Chancery support empowers parishes to focus on ministry and evangelization

Annual appeal funds crucial behind-the-scenes services to parishes

Aaron Lambert

Though she is made up of one body in Christ, the operation of the Church within the Archdiocese of Denver has a lot of moving parts.

It’s for this reason that the annual Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal (ACA) is essential to the continued work of the Church here in northern Colorado. The ACA funds nearly 40 ministries and offices, and a substantial chunk of those are located at the chancery, which strives to provide vital support to parishes. Think of it this way: If parishes are the frontlines of where ministry and evangelization happen, then the chancery is where backup is deployed from. When a parish ministry needs extra help, they can turn to the chancery.

A lot of the services the chancery provides are conducted behind the scenes. This newspaper you hold in your hands, for example, is one of them. However, these services are many and varied; they include, but are not limited to: Communications, finance, human resources, Catholic schools, evangelization, the tribunal, construction and planning, real estate, liturgy and more.

The reality is that there is simply too much work to be done at the parish level, and every parish is unique and has differing levels of access to resources. The chancery and all its offices are available to fill those needs when they arise.

“We’ve been supported in many different ways, especially these past couple of months, most notably by the Office of Finance and Communications,” said Karen Surbrugg, business manager at Guardian Angels Parish in Mead. “We’ve had access to webinars, weekly updates, recommendations, access to technical support, just to name a few. Aside from the material support from the chancery, more importantly we feel emotionally and spiritually supported.”

Surbrugg said that this support has been especially appreciated amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Daily we’re faced with the reminder that we’re working in a parish without its people physically present,” she said. “Having the support of the staff from the chancery helps us meet those challenges in a hopeful way.”

For a small parish like Guardian Angels, oftentimes staff and resources are limited and they can’t operate at the same capacity as larger parishes. From a communications standpoint, Surbrugg is grateful for the support she receives from the Communications, Marketing and Parish Services office at the chancery.

“I think the thing that I most appreciate is the ‘ready to go’ correspondence that we can use to communicate with our parishioners,” Surbrugg said. “We’re a small parish and we don’t have the resources to produce professional, timely communication for our parishioners. At a time when communication is vital to keep our parish connected and informed, having access to flyers, narratives, and links, helps tremendously.

“Working in a small parish and wearing many hats, we’re typically Jacks of all trades, masters of none. There’s no way we’d be able to produce the quality of material that we’ve received from the Archdiocese. Having access to Flocknote, our website, Facebook, and email, we’re able to take this material directly from our weekly communication [we receive] and pass it along to our parishioners.”

Kathryn Nygaard, Director of Communications for Light of the World Parish in Littleton, has put in multiple requests for assistance from the chancery over the past six months, specifically with their website and other communications.

“I originally reached out to request support because I wanted a clean and beautiful design [for our website], along with some very specific functions for a couple new webpages,” Nygaard said. “I was unsure how to implement this myself and wanted to discuss it with someone with more expertise. The Communications Office was able to help implement all of my requests in a very timely manner.”

As parishes and the greater Church navigates the COVID-19 pandemic and rapidly changing societal norms which prohibit large gatherings for the time being, it is vital for communications efforts to be timely and efficient. More than just aiding with this and other matters, however, the chancery serves as a common tethering point for all parishes and a reminder to them that they are not alone.

“In a time of isolation, the communication from the chancery allows us to come together as family united in Christ,” Surbrugg said. “It shows me that we’re not in this alone and that our parish, albeit small, matters. I feel connected to the Archdiocese and other parishes knowing that we’re all facing the same challenges, regardless of our size and location.”

Having a common point of contact in the chancery also allows an opportunity for collaborative efforts between parishes, which are crucial in a time such as this when parishes are finding creative ways to show their commitment in sharing the Gospel.

“I love that the Archdiocese shares ideas that come in from parishes around the Archdiocese. This collaboration reminds me that we are one family working together to help each other, lift each other up, and be there in good times and bad,” Surbrugg said.

“The efforts and sacrifices made by the staff at the chancery are appreciated beyond words. We are truly grateful.”

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COMING UP: For Love of Country: A Catholic Patriotism

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Our country has been through a lot this last year, as we all know. As many people have reacted against the founding and history of the United States, I have found myself drawn towards greater patriotism. By this, I simply mean a deeper appreciation of what I’ve been given by my country and also a growing realization of the duty I have to work for the common good, here and now. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of this duty under the fourth commandment that enjoins honor not only to parents but also to anyone in authority.   

