Because of You: A foundation for mission

Aaron Lambert

This is the first part of a series of articles showcasing the many ways the annual Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal enables and furthers the divinely-instated mission of the Archdiocese of Denver.

In this Year of Mercy, the time is approaching when Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila appears on TV and projector screens in parishes across Northern Colorado and introduces the annual Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal (ACA).

The theme for this year’s ACA is “Because of You,” a simple way of saying that none of the ministry and work carried out each year by the Archdiocese of Denver would be possible without the faithful of Northern Colorado and those who generously give to the ACA.

“God has put in our hearts a desire to perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy. When we do not have opportunities to do them, we can connect to the works others are doing by making a donation,” said Father Randy Dollins, vicar general of the archdiocese. “‘Because of you’ reminds us that even though we might not be the person directly performing the work, it would not be possible were it not for the donations that support the existence of the ministry in the first place.”

There are a lot of moving parts in the Archdiocese of Denver that allow for it do to the work it does on a daily basis. Parishes play an integral role in the mission of the archdiocese, and are a part of a bigger structural system in place that lays the foundation for the mission to happen, one that wouldn’t exist without the ACA.

Strong foundations

The offices that make up the Pastoral Center are referred to as the Archbishop’s Curia, and their mission is as such: to assist the archbishop in the administration of the archdiocese, communicate his vision, support his pastors and personnel, and bear witness to Christ and the Church’s teachings through a lived example. 

Father Dollins is the moderator of the Curia, and he said that the work done by the offices Pastoral Center is the unseen part of ministry.

“The work that’s being done by the Pastoral Center supported by the ACA forms a foundation underneath the building where all the ministry can happen,” Father Dollins said. “The ministry doesn’t just happen without all of these other support structures.”

The work of the Pastoral Center and all of the support provided to parishes is made possible each year through the Archbishop's Catholic Appeal. (Photo by James Baca/Denver Catholic)

The work of the Pastoral Center and all of the support provided to parishes is made possible each year through the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal. (Photo by James Baca/Denver Catholic)

Father Dollins also said that the Pastoral Center and all of its teams and offices are here to support all 109 parishes in the diocese.

“Parishes have a much bigger staff available to them than they do at their own parishes,” he said.

The ways in which the Curia supports parishes are many, Father Dollins said. For example, the Human Resources department at the Pastoral Center helps parishes with their own human resources operations, training business managers and creating hiring and screening procedures for all parishes to use.

Connections and community

With the recognition that parish communications are integral to the churches health and mission, the Office of Communications at the Curia launched the Denver Parish Connect initiative. Today, 73 separate parishes or archdiocesan ministries have taken advantage of one or more of these services. The Office of Communications offers free digital tools, on-site training to parishes, points parishes to free resources, and helps parish staff adopt best practices from others who may be very effective in a particular area.

To introduce this initiative, two free training sessions were held for staff from 41 different parishes at the Saint John Paul II Center. A highlight of the Denver Parish Connect initiative has been the widespread adoption of Flocknote which allows pastors and parish staff the ability to text or send digital newsletters to their communities. Additionally, other parishes have websites or newsletters for the first time.

Many parishes have reported having clear and reliable channels for the first time. “We’re making people feel like they’re truly welcome because we’re meeting people where they’re at by showing up on a text message or in their email,” said Sarah Johnson, communication coordinator for St. Vincent and St. Mary of the Crown parishes in Carbondale. “It’s a great tool in our toolbox to allow us to better build community and make people feel like they are included and invited to be a part of our parish community.”

“These least brothers of mine”

Another manner in which the Curia supports parishes is through its various ministries. One of the most crucial of these is the Office of Hispanic Ministries and Centro San Juan Diego, headed by executive director Luis Alvarez. Latinos account for more than half of those in the pews in the archdiocese, and the goal of these two entities is to integrate the Latino population more fully into not only the life of the Church, but also society as a whole.

“‘Because of you’ reminds us that even though we might not be the person directly performing the work, it would not be possible were it not for the donations that support the existence of the ministry in the first place.”

Alvarez cites Matthew 25:40 as the basis for his office’s ministry, in which Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

“We are serving a portion of the population who, in many senses, qualifies as the ‘the least’ because they’re strangers in a strange land,” Alvarez said. “The Office of Hispanic Ministries and Centro San Juan Diego help the archbishop live out his mission for this portion of his flock.”

Centro San Juan Diego is home to many classes, courses and ministries for Latinos. They offer everything from accredited college degrees to faith formation classes to family ministry certifications. Last year, they also helped to make all Natural Family Planning methods available in Spanish for parishes and marriage preparation instructors to use. 

