Follow him, he is trustworthy

God has a plan for your life that is unique, only you can fulfill it, and it will bring you true happiness.” This is the
message I give to young people who come for confirmation at this time every year. As I look ahead to the 40th anniversary of my priestly ordination my heart is fi lled with gratitude to the Father for the blessings he has
bestowed on me. He is faithful to his promises and the joy he gives is beyond what any of us can imagine.

I first came to Colorado in the late 60s to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder as a pre-med student. After a year of being here, I had decided that this was where I wanted to settle down, because of the natural beauty and my love for skiing. But all the while the Lord kept tugging at my heart, calling me to follow him.

Once I had graduated, I entered seminary immediately and within six months I knew that God was calling me to serve him as a priest. Little did I know what the Father had in store for me. All I knew was that he was calling
me and I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t respond to that call.
On June 5, 1976, I was ordained a priest by Archbishop James V. Casey in Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Over the next several years, I spent time serving in parishes and was blessed to meet faithful Catholics from all walks of life, who continue to be a rich source of blessing for me.

In those early years my spiritual fatherhood also grew. It’s easy for people to miss this beautiful aspect of the priesthood, but it is one that gives me much joy. Bringing the Father’s mercy to people through confession, teaching the faith, preaching and celebrating the sacraments – most
especially the Eucharist – all give me the chance to bring the Father’s love to his children.

I could not have known it, but God would invite me to participate in his fatherhood in a new way when Pope
St. John Paul II called me to serve as Bishop of Fargo in 2001. When I left Denver, the reality of what it meant
to serve the Church and love Christ struck me in a whole new way. I was leaving everything I had fallen in love with – the seminary, the natural beauty of Colorado, and the Catholic community where I had spent 25 years of my life. I thought I would never return to Colorado. It was an
opportunity for me to grow in trust and confidence in the Lord, to put the Father’s will first.

All of us face these kinds of decisions, even if we don’t realize it. Our various circumstances present us with fundamental questions like: “Do I trust the Father?” “Do I believe in his eternal love for me?” “Do I have confidence that he will give me things that will ultimately make me happy?”

Looking back on my 40 years as a priest and that moment of receiving the call to become a bishop, I can confidently say the answer to these questions is “yes!” Of course, there will be times when the Father asks you to take a leap of faith, to take up the crosses and trials in life, or times
when a tragedy occurs and the Lord uses those moments of suffering for good. But these events are part of the path of purification that help us to reach heaven. This is why St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28).

God’s plan for my priesthood took another turn in May 2012 when I got a phone call from Archbishop Carlo
Maria Viganò, the Pope’s representative to the United States. As I stepped aside from the gardening I was doing
at my house in Fargo, he told me that Pope Benedict XVI was calling me back to Denver. I was stunned. Once again, the Father’s providence and love for me were thrown into stark relief. I was leaving a flock I had grown in love with, that filled me with joy, and where I served for 11 years … to return to Denver.

Over the last four years, the Father’s generosity and love for me and the archdiocese have continued to make themselves apparent. No matter what the vocation or the plan the Father has for you, it will bring joy. Seeking first the Father’s will is the call of every Christian, just as it
was Jesus’. His plan will include the cross and suffering, as he promised, yet when it is rooted in love it will bring a joy and gratitude that no one can ever take away! Do not be afraid to follow him.

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit:  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.