Cardinal Stafford librarian celebrates two decades of service

Lyn Cotton and her fellow staff members at the Cardinal Stafford Theological Library will never forget the summer the library’s smoke alarm went off.

Perhaps it was the cause of the alarm that etched the incident into their memories. As it turns out, seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary were dusting the books and shelves in the library basement, said Cotton.

“They raised such a cloud of dust that the smoke alarms went off,” she said, cracking a smile.

Cotton, a library assistant at Cardinal Stafford, has truly seen it all.

And although she will retire in May — just one month before her 20th anniversary at the library — her dedication will continue as she serves as a weekly volunteer.

“The fact that she wants to come back says a lot about the kind of place that we are, but also the kind of person she is,” said librarian Tamara Conley.

“Some people would close the door and get out of here,” she added. “They wouldn’t want to see it again. [Cotton] cares about this place, and she cares about the people here.”

Library director Stephen Sweeney is grateful for Cotton’s service and looks forward to the next 20 in her volunteer capacity.

“The library has an amazing, dedicated staff that work to serve the needs of the seminary community while being available to the larger archdiocesan community and the public who find us,” said Sweeney.

“Lyn has been here at the library since before St. John Vianney Theological Seminary was instituted in 1999, which gives her a unique perspective on our history,” he added.

For Conley, working with someone as loyal as Cotton is an immense help.

“The continuity is amazing,” she said. “To know that she’s seen things from the beginning projects to end is really, really beneficial for us. You can’t put a price on that.”

Many features of the library have kept Cotton coming back each year.

“The place itself is just gorgeous,” said Cotton. “The library is the gem of the seminary and the chapel is the jewel.”

Cotton is a member of the Protestant Church, which has made working at a Catholic library unique, she said.

“I really didn’t know much about Catholics when I started,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about the Catholic faith.”

Between the library’s faith-based atmosphere and the people she works with, Cotton has always found that the positive experiences outweigh the challenges she’s faced over the years.

“I first came in as a part time archivist,” said Cotton. “At that time when I first got here, we had one computer.”

Besides the technological advancements that have occurred since 1998, Cotton has also taken on a variety of roles at the library.

She has experience working with archives, cataloguing, and managing volunteers who come in each week to help with a multitude of tasks.

Whether she’s covering a book or helping a volunteer, Cotton makes the library run smoothly, said Conley.

“She sits quietly in the back and holds everything together,” she said. “She does a million things. I couldn’t even tell you all the small things she does.”

Through it all, Cotton has built a relationship with the seminarians who pass through the library’s doors each day.

Some of them come back years down the road to say “hello,” and others end up working at the seminary, she said.

“That is really fun to have them go all the way through and then come back to us and help out,” said Cotton.

“I don’t know the ones now as well as I didn’t when we first began because there were a lot fewer then,” she added. “But they’re all very polite and good guys.”

For Conley, the thing that makes the Cardinal Stafford Theological Library special is also what might inspire someone like Cotton to volunteer after retirement.

“I think the sense of community that we have here — all bonded by a love for Christ — is what keeps people coming back,” she said.

Cotton admits she’ll continue to look forward to coming to the library as a volunteer each week.

“I’ve just had so much fun,” she said. “It’s just been a pleasant, holy place to work.”

COMING UP: Read Archbishop Aquila’s letter in response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

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The following letter written by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was read at all weekend Masses Aug. 17-18.

18 August 2018

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you today with great sadness to respond to yet another scandal that has shaken the Church. Even though many of the details in the Grand Jury Report in Pennsylvania had already been reported, the full release was still undeniably shocking and its contents devasting to read. We face the undeniable fact that the Church has gone through a dark and shameful time, and while a clear majority of the Report addresses incidents occurring 20+ years in the past, we know that sin has a lasting impact and amends need to be made.

Many children have suffered from cruel behavior for which they bore no responsibility. I offer my apology for any way that the Church, its cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, or laity have failed to live up to Jesus’ call to holiness. I especially offer this apology to the survivors, for the past abuses and for those who knowingly allowed the abuse to occur. I also apologize to the clergy who have been faithful and are deeply discouraged by these reports.

Everyone has the right to experience the natural feelings of grief as they react to this trauma – shock; denial; anger; bargaining; and depression. I want you to know I feel those emotions as well – especially anger. I believe the best way to recover is a return to God’s plan for human sexuality. In response to the Archbishop McCarrick revelations, I have written at length about the spiritual battle we are facing. That letter can be found on the archdiocese’s home page – archden.org.

I ask everyone to pray for the Church in Pennsylvania, though these dioceses over the last 20 years have greatly evolved from how they are described in the Grand Jury Report, the Church must face its past sins with great patience, responsibility, repentance and conversion.

Creating an environment where children are safe from abuse remains a top priority in the Archdiocese of Denver. In our archdiocese, we require background checks and Safe Environment Training for all priests, deacons, employees, and any volunteers who are around children. During this training, everyone is taught their role as a mandatory reporter, and what steps to follow if they witness or even suspect abuse. We also require instruction for children and young people, where they are taught about safe and appropriate boundaries, and to tell a trusted adult if they ever feel uncomfortable. We participate in regular independent audits of our practices, and we have been found in compliance every year since the national audit began in 2003.

Finally, while we have made strides to improve our Archdiocese, I am aware that the wounds of past transgressions remain. We are committed to helping victims of abuse and we are willing to meet with anyone who believes they have been mistreated.

I urge all of us to pray for holiness, for the virtues, and for a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Only he and he alone can heal us, forgive us, and bring us to the Father. Be assured of my prayers for all of you and most especially the victims of any type of sexual abuse committed by anyone.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila