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Fraternas to bid farewell to Denver after 25 years of fruitful ministry

Nearly 25 years ago, a small group of Peruvians arrived in Denver to begin their apostolic mission. As consecrated laywomen, the Marian Community of Reconciliation, known as the Fraternas because of their community’s name in Spanish, came to Denver with the mission of spreading the Gospel through their work, lives and example.

After a short time, the community moved into the convent at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Wheat Ridge. With their newfound home, they ramped up their ministry, offering small groups for women, families and young people; they gave talks at parishes; they began work for parishes, ministries and the archdiocese.

Now, nearly 25 years later, the community prepares to depart Denver as they restructure and discern God’s will for their next 25 years and beyond.

“Denver has a very special place in my heart because it was the first place I was assigned more than 23 years ago,” Luciane Urban told the Denver Catholic last year, upon her election as Superior General of the Fraternas. “I can say that I grew in my vocation here; I learned to live my consecration here; and in fact, I made my perpetual profession here in Denver in 2003. Besides, in the different fields in which I’ve served the Lord over the many years, I have made great friends whom I will carry in my heart and in my prayers.”

The Fraternas’ new Superior General, Luciane Urban (far right), is one of the pioneers who brought the community to the United States. She has lived in the Denver community until her recent appointment. (Photo provided)

“Denver has taught us a lot,” said Erika Scheelje, Director of Formation at Christ in the City. “This has been a very fertile ground for us to do ministry, to be instruments of the Lord, but also to learn, collaborating with other organizations and other communities. I think we have nourished each other and learned from each other a lot.”

Certainly, arriving to a foreign land from another country, culture and language could not be easy, but the Fraternas would say it has been fruitful.

“I think this encounter of cultures has been very fruitful for the people here,” Scheelje continued, “and also for us coming from a very different culture. That has been one of the greatest joys. I remember many sisters just talking about this encounter of cultures and how much they have learned and how much is also shaped their life and their ministry. There’s been many Fraternas, maybe around 15 or 20, living in Denver at certain points in life. And I think we’re better because of it.”

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The Fraternas have been heavily involved in ministry in the Archdiocese of Denver over the last 25 years, serving the local Church with great fervor and love. Many of them have even worked for the Archdiocese in various capacities, whether at the Pastoral Center or in parishes in the Denver metro.

Rossana Goñi, for instance, served as the editor of El Pueblo Católico from 1998 to 2012, followed by two of her sisters, Mayé Agama and Carmen Elena “Calen” Villa.

“Above all,” Goñi told El Pueblo Católico on the occasion of their 25th anniversary in 2022, “being the editor of El Pueblo Católico impacted me in my learning about my brothers and sisters in the Hispanic community. For me, it has been a gift to continue learning more and more about Mexican culture and traditions. Show up, listen, learn: I think that is the best thing that one can do as a journalist, but also as a human being and as a Catholic. Beyond this, walk with them. For me, the Hispanic community gave me a lot.”

Fraterna Erika Scheelje (left) has served at Christ in the City as Director of Formation, while Fraternas Mayé Agama and Carmen Villa (right) each served stints as the editor of El Pueblo Católico. (Photo provided)

“I learned a lot about the Hispanic community in Colorado,” Agama told El Pueblo Católico. “It edified me greatly to see how, in the midst of the difficulties of life as an immigrant, many Hispanics care for their families with great love. Likewise, I was impacted by the nobility and sacrifice of many men and women that, arriving to the United States, worked arduously to offer a better future to their children and to contribute to society. Lastly, I loved to see so many apostolic initiatives and movements with such apostolic force and ardor in the community, all that to say, a living Church.”

El Pueblo Católico had a massive impact on my pastoral life, in my life as a consecrated woman, and as a journalist,” said Villa. “It left me with a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. That beautiful tradition and that popular piety taught me a lot. I pray that El Pueblo Católico may continue with that evangelistic work.”

As the Fraternas prepare to depart Denver, they leave behind scores of people who have been touched by their spirituality, friendship, example and spiritual motherhood.

“I met the Fraternas about 24 years ago, just before they came to live in Denver,” shared Lorena Capone, a long-time friend of the community. After meeting the Fraternas and visiting them in Peru, where they are headquartered, Capone recounted, “I was so touched by their joy and love of the Lord! They became my mentors and guides at first. But very quickly grew into a beautiful friendship. We have shared so many joys and sorrows, and they have brought me and my family closer to the Lord. I’m deeply grateful for them and truly have become sisters in Christ.”

For Alexandra Salazar, another long-time friend of the Fraternas and one of the first members of the Christian Life Movement to arrive in Denver, “The Fraternas have been a light in my journey, an embrace in hard times, a fountain of joy and encouragement, always reminding me of who I am, leading me closer to Jesus, and reflecting the maternal care of our Mother Mary.”

Vladimir Mauricio-Pérez, editor of El Pueblo Católico, thanked the Fraternas for their tireless service to the Hispanic community in Denver.

“There’s no doubt that the Fraternas have been a great blessing for the Hispanic community of the Archdiocese of Denver,” he said. “I have always admired their surrender, sacrifice and professionalism. Joining the team at El Pueblo Católico years ago under the direction of Calen Villa was a great step in my life, and I carry her example as a journalist and a disciple of Christ with me even today. I pray that God continues giving abundant fruit in all of their works, just as he did in Denver through El Pueblo Católico and all the other ministries in which they served.”

Rocio Madera and Vladimir Mauricio-Perez contributed to this report.

André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira is the Digital Media Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver. Originally from Connecticut, André moved to Denver in 2018 to work as a missionary with Christ in the City, where he served for two years.

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