Father Dan Flaherty, editor and founding pastor, dies at 91

Priest served Denver Catholic Register in its heyday, started Spirit of Peace Church

Father Daniel J. Flaherty, who served as an editor of the Denver Catholic Register (now the Denver Catholic) and was the founding pastor of a Longmont church, died Dec. 31, 2017. He was 91 and had been a priest 63 years.

He was born in Denver on July 8,1926, to Jennie (Dougherty) and Daniel Flaherty. While growing up in Denver he attended St. Catherine of Siena School and Regis High School, graduating in 1944.

He attended Colorado School of Mines in Golden one year and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., one year. He also served one and a half years in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He then entered St. Thomas Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1954.

Shortly after ordination, he was assigned to the Denver Catholic Register, where he worked under Msgr. Matthew Smith, who founded the Register System of Newspapers and launched the National Catholic Register. For the DCR’s 100th anniversary in 2000, Father Flaherty wrote a column about his experiences with the newspaper during its heyday.

“We published 30-35 newspapers every week for archdioceses and dioceses around the country that would not have had such a service without the Register’s help,” he recalled. “Total circulation in those days was around 850,000 copies, all edited and printed at a self-contained plant employing 150 people.”

Under Msgr. Smith, Father Flaherty launched the DCR’s military edition. From 1966-1972, he served as editor and business manager of the DCR. He left the newspaper shortly after the Register System’s presses and network were sold.

“I’m convinced the Denver Catholic Register was responsible for beginning diocesan newspapers throughout the country, which became tremendous teaching and communication tools,” he wrote. “In addition, I’m certain that the National Register helped bridge the gap during and immediately following the Second Vatican Council between advocates of the ‘changeless Church’ and the new adherents to the ‘changing Church.’ At least a dialogue began.”

While at the Register, Father Flaherty served in residence at St. Anthony of Padua and Holy Family parishes in Denver. In other parish ministry, he served as assistant pastor at St. Vincent de Paul in Denver and at Holy Trinity in Colorado Springs. He was administrator pro-tem at St. Catherine in Iliff and at Sacred Heart in Peetz.

He was pastor at Our Lady of the Mountains in Estes Park from 1978-1987. In 1982 he founded Spirit of Peace in Longmont and was also pastor of its mission in Lyons. Spirit of Peace was a nontraditional parish without a resident pastor for 22 years. It also shared facilities with a Presbyterian church for 25 years, until moving to another location and getting a new name, St. Francis of Assisi, in 2007.

Before the Colorado Springs Diocese was created in 1983, Father Flaherty served stints as co-director of adult education for the Colorado Springs Education Center, as coordinator of adult religious education for Denver and Colorado Springs, and as director of continuing education for priests in Denver.

“He was highly affected by Vatican II and what it meant,” Father Tom McCormick said of his longtime friend and brother priest. “He was a pastor who knew he didn’t have all the answers and he pitied those pastors who thought they did.

“He was a people person and very involved in forming lay people as leaders in the Church,” Father McCormick added, noting that Father Flaherty was informed on social issues and liked to discuss them.

About Father Flaherty’s time with the Denver Catholic Register, Father McCormick said, “He had an appreciation for the written word, he loved theology and he liked to share what was going on with the life of the Church.”

Father Flaherty retired in 1997 and spent most of his retirement years in residence at St. Louis Parish in Louisville.

“I’m glad he got to go home (to be with God),” Father McCormick said. “It was painful to see him go, but I’m glad he was able to go home where he belongs.”

Father Flaherty was preceded in death by his parents and his two sisters, Lucille Crumbaker and Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Helen Flaherty.

A vigil service was held Jan. 4 at St. Louis Church in Louisville. A funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 5 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver.

COMING UP: Vincentian Father Christensen served archdiocese 27 years

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Vincentian Father Christensen served archdiocese 27 years

Native Chicagoan ministered in parishes, celebrated TV Mass

Father Lawrence P. Christensen, a Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian) priest who served the Denver Archdiocese for most of his 34-year priesthood, died Jan. 1. He was 82.

He was born in Chicago on June 11, 1935, to Helen (Kiebel) and Christian Christensen. He grew up in Chicago and graduated from DePaul Academy in 1954. He then entered St. Mary of the Barrens Seminary in Perryville, Mo., the historic seat of the Vincentian order in the United States. He professed vows on July 31, 1956, and served as a religious brother until he was ordained a deacon on June 4, 1976. After ministering in the diaconate eight years, he was ordained to the priesthood on Jan. 7, 1984.

“He was a very dedicated priest,” Deacon Tim Unger said about his longtime friend and, later, co-worker at Risen Christ Parish. “Some religious order priests come and go, but he really devoted his life to Denver. He loved it here. I think he felt this is where he was meant to be.”

Father Christensen loved to travel and had led a pilgrimage to Ireland just last year as well as took a cruise to Hawaii for the first time, Deacon Unger said.

“He could tell you anything about the British royal family, which was kind of funny,” Deacon Unger said. “And he had an avid affection for dogs. He had a dog named Charlie.”

As a religious brother and as a deacon, Father Christensen served as registrar of St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Lemont, Ill., and as provincial secretary in St. Louis, Mo. After his ordination to the priesthood, he ministered in a Perryville parish, then served three years as vocation director for his province before coming to Denver in 1991.

In Denver, he was director of admissions at St. Thomas Seminary for four years before it closed in 1995. He then ministered as a parochial vicar in many parishes, including Christ the King in Denver and St. John the Baptist in Longmont. He did the same for 10 years at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Collins before ministering the last eight years at Risen Christ in Denver, where he was parochial vicar seven years and administrator one year.

Father Christensen also was a longtime celebrant of the Denver Archdiocese’s TV Mass.

Last July he was sent to the Vincentian’s retirement home, Apostle of Charity Residence in Perryville, with serious health issues. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis commonly called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“Father Larry served the (Vincentian’s western) province and the Church with energy and joy,” said Father Joseph Williams, CM, assistant provincial. “While his illness progressed rapidly, Father Larry maintained a joy of life and complete openness to the will of God. His trust and dependence on Divine Providence never faltered.”

A funeral Mass was celebrated on Jan. 4 at St. Mary of the Barrens Church. Burial was in the Vincentian Community Cemetery.

In Denver, a memorial Mass is set for 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19 at Risen Christ Church, followed by a reception.