‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that’: Coloradans march to celebrate life

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After a cold, snowy morning, thousands of Catholics from the Archdiocese of Denver gathered Jan. 12 to participate in the Celebrate Life March at the foot of the Colorado State Capitol — the place that first allowed for the legalization of abortion in the United States over 50 years ago — seeking a renewed respect of the most fundamental right: the right to life.

Calling to mind that Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion, David Bereit, the event’s emcee, and co-founder and former C.E.O. of 40 Days for Life, motivated the faithful to continue fighting to undo the evil that had begun in the same building that oversaw their gathering.

“Even though lives continue to be lost to this very day, we have seen, through the prayers and efforts of faithful people here in Denver, throughout Colorado and around the nation, the tide is turning for life,” he said, assuring that from the 2,200 abortion clinics that were present in the country at the pinnacle of the abortion industry in 1992, fewer than 600 remain. 79 percent of abortion centers closed their doors and went out of business, in great part due to the action and prayers of pro-life advocates.

“The abortion rate continues to drop… Americans self-identify as pro-life by the largest majority since Roe v. Wade. More pro-life laws have been passed in the States over these last three years than the previous 30 years before that… We realize that the days of Roe v. Wade are numbered. Abortion is going to end! Our work is not yet done, and that’s why we gather here,” Bereit continued. “What began here in this place, must end here in this place.”

This year’s Celebrate Life March also comes at an important time in the political realm of the State of Colorado, as the November midterm elections saw the defeat of legislators who were in support of key areas of Catholic teaching regarding the dignity of life.

The Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila impelled the participants to stay faithful to the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person. (Photo by Brandon Young)

The Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila urged the participants to be a light in the darkness in the public sphere to defend the dignity of life from conception until death.

“In this past midterm election, some of those lawmakers who were in support of the Church’s teaching in these key areas, failed to win their seats, which makes our task today of remaining vigilant and engaged all the more important. And it is you, the laity, who need to make your voices heard,” he said.

The prelate also called for the repeal of the death penalty in Colorado, which he assured was unnecessary; and, quoting Pope Francis, spoke against the idea that the Catholic Church must accept the many of these laws under the banner of progressivism.

“‘The internal consistency of our message, the message of the Church and of Christ, about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position in this question. It is not progressive to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.’ Our legislators need to hear those words. The Catholics in our pews need to hear those words. The media today would never report on those words of Pope Francis,” Archbishop Aquila assured.

The rally also counted with the presence of Elizabeth Felix, a college student and leader of Students for Life, who insisted that being pro-life meant being pro-woman, pro-man and pro-child; the McGarity family, who spoke for the dignity of children with Down Syndrome; and Elías Moo, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Many Catholics from the state of Colorado gathered to celebrate the gift of life by the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver, Sat., Jan 12. (Photo by Brandon Young)

In a bilingual speech in English and Spanish, Moo highlighted the importance of fighting for the right to life, especially for Christians.

“Our duty to our neighbors, even those who disagree with us, is to serve the common good of our society by defending the most vulnerable and fighting against the culture of death. For we’re fighting for the most fundamental right of all, the base of all other rights: the right to life,” he stated. “We love life because we love Christ.”

Marching with joy

For the second year in a row, women from ENDOW (Education on the Nature and Dignity of Women), a Catholic apostolate that helps women come together and learn about their faith and dignity, set the pace of the March. But this year, the representatives were five young Hispanic ladies wearing their colorful quinceañera dresses.

Members of the Catholic group ENDOW led the march wearing their quinceañera dresses to testify that the support for life and women go hand-in-hand. (Photo by Brandon Young)

“They are the champions of life. They are right in that age group where they can say, ‘This is what it means to be a woman, and this is how I can protect life starting now,’” said Marcela García López, Program Growth Coordinator for ENDOW. “Planned Parenthood and other organizations say that minorities need abortion because there is a lot of poverty or because of [the many] troubles that they go through. But actually, look at these girls. They can say yes, and they can challenge that.”

“A life is a life. It doesn’t matter if it was an unplanned pregnancy or not,” said Litzy Morán, one of the participating quinceañeras, who believes that many young women would choose life if they had someone they could talk to about their fears of an unplanned pregnancy.

Among the many participants waving flags and banners, a group of medical students and doctors wearing white lab coats also sought to bring the message of life to the public.

“We have been trying to bring the concept of life to the medical campus for the past six or seven years, which is basically taken over by the culture of death with abortion teaching… through lectures and seminars to students on life issues, including Natural Family Planning” said Dr. Francisco La Rosa, Associate Professor in Pathology and Faculty Sponsor for the student group Catholic Medical Association at Anschutz Medical Campus.

