Church revamp a ‘breathtaking’ gift for parishioners

Faith and beauty go hand-in-hand at St. Francis de Sales in Denver

Moira Cullings

Drivers who pass by St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Denver at night are in for a treat, according to Tony Johnson, Office Manager at the parish.

“When the interior lights are on, you are now able to see the stunning stained-glass windows as if you were inside the church,” he said. “It’s just breathtaking.”

The parish’s stained-glass windows are a staple of the church building, where thousands of parishioners have come to worship since it was built in 1911. Since the parish itself was founded in 1892, it has served Denver through its church, current STEM school and community outreach.

The stained-glass windows are a staple of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Denver. Photo by Moira Cullings

“These have shaped us to be a parish that has a far-reaching community that sees the church as their home — where they belong and reach out to one another,” said Father Ken Liuzzi, pastor of the parish.

St. Francis has high involvement in several ministries, especially ones involving the liturgy, said Father Liuzzi.

“There is a good sense of reverence to these ministries,” he said. “They indeed see them as ministry to the Body of Christ.”

Parishioners Karen and Leon Glassman are a testament to the hospitality and joy at St. Francis. They joined the parish around 20 years ago after just one chance experience they had.

It’s just a warm, wonderful community of people.”

The Glassmans didn’t have time to make the Sunday evening Mass at their home parish, so they ventured to St. Francis since it offered one at a later time.

They never expected the outcome that one decision would bring.

“It seemed like from that very first Mass, it felt so warm, so welcoming and so good,” said Karen.

St. Francis de Sales parishioners hope to be able to renovate both the outside and inside of the church they love. Photo by Moira Cullings

As soon as the Glassmans got home, they took steps to join the parish.

Explaining there was nothing wrong with the parish they belonged to at the time, Karen and Leon say they simply felt drawn to the St. Francis community and couldn’t shake the feeling that’s where they were meant to be.

“I feel like all the parishioners are very warm and very happy to return a smile,” said Karen. “It’s an interesting parish in that before Mass, things are very quiet and people go in and sit down and pray. But as people come in, they look at each other and wave and smile.

“And then after Mass, poor Father sometimes has to almost turn out the lights to get many of us to leave because we are all conversing with each other,” she said.

“It’s just a warm, wonderful community of people.”

Leon agreed.

“We’re glad to be there with others that feel the same way about the Mass and worship,” he said.

For many of the parishioners, that atmosphere and the church building  itself has a major impact on their faith experience. But to keep the building up and running for both current and future generations, it is now undergoing several renovations — the most notable being the stained-glass window repairs.

“The plexiglass that they put on the windows years and years ago has clouded so much that it stops the light from going through the windows,” said Johnson.

The renovations at St. Francis will enhance its colorful windows. Photo by Tony Johnson

The wood surrounding the windows is also deteriorating, and Johnson explained they were nervous the windows would fall down. Half of the windows have been repaired — and the difference is clear.

“As the refurbished windows made their appearance, people were astounded at the details in the windows that were previously out of sight, the intensity of the colors and the light that came through,” said Father Liuzzi.

“More and more [parishioners] are standing in front of them and expressing their absolute wonder at the transformed beauty of the windows,” he added. “The brilliance that these windows are now adding to our worship space is truly divine.”

The parish now hopes to fix the rest of the windows, as well as a few parts of the church’s interior that are falling apart.

This church is the crown jewel of the parish.”

“You can feel the Holy Spirit when you enter our church,” said Johnson. “Our congregation feels a sense of pride and we all have a shared vision and a common goal that God has called us to sustain our church.”

The Glassmans have been inspired by the parish’s efforts to fix the church.

“They really believe in keeping the church going,” said Leon. “It needs to be done for future generations.”

An image of the Holy Family is one of several stained-glass depictions that inspire the parishioners at St. Francis de Sales. Photo by Moira Cullings

For Johnson, all the efforts are well worth it.

