Catholic Charities CEO steps down, interim named

Larry Smith helped to expand organization’s services greatly in five-year tenure

Denver Catholic Staff

Larry Smith stepped down as President and CEO of Catholic Charities June 1 after an impressive five-year tenure with the organization. Replacing Smith as interim CEO is Amparo Garcia, who has served on the board of Catholic Charities since June 2017 and brings seasoned experience as a business executive to her role.

“Larry was a fantastic leader over the past five years, and we are grateful for his service,” Garcia said in a statement introducing herself as the interim CEO. “His impact in our community was significant, and he will be greatly missed.”

Smith was hired in 2013 and under his leadership, Catholic Charities was able to greatly expand the vast repertoire of services it offers to those in need, as well as become more of a staple of faith and charity in the local Catholic community.

“One of Larry’s mantras was ‘We can serve more of those in need,’ and he led Catholic Charites to do just that; he leaves a great legacy of faith in action that will guide Catholic Charities for years to come!” expressed Wayne Wolberg, Chief Financial Officer for Catholic Charities of Denver.

Highlights of Smith’s contributions to Catholic Charities include the launch of Marisol Health, expanded operations of the organization, and the conversion of the former Samaritan House men’s emergency overnight shelter into Denver’s first women’s homeless shelter. Catholic Charities expanded its services under Smith and now provides support through seven ministries including women’s health, shelter services, housing, early childhood education, family and senior services, parish and community relations and counseling services.

Amparo Garcia, board member for Catholic Charities for one year and parishioner of Holy Ghost Parish, has been named the interim CEO of Catholic Charities. (Photo Provided)

By providing comprehensive programmatic assistance, Catholic Charities fosters a structure for success to northern Colorado’s underprivileged. Donor Brent Osland explained that “Catholic Charities looks to give a ‘hand up’ rather than a ‘handout’ so I feel that my contribution goes to teach sustainability and not just to provide one day’s meal.”

In a letter to benefactors, leadership from the Archdiocese of Denver praised Smith’s contributions to Catholic Charities and his integrity as president. “Larry Smith has been the face of Catholic Charities for half a decade and has worked tirelessly to promote its mission across northern Colorado,” the Archdiocese wrote. “[He] provided dynamic leadership … and fostered strong relationship with donors, government officials, civic organizations and the broader community.

“Larry Smith led Catholic Charities with a clear and articulate vision and a vibrant focus on our Catholic faith,” said Tom Wanzeck, Vice President of Operations for Catholic Charities of Denver.

As interim CEO, Garcia will continue to direct the great work carried out by Catholic Charities on a daily basis – none of which would be possible without its staff, and most importantly, its donors. Under Smith’s direction, donors from across the diocese jumped in to support the ministries and programs of Catholic Charities. Donations from Catholics and non-Catholics alike have totaled over $12 million in the current fiscal year.

“It is a privilege to steward funds from generous donors knowing that their support empowers the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Andrew Schaefer, Director of Development for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Echoing Schaefer’s sentiments, Catholic Charities donor Rich Todd added, “The Church does so much for the poor through Catholic Charities. We don’t ask them if they are Catholic before providing care, Catholic Charities serves them because we represent the Church of Jesus Christ and they need our help.”

Catholic Charities is in the midst of a comprehensive search to replace Smith as the President and CEO. “Given his charisma, vision and strong connections around the community, finding someone to replace Larry Smith will not be easy,” said Keith Parsons, Chief Financial Officer for the archdiocese.

COMING UP: Local artists choose life in pro-life art show

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For someone who’s always been in love with art, it’s not surprising that Brett Lempe first encountered God through beauty. Lempe, a 25-year-old Colorado native, used his talent for art and new-found love of God to create a specifically pro-life art show after a planned show was cancelled because of Lempe’s pro-life views.

Lempe was “dried out with earthly things,” he said. “I was desperately craving God.”

Three years ago, while living in St. Louis, Mo., Lempe google searched for a church to visit and ended up at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

“I was captivated by the beauty of the 40 million mosaic tiles,” he said.

Lempe is not exaggerating. This Cathedral is home to 41.5 million tiles that make up different mosaics around the sanctuary. Witnessing the beauty of this church is what sparked his conversion, he said, and was his first major attraction towards Catholicism.

Lempe continued on to become Catholic, then quit his job several months after joining the Church to dedicate himself completely to art. Most of his work post-conversion is religious art.

Lempe planned to display a non-religious body of artwork at a venue for a month when his contact at the venue saw some of Lempe’s pro-life posts on Facebook. Although none of the artwork Lempe planned to display was explicitly pro-life or religious, the venue cancelled the show.

“I was a little bit shocked at first,” he said. “Something like me being against abortion or being pro-life would get a whole art show cancelled.”

Lempe decided to counter with his own art show, one that would be explicitly pro-life.

On Sept. 7, seven Catholic artists displayed work that gave life at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Denver.

“Catholicism lends itself to being life-giving,” Lempe said.

The show included a variety of work from traditional sacred art, icons, landscapes, to even dresses.

Students for Life co-hosted the event, and 10 percent of proceeds benefited the cause. Lauren Castillo, Development director and faith-based program director at Students for Life America gave the keynote presentation.

Castillo spoke about the need to be the one pro-life person in each circle of influence, with coworkers, neighbors, family, or friends. The reality of how many post-abortive women are already in our circles is big, she said.

“Your friend circle will get smaller,” Castillo said. “If one life is saved, it’s worth it.”

Pro-Life Across Mediums

Brett Lempe’s Luke 1:35

“This painting is the first half at an attempt of displaying the intensity and mystical elements of Luke 1:35,” Lempe said. “This work is influenced somewhat by Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ painting as I try to capture the moment when the “New Adam” is conceived by Our Blessed Mother.”

Claire Woodbury’s icon of Christ Pantokrator

“I was having a difficult time making that icon,” she said. “I was thinking it would become a disaster.”

She felt Jesus saying to her, “This is your way of comforting me. Is that not important?”

“Icons are very important to me,” she said. “I guess they’re important to Him too.”

Katherine Muser’s “Goodnight Kisses”

“Kids naturally recognize the beauty of a baby and they just cherish it,” Muser said of her drawing of her and her sister as children.

Brie Shulze’s Annunciation

“There is so much to unpack in the Annunciation,” Schulze said. “I wanted to unpack that life-giving yes that our Blessed Mother made on behalf of all humanity.”

“Her yes to uncertainty, to sacrifice, to isolation, to public shame and to every other suffering that she would endure is what allowed us to inherit eternal life.”

“Her fiat was not made in full knowledge of all that would happen, but in love and total surrender to the will of God.”

All photos by Makena Clawson