message for the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants, “Do not tire of courageously living the Gospel, which calls you to recognize and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.”

It is important to uphold the constitution, but we must always put people first in our politics. We ask that you call now, before the Sept. 5 deadline, to ask the President to remove any threat of deportation from the 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA.

And we want to encourage you to join us in supporting a bi-partisan legislative alternative to the DACA program, called the DREAM Act, which would alleviate the constitutional concerns cited by the Attorneys General.

Please, support our youth with your voice!

1. Call the White House today at 1-855-589-5698 and relay this message:

“I am calling as a concerned Catholic to strongly urge the President to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The approximately 800,000 young immigrants who have received DACA are vital members of our parishes, communities, and nation; they should not have to live their lives in fear of deportation.”

2. Support the DREAM Act today by sending a message to your elected representative. Visit JusticeforImmigrants.org

3. Pray: Please join us in praying the following prayer, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,
To banish fear from our hearts,
That we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;
To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity,
While responding to their many needs;
To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain
To learn the ways of peace and justice;
To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us,
To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.

Sincerely in Jesus Christ,

Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L.
Archbishop of Denver

Most Rev. Jorge H. Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver

COMING UP: New Catholic school leaders rise to the challenge

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There’s never been a more exciting time than now to be a student at one of Denver’s Catholic schools.

With robust curriculums that form the whole person and a variety of educational models to choose from, Catholic schools are a great option for parents seeking more for their children’s education.

Even more exciting are the various education professionals who are stepping into leadership roles beginning this new school year. These are individuals are who are passionate about Catholic education and even more passionate about partnering with parents, the primary educators of their children, to help lead their kids to an encounter with Jesus Christ.

The nine new leaders featured below bring a wealth of experience to their new roles, and they are each excited to rise to the challenge of making Denver’s Catholic schools the absolute best they can be at helping to form students into authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.

Andrew Beach
Our Lady of Lourdes (South Campus)

Andrew Beach credits much of his call to the teaching vocation to his parents, who are both teachers themselves. Beach studied economics and philosophy at University of Colorado Boulder and then went on to pursue a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. “From the second I heard about Lourdes and all that us going on here in terms of its classical education and strong Catholic identity and culture, I knew it was the school where I wanted to teach,” Beach said. As a result of the school’s expansion, Beach is now the Head of School for Lourdes’ South Campus. In his new role, he hopes to assist in guiding Lourdes toward academic excellence, but more importantly, he hopes to foster an authentic and strong Catholic identity within the schools.

Robert Bernardin
St. Bernadette

When St. Bernadette announced they were pausing their operations last year, Robert Bernardin saw it as an opportunity. Having previously worked at Annunciation Catholic School, an Expeditionary Learning (EL) school, Bernardin became very excited when St. Bernadette decided to re-launch as an EL school, joining Annunciation and St. Rose of Lima as the only Catholic EL schools in the nation. “I was immediately drawn to St. Bernadette because I believe deeply in the power of EL to elevate Catholic schools,” Bernardin said. Bernardin believes that Catholic education is transformative, and as principal of the re-launched St. Bernadette, he is “keen to expand our view of what is possible in Catholic schools, to serve as a model of what Catholic schools can be and inspire others to follow our lead.”

Kellie Carroll
Bishop Machebeuf High School

For Kellie Carroll, being at Bishop Machebeuf High School is a bit of a homecoming for her. She’s been in education for 20 years, starting at St. Pius X in Aurora and then moving on to teach for several public schools before finding her way back to the Archdiocese of Denver. However, she was also educated in Catholic schools growing up and graduated from Mullen High School. “This is a system that certainly raised me and had a profoundly positive impact on both my academic and faith formation,” Carroll said. As the interim principal at Bishop Machebeuf High School, Carroll hopes to help prepare students for life outside of the school walls. “I firmly believe a solid formation in the faith and a rigorous academic setting will prepare them for the adventure and challenges life will bring,” she said.