It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community (2239). 

Catholics, and all people of good will, are called to a love and service of country in order to work for the common good.  

Eric Metaxas argues that the future of our country depends precisely upon the active role of Christians in his book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (Penguin, 2017). He describes something called the Golden Triangle, an idea he borrowed from Os Guinness, but which ultimately comes from the Founding Fathers. “The Golden Triangle of Freedom is, when reduced to its most basic form, that freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; and faith requires freedom. The three go round and round, supporting one another ad infinitum. If any one of the three legs of the triangle is removed, the whole structure ceases to exist” (54). John Adams, for example, related very clearly, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (quoted on 61). Metaxas comments, looking to specific examples around the world, “if you take God and faith and morality out of the equation, everything inevitably falls apart. It cannot be otherwise” (48). It cannot be otherwise. That may sound extreme, but we have many examples from Communist and Fascist countries and now even from movements within our country that aggressive secularism parallels a collapse of real freedom.  

The Constitution established an ordered liberty that requires responsibility and a determined effort of preservation. Hence the title of the book, taken from Benjamin Franklin, a republic “if you can keep it.” We are called to actively preserve our country: entering into a deeper understanding of the “idea” of America that undergirds the Republic as well as showing a loving determination to overcome challenges and threats to its continuance. This is not to whitewash the past, as we all know the injustices of our history. Metaxas argues that we can be grateful for the good and unique blessings of our heritage while also working to overcome failures. “To truly love America, one must somehow see both sides simultaneously” (226). Furthermore, by loving our country we are willing her good, drawing our own selves into the work for her good and helping her to be true to herself. “So that in loving America we are embodying her original intentions — we are indeed being America at her best — and in doing so we are calling her to her best, to be focused on doing all she can to fulfill the great promise which God has called her in bringing her into existence and shepherding her through trials and tribulations all these and centuries — and now” (235).  

As Catholics, we have a lot to offer our country by drawing from our rich intellectual and spiritual heritage. Michael Krom, a philosopher at St. Vincent College, provides us with a great resource in his new book, Justice and Charity: An Introduction to Aquinas’s Moral, Economic, and Political Thought (Baker, 2020). In an age of confusion, Catholics can bring greater clarity in our national discourse on the nature of human life, virtue, and politics. “We live in a time of ideological conflicts, in which the citizens of the nations of the modern world seem incapable of agreeing upon even the most basic of moral, economic, or political principles. Civil discourse has been replaced with violent protest, and reasoned dialogue with character assassination” (2). As Catholics, we should be able to look above all of this, literally: “While the Church does not force us to reject political citizenship, she demands that we direct it to the heavenly, and we can do that by heeding her call to engage the world rather than conform to it. I wrote this book out of the conviction that those who want to heed the Church’s call to engage our culture need to look to the past” (ibid.).  

Dr. Krom shows us that St. Thomas Aquinas has much to teach us about living the good life, in pursuit of a genuine freedom and happiness, and that this should inform a Catholic approach to economics and politics. It is hard to work for virtue if you don’t know what virtue really is, and difficult to act justly toward others if you don’t understand the nature of duty. Aquinas can help us to judge the direction of our country, as “a government cannot be called ‘good’ unless it promotes just moral and economic relationships between its citizens” (121). This is precisely the purpose of government — to promote right order and peace. We can’t just dispense with politics because, “the fact that humans find their fulfillment in political community means that situating their own good with the good of the community as a whole is central to happiness” (125). We are not isolated individuals and can’t attain a good and complete life on our own.  

Our ultimate good, however, is God, not the political life. Everything — all of our choices, including economic and political ones — must be directed to our ultimate goal. There are not “two ends to human existence, the earthly and the heavenly … [T]here is only one end, the beatific vision” (162). In this way the Church informs our citizenship. Krom explains “how inadequate this human law is as a teacher in the virtues, for it is limited in scope to the prevention of those vices from which even the wicked can refrain, and thus leaves those who seek after perfect virtue to their own devices … [H]uman law is in need of a higher law to truly bring about a just community” (155). Unfortunately, we’re seeing that our society is no longer even trying to prevent serious vice. Catholics and all believers have an important role to play, because “the lack of religion in the citizenry leads it down the path of totalitarianism. It Is absolutely critical that a people maintain a strong commitment to a transcendent measure of the common good in order to protect the true flourishing of its members” (171). Krom’s important work on justice and charity can teach us how a Catholic can exercise a proper patriotism, a true love of country.