‘Do as I have done to you’: Priests marking milestone anniversaries in 2021

Having responded in the same way as the apostles did to Christ’s command in John 13, we remain ever grateful for the priests of the Archdiocese of Denver and their servant hearts. Here are the diocesan priests who are celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2021. Thank you, Fathers! 

25 Years 
Father Vincent Phung, J.C.L.

5 years 
Father Vincent Bui 
Father James Claver 
Father Mason Fraley 
Father Fernando Londoño 
Father Matthew Magee 
Father Salvador Sanchez 
Father Guillermo Bustillos 
Father Joseph Grady 

10 years 
Father Michael Bodzioch, V.F. 
Father Dennis Garrou 
Father Geronimo Gonzalez 
Father Brian Larkin 
Father John Nepil 
Father Gregg Pedersen, V.F. 
Father Brady Wagner 
Father Grzegorz Wojcik 

15 years 
Father Faustinus Anyamele 
Father Hector Chiapa-Villarreal 
Father Michael Freihofer 
Father Francisco Garcia 
Father Matthew Hartley 
Father Peter Mussett 
Father Lorenzo Ricci 
Father James Thermos 

20 years 
Father Ernest Bayer 
Father James Crisman 
Father Robert Wedow 

30 years 
Father William Brock 
Father Sean McGrath 
Father Christopher Renner, V.F. 
Father Donald Romero, CH, Major 
Father David Stahl 
Father Jorge de los Santos 

35 years 
Father Gregory Ames 

40 years 
Father Stephen Adams 
Father Henri Tshibambe, V.F. 

45 years 
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila 

55 years 
Msgr. David Croak 

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”