Mary is coming to see you

Parishes, Catholic schools invited to host a visit of new diocesan statue

Roxanne King

The Church has dedicated the month of October to the rosary since 1883, when “the rosary pope” Pope Leo XIII directed it. Pope Francis reiterated this call last month, when he invited all the faithful to recite it every day in October.

This month also marked two significant Marian dates. On Oct. 7, the Church observed the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which recalls the outmanned Holy League’s 16th century victory over Turkish invaders at the Battle of Lepanto, which St. Pius V attributed to mass recitation of the prayer. Oct. 13 marked the 101st anniversary of the 1917 “miracle of the sun” in the last apparition of Mary at Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady of Fatima urged praying the rosary.

Fittingly, the Archdiocese of Denver’s new statue of Our Lady of Fatima is now on pilgrimage throughout the diocese to encourage the faithful to recite the rosary. The rosary is a centuries-old Scriptural prayer focused on events in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

“The statue was two years in the making,” said Sam Perry, founder of the Prayer in the Square campaign, which serves to promote the rosary and commissioned the statue. Prayer in the Square partners include The Catholic Foundation, the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Charities.

The Our Lady of Fatima statue was commissioned in Portugal in 2016 as a gift to the archdiocese to mark the then-upcoming 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. Unfortunately, those who carve the statues were overwhelmed with centennial orders and Denver’s didn’t arrive until this spring.

The exquisite five-foot tall statue is made from a single piece of African wood. It depicts Mary in bright white garments with gold trim, holding a rosary and wearing a gleaming gold crown. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blessed it in May. Such statues are believed to carry the moral presence of Mary.

“We wanted the statue so it could visit schools and parishes where time could be set aside to pray the rosary,” said Tom Morroni, a member of the Prayer in the Square Committee. “This is meant to pass the rosary on to the next generation.”

Catholic schools and parishes are invited to host the statue for a two-week period. It arrives with rosaries made in the Holy Land and pocket-sized blue-covered books (in English and in Spanish) on how to recite it that are given away for free.

Organizers encourage parishes to offer special events related to the visit to foster devotion to the rosary, such as a time for daily public recitation of it. A film about the Fatima apparitions is also available for parishes to offer a movie night for families.

The statue’s pilgrimage started in June. It is currently at Queen of Peace Church in Aurora. The first parish to host it was Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield. Our Lady Mother of the Church in Commerce City soon followed.

“I wanted to have it because our parish is dedicated to Mary,” said Msgr. Jorge de los Santos, Pastor of the predominately Hispanic parish. “It’s good to have devotion to Our Mother [Mary], the Mother of God. She is the first disciple, our mother and our model of discipleship.”

As a result of the visit, he said, the parish has continued to pray the rosary as a community before each Mass on Sundays.

Father Michael Freihofer, Pastor of Our Lady of the Snow in Granby and Spiritual Director for the World Apostolate of Fatima’s Denver Division, recently hosted a visit.

“We will accept a life-size statue of Mary at our churches (he oversees five) any time we can get her!” he said. “We get to see how powerful her intercession is. … I get to hear the stories of healing.”

Father Freihofer credits the Blessed Mother with protecting him from falling into mortal sin at age 21.

“The Blessed Virgin beckoned me not to fall into it,” he said. “By God’s grace, I avoided it. My whole path in life could have gone astray if I would have committed that sin.”

He also credits Mary with his vocation to the priesthood.

“In 1995, I felt I wasn’t a very holy person, even though I was going to Mass every Sunday and going to confession bi-monthly. I determined to pray the rosary every day beginning on January 1, 1996. … By August 1999, I was in the seminary.”

His devotion to Mary is summarized in one statement.

“The quickest way to holiness is having Mary at your side,” he asserted.

Schedule the Our Lady of Fatima statue to come to your parish or school  

Go to ccdenver.org/fatimastatue/

COMING UP: Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

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Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

Initiatives include independent investigation and independent reparations program

Mark Haas

With a desire to “shine the bright light of transparency” on the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors within the Church, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has announced that the three Colorado dioceses have voluntarily partnered with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children.

In a joint news conference on February 19 at the attorney general’s office, it was also announced that the three dioceses will voluntarily fund an independent reparations program for survivors of such abuse.

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” said Archbishop Aquila. “While this process will certainly include painful moments and cannot ever fully restore what was lost, we pray that it will at least begin the healing process.”

It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Discussions for these two initiatives began last year with former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and then finalized recently with Weiser. Both Coffman and Weiser praised the dioceses’ willingness to address this issue.

“It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Coffman added: “Childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution or to the Catholic Church. The spotlight is on the Catholic Church, but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on what has happened.

“[The dioceses] demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”

The independent file review will be handled by Robert Toyer, a former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. His final report is expected to be released in the fall of 2019 and will include a list of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors, along with a review of the dioceses’ handling of the allegations. The report will also include an evaluation of the dioceses’ current policies and procedures, something that was not included in other states’ reviews, such as the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

“We in Colorado have found our own way in the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report,” said Weiser. “We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, alongside Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, speaks during a press conference announcing a comprehensive joint agreement with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center on February 19, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Archdiocese of Denver)

“This is not a criminal investigation. This is an independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church,” said Weiser.

Since 1991, the Archdiocese of Denver has had a policy of mandatory reporting of all allegations to local authorities. The procedures were further strengthened by the 2002 Dallas Charter to include comprehensive background checks, zero-tolerance policies, safe environment training, and training for children as well.

“This independent file review presents an opportunity for an honest and fair evaluation of the Church in Colorado’s historical handling of the sexual abuse of minors by priests,” said Archbishop Aquila.  “We are confident in the steps we have taken to address this issue and that there are no priests in active ministry currently under investigation.”

We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.”

The independent reparations program will be run by two nationally recognized claims administration experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, who will review individual cases and make financial awards to victims who elect to participate. The victims are free to accept or reject the award, but the Colorado dioceses are bound by what the administrators decide.

The program will have oversight provided by an independent committee chaired by former U.S. Senator Hank Brown. More details will be announced in the coming months, and the program will officially open closer to the release of the final report.

This is similar to a program instituted by former Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in 2006. Archbishop Aquila said it is important for local Catholics to know the program will be funded by archdiocesan reserves, with no money being taken from ministries or charities at parishes, annual diocesan appeals, or Catholic Charities.

“With humility and repentance, we hope the programs announced today offer a path to healing for survivors and their families,” Archbishop Aquila said.

And acknowledging how painful this has been for everyone in the Church, Archbishop Aquila said he hopes this is step towards restoring confidence among the faithful.

“Helping people to restore their trust, to live their faith, that is essential,” said Archbishop Aquila. “And to help them have a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ, so that is my goal in all of this. I know that healing is possible in Jesus Christ.”

For a copy of the full agreement and a detailed FAQ, visit archden.org/promise.