“This church is the crown jewel of the parish,” he said. “It should be impeccable. This is God’s home. This is where we come to worship him, so it’s a place that should be spirit-filled. You should feel that presence the minute you walk in the door.”

Father Liuzzi is grateful for his parishioners’ eagerness to keep their church building up and running. He sees the worship space and the parish’s passion for its community as the perfect concoction for the mission of St. Francis.

“With these elements working together,” he said, “we will be what all parishes are called to be — a beacon of Christ to the neighbor and farther.”

For more information on the St. Francis de Sales renovation, or if you are interested in donating, visit sfdsparishdenver.com or call the parish office at (303) 744-7211.

COMING UP: Repenting and renewing our role as shepherds

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Jesus tells the disciples in St. John’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” contrasting his goodness with the thieves who come only to steal and destroy.  This past week my fellow U.S. bishops and I sought to act as good shepherds by approving three measures to increase our vigilance and prevention of the evil of sexual abuse by bishops, shepherds who have betrayed the flock entrusted to them.

This last weekend we celebrated Father’s Day, which should remind biological and spiritual fathers of their great responsibility of protecting and raising up new life. This mission is further emphasized by the Rite for the Ordination of a Bishop, which says, “In the Church entrusted to you, be a faithful steward, moderator and guardian of the mysteries of Christ. Since you are chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.” This is the model for all bishops.

But the scandals of Theodore McCarrick, Bishop Bransfield and others have made it clear that our vigilance has not been adequate. To quote from the just-issued “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitment” statement, “We, the bishops of the United States, have heard the anger expressed by so many within and outside of the Church over these failures.  The anger is justified; it has humbled us, prompting us into self-examination, repentance, and a desire to do better.” This sentiment was clear in my interactions with my fellow bishops in Baltimore this past week.

As evidence of our commitment, we overwhelmingly passed a set of directives for the bishops’ conference to implement Pope Francis’ Vos estis lux mundi document on handling abuse by priests and bishops. These directives include the creation by May 31, 2020 of a third-party phone and online system that receives reports of potential violations by bishops, the establishment of a protocol in which the Holy See designates and authorizes metropolitan archbishops to investigate cases of alleged abuse by bishops, and the expectation that the investigating bishop involve lay experts in assisting with these inquiries. For any investigations that falls under my jurisdiction, I will ensure that lay experts are involved, as I’ve done throughout my time as a bishop. As the new directives indicate, I will also appoint a lay person to receive complaints from the third-party reporting system, publicize how to make reports, ascertain the credibility of reports and gather any additional information necessary for an investigation to commence.

I also want to highlight that the bishops overwhelmingly approved protocols for imposing limitations on former bishops who were removed from office for grave reasons and that we adopted a code of conduct for bishops, which explicitly states that the Dallas Charter will now include bishops.

All these measures are in addition to those we have been enforcing since 2002 in relation to preventing sexual abuse of minors by priests. The Archdiocese of Denver has a strong track record of actively working to protect children, including annual audits, background checks of employees and clergy, and a code of conduct that previous bishops and I have all signed, and a robust training program aimed at fostering safe environments for children. The effectiveness of these measures over the past 20 years has made us a model for other institutions seeking to combat abuse.

Pope Francis rightly noted in a January 2019 personal letter to the U.S. bishops that the consequences of our failures cannot be fixed by being administrators of new programs or committees.  They can only be resolved by humility, listening, self-examination and conversion.

My brother bishops and I hope that by obeying the Word of God, seeking the will of the Father and embracing what the Church expects of us, we will imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Read more

Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi can be read at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html

The USCCB Directives implementing Vos estis can be read at: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/2019-june-meeting/upload/usccb-modified-amended-directives-2019-06.pdf

Reach out

Christi Sullivan serves as the Protection Specialist for the Office of Child and Youth Protection and can be reached at 303-715-3241 or Christi.Sullivan@archden.org.

Victims of abuse can reach out to Dr. Jim Langley, the Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 720-239-2832 or Victim.Assistance@ArchDen.org.