Though Centro San Juan Diego is where a lot of the ministries and classes happen, it doesn’t all happen there, Alvarez said. The Office of Hispanic Ministries makes a point to go to parishes and offer training there, and Alvarez often meets with pastors and collaborates with them to address any needs they may have when it comes to their own Hispanic ministries.

“The people contributing to the ACA are helping to reach out to these people who otherwise might not be tended to,” Alvarez said.

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COMING UP: School scholarships continue legacies, support Catholic education

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With school back in session, Catholic schools are beginning to grant scholarships and provide tuition assistance for well-deserved students enrolled in the upcoming school year.

St. Vincent de Paul School is just one example. In the spring, staff and parents from the Denver Catholic school will select fourth graders going into fifth grade who will receive the McKaila Steffes Scholarship Fund, established by Montgomery and Andrea Sykora through The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado.

The memory of the spirited and loving young McKaila, who bravely fought a neurological condition that caused tumors, lives on in the scholarship fund that gives young students tuition assistance.

“I remember McKaila when she was here,” said Suzanne Meyer of St. Vincent de Paul. “She was just so full of life — she touched everyone’s lives. She passed away when she was nine (in 2006). This scholarship is a nice memorial for McKaila.”

Donations to the scholarship fund greatly help current students, Meyer said, who exemplify the same great qualities as McKaila.

Jean Finegan, Gift Planning Officer for The Catholic Foundation, said anyone may give to the scholarship funds held at the Foundation either through a current gift or planned gift.  This allows for these funds to grow and continue providing tuition assistance for generations to come.

Assistance is offered for hard-working families in need at other schools, including St. Catherine of Siena School. The Elizabeth C. Giordano Garden of Hope Scholarship Fund was established by Gwen and Andrew Pomper to help children obtain an education grounded in the Catholic faith.  Giordano was an immigration attorney and active fundraiser for the parish and school before she passed away in 2013. The scholarship fund continues to honor and remember her and her contributions to the community by making a Catholic education more accessible for families.

The Catholic Foundation also holds scholarship funds for families sending their children to Bishop Machebeuf High School. The late Elinor Travis had faith that students at the school could achieve their dreams. She aimed to help them get there by establishing an endowment fund to provide tuition assistance. She named the William and Vicki Lynn Ingram Endowment Fund Memorial Scholarship in memory of her daughter, who attended Machebeuf, specifically to help the 65 percent of students from low-income families in need of financial aid.

“Elinor always valued education,” said her friend, Pat Brewster. “I think she had a passion for people and passion for life, and she was very generous with her money.”

Also benefiting Machebeuf students is the Sister Rosemary Wilcox Scholarship fund, named after the Sister of Loretto, founding principal of the school and later chancellor for the Archdiocese of Denver. She passed away in 2012. Continued support for students can also be made through the Bishop Machebeuf High School Student Scholarship and Financial Aid Endowment Scholarship.

High school students at Holy Family may also be aided by the school scholarship fund designed for tuition assistance at the Broomfield school. The Catholic Foundation accepts donations to this fund, established by Deacon Jim and Karen Doyle, to help students in need of tuition assistance.

Catholic education can also be supported through the Don and Meredith Jung Scholarship Fund, established by Don Jung in memory of his late wife. Jung is an active member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lafayette and offers the scholarship for students who are parishioners at the church and interested in attending a trade school.

The Annunciation School community won’t forget Sister Jean Panisko, S.C.L., who served as principal for 29 years at the school before retiring in 2010. Martha Diss Sundby started the fund in honor of sister in order to provide tuition assistance to families at Annunciation Elementary School.

Scholarship funds that further Catholic education held at The Catholic Foundation:

  • Bishop Machebeuf High School Student Scholarship and Financial Aid Endowment Scholarship -Elizabeth C. Giordano Garden of Hope Scholarship Fund – St. Catherine of Siena School
  • Holy Family High School Scholarship Fund
  • Don and Meredith Jung Scholarship Fund – Immaculate Conception Parish
  • McKaila Steffes Scholarship Fund – St. Vincent de Paul School
  • Saint Clare Christian Education Endowment Fund
  • Sister Jean Panisko S.C.L. Fund – Annunciation School
  • Sister Rosemary Wilcox Scholarship Fund – Bishop Machebeuf High School
  • William and Vicki Lynn Ingram Memorial Scholarship – Bishop Machebeuf High School
  • St. Joseph Scholarship Fund – Supporting the high schools within the Archdiocese of Denver
  • Elmer Von Feldt Scholarship Fund – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

To make a donation to the Foundation in further support of Catholic education for young students in need, contact Jean Finegan at (303) 867-0613 or