When Archbishop Samuel Aquila held his first live town hall-like phone call with thousands of Catholics before Christmas, hundreds of participants left voicemail messages for him.
Now a team from the Archdiocese of Denver is working with the archbishop to help him sort through the 268 messages, and to respond to those that left specific questions or requested information or guidance on a number of topics.
“We were all impressed, the archbishop included, by the incredible response to our inaugural TeleForum,” said Karna Swanson, executive director of communications for the Archdiocese of Denver. “It has been a learning experience for us to go through the voicemails and find out what questions and concerns people have, and we are coming up with new ideas and ways to address those issues.”
“But first,” she added, “we have a lot of calls to return.”
Voicemail messages were left for the archbishop during the inaugural phone call using technology called TeleForum, a product developed by the Highlands Ranch-based company Broadnet. The company donated the technology to the archdiocese as a way to open communication lines between the everyday Catholic and the archbishop.
During the hour-long event Dec. 21, voicemails left by participants were as varied as the live questions the archbishop answered.
The majority of participants—more than 100 voicemails—wished the archbishop merry Christmas and blessings on him and his ministry. More than 50 specifically thanked him for the TeleForum and asked to be included on the next phone call.
“Again, it was wonderful hearing your voice,” said one participant identified as Barbara. “I’ve never spoken to a bishop. Thank you.”
Another participant named Bill said, “I really appreciate the time you have taken at a very busy time of the year to listen to (these) various questions … and I hope to continue to be a part of this.”
About 16 participants specifically asked about ways to participate in the new evangelization and guidance on how to draw fallen-away Catholics in the family back to the Church. Some expressed concern about catechizing younger generations.
Richard said in his voicemail, “I’m calling to ask about the archbishop’s and the archdiocese’s strategic aspirations when it comes to educating our high school students … I’m interested (to) know more about the archdiocese’s objectives, goals and strategy for making sure we’re meeting the needs of these students who face so many challenges.”
Several other participants asked for information about annulments and Church teaching and support for divorced Catholics. Also on several faithful’s minds was how to support Catholic education.
Rather than asking questions, many also expressed the joy of their faith with the archbishop or about the struggles in their family life.
Others left queries about heaven, the sacraments, Cuba and how the archbishop spends his free time.
One woman, Frances, told the archbishop, “Thank you, dear bishop, for this unexpected and truly blessed Christmas gift. I was feeling so very alone tonight and this is a bleak time that was enlightened by your teaching and reaching out. I feel very much encouraged. Thank you and God bless.”
Swanson said the archdiocese hopes to hold more TeleForums with the archbishop this year. Listen to a recording of the phone call online at https://vekeo.com/channels/archdiocese-of-denver/.
By the Numbers
Christmas TeleForum Voicemails
More than 113 participants wished blessings on the archbishop
Some 50 requested to be a part of the next call
16 asked about evangelizing youth and fallen-away Catholics
9 left comments about local priests and parish life
7 asked for support and questions on Catholic education
5 asked about annulments and divorce