Caring for the faithful: it’s what a priest trains to do

An annual rite of spring in the Denver Archdiocese is the announcement of the priest appointments as named by the Archbishop’s Office.  Those appointments, 36 and one seminarian assignment, are listed in this edition of the Denver Catholic Register directly below. Most of the appointments become effective in June.

While all of the appointments are important to the individual priests and the communities they serve, three of the appointments may be readily noticed by the wider Catholic community: the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver is getting a new pastor, the current moderator of the curia – who oversees the administrative offices of the archdiocese—is getting a new assignment, and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila is getting a new priest secretary. There’s also a leadership change at a seminary, a priest will be serving in Poland, and three priests will be retiring.

Msgr. Bernie Schmitz

Currently the Vicar for Clergy, Msgr. Bernie Schmitz has also served as pastor of Mother of God Church in central Denver since 2007. While he will continue as Vicar for Clergy, Msgr. Schmitz has been given a new parish assignment—starting June 18, he will serve as the new pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  Father Tom Coyte, longtime pastor of Holy Cross Church in Thornton, will be the new pastor of Mother of God.

“I’m excited and looking forward to it,” Msgr. Schmitz said about his new parish assignment. “The Cathedral Basilica is an extremely diverse community with lots going on all the time.”

Emphasizing that while he’s loved serving his current parish, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the pastoral center where his office is located, he added with a laugh, “I won’t have to move very far!”

Msgr. Tom Fryar

Since 2004 Msgr. Tom Fryar has ministered as moderator of the curia, supervising the administrative offices of the Denver Archdiocese, which are located at the John Paul II Center in south Denver. Msgr. Fryar, who has also served as pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception since 2006, has been named pastor of St. Thomas More Church in Centennial effective June 18. Father Randy Dollins, longtime mountain pastor, will serve as the new moderator of the curia (see story in April 2 DCR “Mountain priest gets new post at chancery” or online at

“With this new assignment I’ll be able to be fully focused on life in the parish, which is something I’ve had to split my time and attention with these last few years,” Msgr. Fryar said. “There is a great joy, I believe, for any priest to receive an assignment in a parish and to be working amongst the people of God on a daily basis, strengthening their spiritual journey and helping them to be a sign of God’s presence in the world.

“This is what a priest goes to seminary to do!”

Father Matthew Book

Ordained four years ago, Father Mathew Book served a year as a parochial vicar at a parish, then a year in study at the Vatican. Upon his return to Denver in 2012, he began ministering as priest secretary to Archbishop Aquila and until last August, also served as house father to the Companions of Christ, a group of eight seminarians who share a home together to encourage fraternity and communal life. Starting July 23, Father Book will be a first-time pastor as he takes over at St. Joseph Church in Golden. Father Scott Bailey, currently parochial vicar at St. Frances Cabrini Church in Littleton, will serve as the archbishop’s new priest secretary.

“I am very excited to become pastor at St. Joseph Parish and am thankful to Archbishop Aquila and to God for this blessing,” Father Book said. “I look forward to committing myself in service to the people there, and to accompanying them as we all seek to sincerely follow Jesus Christ and share the Gospel with others. It is a serious responsibility, so I hope our parishioners start praying for me right away!”

Seminary change

After several years as vice rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, Father Jorge Rodriguez will become pastor at Holy Cross Church in Thornton. Father Rodriguez will also continue his duties as a theology professor at the seminary. Father Jason Wallace, formator and director of pastoral formation at St. John Vianney, will serve as vice rector.


Father Gregory Cioch, V.F., a native of Poland, will leave the Denver Archdiocese for six years to minister at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in the Archdiocese of Krakow, Poland.

“I was asked to help with the preparation of the seminarians from Poland who come to the USA,” Father Cioch wrote on his Facebook page. “(It’s) the very program that brought me to America 20 years ago.”

Called “the Polish seminary,” Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary was founded in 1885 in Detroit, Mich., and has a house of formation in Krakow.

“The first few years of the (formation) program take place in Krakow, my hometown,” Father Cioch explained.

The first few years of the program take place in Krakow, Poland (my hometown).


After ministering for a combined total of nearly 151 years, three priests are retiring: Father Lawrence Kaiser, pastor of Guardian Angels in Denver; Father Michael Kerrigan, pastor of St. Paul in Idaho Springs, Our Lady of Lourdes in Georgetown and St. Mary of the Assumption in Central City; and Father James Purfield, pastor of All Saints in Denver, are all retiring.  (Read more about these three in the June 4 Denver Catholic Register.)



COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash