Growth and outreach abound at St. Michael the Archangel

New parish center will help Aurora parish to develop ministries

Anya Semenoff

Every year as the seasons transition from summer to fall, parishioners at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Parish gather together to pray the rosary. Praying the rosary in community is a common practice in many local parishes throughout the Archdiocese, but during St. Michael’s annual international rosary, each individual who leads an Our Father or Hail Mary not only brings a unique cadence and rhythm to the shared prayer, but also does so in a different language. This year, 43 different languages to be precise.

“You really see the universality of the church in a parish like this,” said Father Terry Kissell, who has served as pastor of St. Michael’s for the past nine years.
Established in 1978, when Aurora was still largely undeveloped, over the course of 41 years the parish has seen not only growth in total registered families, but also a profound change in parishioner demographics, not least of all because of the growing immigrant population in the surrounding community.

“It’s a very diverse culture,” said Teri Vasicek, the parish business administrator. “We have a number of immigrants and ethnic cultures represented at St. Michael’s today.”

Included among these are individuals from several different African nations, as well as Romania, Korea, Malaysia, Honduras, Peru, Mexico, and more. This diversity is apparent in parish events such as the international rosary, as well as at the “Taste of St. Michael’s” fair, which highlights the different cultural cuisines specific to all the many parishioner nationalities.

As the parish grew — it now serves roughly 3,000 households — the need for a larger space in which the community could gather for its large roster of ministry offerings and religious education opportunities became even more evident.

You really see the universality of the church in a parish like this.”

“One of the major issues that’s been around as long as the parish has been here is the need for space. [Historically], a number of different ministry groups have had to meet in homes or preschool classrooms,” said Father Kissell.

Following a nearly six-year process which started in December 2013, St. Michael’s in September celebrated the opening of a new 6,200-sq. ft., two-story parish center. The parish hired Eidos Architects to plan the new center, which includes meeting spaces for religious education classes and adult ministries, a long-awaited-for dedicated youth center, and staff offices.

“It was a pleasure working with Father Terry, his hard-working building committee and the Parish on this six-year journey from Master Planning through the completion of construction,” said Bob Saas, a Principal of Eidos Architects in a release provided by the firm. “It was through the patience and commitment to the needs of the church that the parish was able to successfully complete this needed addition of programming and office space.”

With an existing repertoire of approximately 40 ministries, committees, and organizations — some of which have been operating at St. Michael’s since it was first established — the new space will allow for the parish to more comfortably develop.

St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Aurora recently completed construction a new parish center, which they hope will help to accommodate their diverse community and the various ministries that work out of the parish. (Photo provided)

“People are excited and very pleased with how things have turned out,” said Father Kissell. “So I see opportunities for further formation and evangelization.”

For Vasicek, one key area in which the parish has always focused is in social justice and outreach.

“One of the hallmarks of the parish from the moment I’ve arrived has been the attention to and emphasis on outreach,” she said. “We have many vibrant ministries that are reaching out to the poor and underprivileged, in Aurora in particular. Surprisingly enough, it’s the sense of many ministries that we have to reach out to our own.”

As the demographics in Aurora and in the parish boundaries have changed since 1978 — in part due to additional parishes opening nearby that drew away some members, and also with the development of the Denver Tech Center, which offered different employment and residential opportunities — the population dynamics at St. Michael’s likewise shifted. As such, Vasicek said the majority of those who now support the parish are in the lower-to-middle income bracket. But this reality has made the congregation no less generous.

“What we enjoy in terms of savings account is not ours, it’s God’s,” said Vasicek. “Stewardship is a lifestyle. So we hope to be a happy people because there’s nothing that we want because we’ve met all of our needs.”

In a letter introducing the St. Michael’s Stewardship Report in 2018, Father Kissell addressed the parishioners: “I truly would like to express how grateful I am to serve the people of God of St. Michael’s. You are people of faith and love who inspire me. You are dedicated to your families, your friends and your service to the Lord.”

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