The march was accompanied by the performance of folkloric dancers and a mariachi band. (Photo by Brandon Young)

As the crowd joyfully marched on the downtown streets of Denver, and was met with varied reactions from those observing, Martin Luther Jing Jr.’s words, quoted by Archbishop Aquila in his speech, seemed to resound with greater clarity: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misspelled Dr. Francisco La Rosa’s name. We apologize for the error.

COMING UP: Working to make our schools safer

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By Carol Nesbitt

The issue of school safety is always on the minds of parents. Parents want to know that schools have a plan in place for all types of emergencies, from fires to intruders to staff or students feeling unsafe for various reasons.
The Archdiocese of Denver is excited to share that they now have someone directly supporting the safety preparedness and plans of the 37 Catholic schools under its watch and care.

Matt Montgomery is a former police officer and award-winning school resource officer (SRO). He’s also a chemistry and forensic science teacher as well as Director of Security and Safety at Holy Family High School. And, as of Nov. 13, he is the new Interim Director of Schools Security and Safety for the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools. The position is new and the first of its kind for the Archdiocese of Denver, but important.

“As a Catholic school community we believe the safety and wellbeing of our students comes first. Time and again we hear our parents rate school safety as one of the top reasons why they entrust the care and formation of their children to our schools. As such, we believe we have a duty and moral obligation in our schools to ensure we are doing everything we can to ensure our children are safe from any type of harm,” said Elias Moo, Superintendent of Catholic Schools. “Historically, each of our schools has had to take on the crucial task of defining and implementing their own safety and security plans and systems. While our schools have certainly gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the safety of their school community, we believe it is critical in our current reality that we provide our schools with the expertise and qualifications of someone like Matt to support them in really analyzing their plans and assisting them in ensuring best practices are being implemented. It’s the least we can do for our school communities.”

“My role is really to lead a task force with the intention of identifying needs around school safety,” said Montgomery. He says there are a number of great models for school safety around the area, so it’s more about bringing it all together. “All public schools have someone overseeing safety and security, usually with staff members doing threat assessments, suicide assessments and emergency drills, building security, fire drills, and those kinds of things, but there really isn’t a position like this in other dioceses that we are aware of.”

Montgomery says that his job will be taking the variety of practices at schools and helping to bring consistency in efforts across the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic School community. He also says that the term ‘school safety’ is more broad than people realize. “When people think about school safety, they always gravitate to school shootings, but I think we really have to step away from that and realize that school safety and security is an umbrella. It encompasses everything from events prior to an incident all the way through recovery (post-incident).”

The five areas Montgomery is focusing on include:

Prevention
What do we do to create a loving and responsive Catholic community where students and staff feel safe and are empowered and given resources to report any behaviors or activity that is unsafe and counter to our values?

Protection
What systems and proceses do we have to vigilantly monitor for behavior or activity that is harmful to our Catholic community?

Mitigation
What procedures and policies are in place to mitigate issues?

Response
If an incident occurs, how do we respond to that incident? How do we support that school from an archdiocesan perspective? What tools are we able to provide to that school? What relationships do we have with law enforcement and first responders in that community?

Recovery
Recovery begins the second an incident occurs. How do we reunite students with families, provide counseling support and address staff issues in the case of a crisis?

Montgomery says his work will also help establish a plan for the archdiocese in the case of a larger emergency.

“What is our incident command structure going to look like so that we can respond to an incident, while also keeping in mind the unique structure of the various schools beneath the Office of Catholic Schools?”

He’d like to see the Standard Response Protocol — created by the I Love You Guys Foundation — used throughout the school system.

“One of the issues I noticed is that there are a lot of different agencies who respond to various incidents and they don’t know what the other ones are doing,” Montgomery said. “The crisis plan needs to be uniform, created for a specific age group. We need to standardize our crisis plans throughout the AoD and work with the schools to create private plans for each school that is specific to that school, simple plans that outline for administration on how they implement the plan at the moment of crisis.”

One of the biggest things Montgomery will be doing is identifying policies and procedures and training. “This is uniformly saying ‘This is what we’re doing, this is how we’re going to do it, and these are the amount of times we will practice it each year.’” This also includes training of staff on mandatory reporting, the importance of documenting things, and threat assessments that ask the right questions to get a non-biased, vetted approach to assessing threats. “There are a lot of things we can do to mitigate the chance of someone being hurt at a school. That’s by good training, good policies and procedures, and hardening our targets, meaning the physical security of our school buildings,” said Montgomery.

As a teacher, Montgomery says he has a unique perspective. “I’m not just some cop or just an SRO. My heart is in the classroom. I’m a Catholic educator who used to be a cop. My goal is to make sure kids can focus on being a kid and learning, not having to worry about being hurt at school or being bullied or having thoughts of suicide. I want them to feel that school is a safe place. That’s why I do it. I really love doing school safety.”