Gretchen DeWolfe
St. Thomas More

Gretchen DeWolfe has taught 5th grade at St. Thomas More Catholic School for the last five years and will now be entering her sixth year as the school’s new principal. “In my new role as principal, it is my duty to support parents, the primary educators, in forming their children through encounters with Christ, which will in turn deepen that beautiful and essential relationship,” DeWolfe said. Being in Catholic education is more than simply a job for DeWolfe — it is a calling. “My heart has always been in Catholic schools … It is an amazing gift to be able to teach and live the Catholic faith on a daily basis,” she said. “[This] is what I have chosen to dedicate my life to — teaching and living the truths that Jesus taught us.”

Dana Ellis
St. Louis (Louisville)

Dana Ellis worked in Jefferson County Public Schools for over 30 years, 18 of which were as a principal, and then went on to work in Boulder Valley Public Schools for several more years until she retired. After “walking around in the desert” for a couple of years, Ellis now finds herself as the new principal of St. Louis Catholic School in Louisville. As she embarks on this new foray into Catholic education, Ellis is confident that God will continue to lead St. Louis down the path it needs to go in order to continue forming authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. “I do know that God will lead the way, but I don’t know what that way is going to be yet,” Ellis said.

Eric Hoffer
Christ the King

Before starting his career in Catholic education, Eric Hoffer had plans to complete a degree in political science and attend law school. “However, God had other plans in place for me,” Hoffer said. He converted to Catholicism while in college, and after graduation, volunteered with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, where he “fell in love with education and my faith.” He’s had a 16-year career in various roles in education thus far, and recently completed his graduate degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Notre Dame. He feels fortunate to lead Christ the King Catholic School as principal. “If I am able to help each of our students understand that they are beloved children of God and that he has a beautiful plan for their lives, then I will have made a valuable contribution to our archdiocese,” Hoffer said.

Steve Vaughn
St. Therese

Steve Vaughn began his career as a teacher teaching 4th, 5th and 6th grade at a few different Catholic schools in Wisconsin and Nebraska. Over the last 10 years, he’s been a teacher and assistant principal at a Denver charter school, but he’s now answering a call from the Lord to return to Catholic education. “Having worked in both Catholic and public schools, I can say that Catholic schools truly provide an education for the whole child,” Vaughn said. Speaking for his new role as principal at St. Therese, Vaughn shared, “Our goal at St. Therese is to create saints! It’s an honor and blessing to be tasked with fulfilling this mission at my school. This is exciting, challenging work, but there’s no other work I’d rather be doing.”

Tamara Whitehouse
Our Lady of Lourdes (North Campus)

Tamara Whitehouse has worked in both public and Catholic schools for over 20 years. More recently, she has also served as an instructor for the Denver Catholic Biblical School. Her transition from public schools to Catholic schools came after taking time to stay at home with her children when they were young. “We discerned God’s call to send our children to Catholic schools, and then my own deepening faith and desire to instill a love for God in young people led me to follow after them when I returned to work,” Whitehouse said. As she begins her new role as the Head of School for Lourdes’ North Campus, Whitehouse hopes to “support families in the formation of their children to know, love and serve God, and this contribute to the renewal of Catholic culture that is so desperately needed today.

Father Stefan Zarnay
St. Mary’s (Littleton)

Born in the Slovak Republic and ordained a priest just last year, Father Stefan Zarnay is part of the Disciples of Jesus Christ, the religoous order that oversees St. Mary’s Catholic Parish in Littleton. He met them when he was studying for his Masters Degree at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute in Rome, Italy. He has previously served as Chaplain of the Stella Maris — La Gavia Catholic School in Madrid. In addition to being the interim principal of St. Mary’s, he is also the school’s chaplain and the parish’s new parochial vicar.

Ann Zeches
St. Catherine of Siena

For Ann Zeches, education is a second career. Prior to becoming a mom, Zeches was the assistant general manager of a resort. It was when her children were in school that the seed for Zeches’ career in Catholic education was planted. “What I thought teaching entailed, and the reality are two different things,” Zeches said. “Education is the toughest job I have ever experienced, but the one with incredible rewards. Education has become my passion.” In her new role as principal at St. Catherine of Siena, her goal is simple: “I am forming students to know the ‘truth’ of our faith and how to infuse it into their lives. Ultimately, then, they will be well-educated disciples of Christ longing to meet our Lord in heaven while making their community a place filled with the Spirit.”