Fallen away veterans invited back to Church

Sept. 28 Mass and program to be hosted by deacons, Knights at Colorado Freedom Memorial

Roxanne King

The names of 6,200 Coloradans killed or missing in action are listed on the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora. For the first time since the memorial was dedicated in 2013, the site will be blessed during an outdoor Mass for veterans, their families and friends Sept. 28. Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez will be the main celebrant of the Mass, which will be concelebrated by other priests of the archdiocese. Deacons will assist.

Click here for the event page.

The event starts at 10:30 a.m. with a short program that includes a performance by the Air Force Academy Cadet Choir and inspiring talks by retired Air Force Gen. Mike Duggan and retired Air Force Sgt. Bill Lancaster. The Knights of Columbus will serve a complimentary lunch after the Mass and tours will be conducted. Master of ceremonies will be Rick Crandall, KEZW-AM morning show host and founder and president of the Colorado Freedom Memorial.

The Mass and program was organized by the deacons of the Archdiocese of Denver to express gratitude to veterans and to help those who may have fallen away from their faith to reconnect with the Church, said Deacon Dave Thompson, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

“At the end of that war, veterans were seriously disrespected. It was embarrassing and shameful,” he said. “A lot of veterans have had that experience after other wars since then.”

While the trauma of war can result in deeper faith for some veterans, in others it can lead to loss of faith and/or diminished participation in religious activities, reports the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD.

“I’ve interviewed thousands of veterans over the years. Many of them talk about falling away from their faith because of things they had to see and do in war,” Crandall said. “They think: I’ve done something out of necessity that God is not going to be happy with.

“There’s a bridge that needs to be crossed to bring them back [to God],” added Crandall, who is a convert to Catholicism. “That was the whole idea for this event.”
Mount Tabor Counseling, which offers therapy from a Catholic perspective, will have counselors and contact information available for veterans who may want to speak with one at the event or in the future, Deacon Thompson said.

“We want them to know that if they are suffering, healing is possible through God and the Church,” he said.
Attendees are urged to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets. Some seating will be available for those with disabilities, the organizers said.

The organizers said they have no idea how many people will attend the liturgy and luncheon. It is open to both Catholics and non-Catholics.

“It will be a beautiful celebration,” Crandall said. “We’re trying to make it a wonderful sense of community. Who knows, it could be the first of an annual event to help veterans.”

Outdoor Mass & Program for Veterans

Sept. 28, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Pre-event music starting at 10:30 a.m.
Mass & Program from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Colorado Freedom Memorial,
756 Telluride St., Aurora, CO 80011
Questions? Call 303-715-3198

Featured image courtesy of Colorado Freedom Memorial Facebook page

COMING UP: Archbishop Aquila on ad limina visit, Pope Francis and more

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During his ad limina visit Feb. 10-15, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila was granted an audience with Pope Francis for over two hours where they discussed several topics pertinent to the Church today.

Archbishop Aquila was among a contingent of U.S. bishops representing Region XIII in the United States, which includes the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah. He along with the bishops of those states met with the Holy Father Feb. 10. With the release of Querida Amazonia scheduled just a few days later on Feb. 12, Pope Francis discussed the document produced from last year’s Amazon Synod with the bishops.

“He brought up the question of celibacy, and he said [his] primary concern is that Gospel be proclaimed in the Amazon and that all of us need to focus on Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel first,” Archbishop Aquila said in an interview with EWTN. “If they proclaim the Gospel and are faithful to the Gospel, then vocations will come forth.”

Archbishop Aquila with Pope Francis during his ad limina visit Feb. 10. (Photo: Servizio Fotografico Vaticano)

With much discussion surrounding the Amazon Synod and possible implications it would have for the universal Church, Archbishop Aquila was reassured by the Pope’s comments on synodality and the Church’s application of it.

“Even in the understanding of synodality, which we spoke about, it always has to be ‘under Peter and with Peter’ and that synods cannot be going off and creating things that they want done,” the archbishop said. “He made it very clear: that is not synodality in the Catholic understanding. That was very reassuring.”

Among the other topics the bishops discussed with the Holy Father were some of the challenges faced by the Church in the United States and how to address them.

“The Holy Father was very clear: He said transgenderism is one of the great challenges in the United States right now, and the other is abortion,” Archbishop Aquila said. “Both of them really deal with the dignity of human life and the understanding of human life and do we truly receive from God the gender that he has given to us.

Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez with Pope Francis during his ad limina visit Feb. 10. (Photo: Servizio Fotografico Vaticano)

“There are only two genders, male and female, and so how do we open our hearts to receiving that as gift.”
Archbishop Aquila said that they Holy Father also “spoke of media, and how the far left goes after him and the far right goes after him, and neither one really presents who he is.”

In a time where Pope Francis’ comments can be rather polarizing and even mischaracterized, Archbishop Aquila was struck by the depth of the Holy Father’s faith in his audience with him.

“[The Pope] has a very, very deep faith. He is convinced of the Gospel, he is totally convinced of Jesus Christ, he is convinced that there are teachings in the Church that can never change and that we have to be faithful to the Church.”

Hannah Brockhaus of Catholic News Agency contributed to this report.

Featured image by Paul Haring/CNS