Monsignor Michael Glenn remained a ‘priest to the end’ in battle with cancer

Denver Catholic Staff

Monsignor Michael Glenn, former rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and beloved pastor of three parishes on the western slope, died Friday, March 1, after being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016. He was 56 years old.

Michael Glenn was born Nov. 15, 1962 in Denver to Patrick and Frances Glenn.  He is survived by two brothers, Sean and Timothy. He was a native of Broomfield and graduated from Broomfield High School in 1981.

He attended the University of Colorado Boulder and West Point U.S. Military Academy before earning a Bachelor of Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio in 1985. He then earned a baccalaureate in sacred theology from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1989.

His studies for the priesthood began at Conception Seminary College in Missouri in 1985 and continued at North American College in Rome, alongside his academic studies at Pontifical Gregorian University. On June 30, 1990, Glenn was ordained a priest by then-Archbishop J. Francis Stafford.

After serving as parochical vicar at Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Aspen, and various archdiocesan positions, including vice chancellor and director of vocations, Father Glenn was appointed rector of the newly-constituted St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in 2001, which replaced the former St. Thomas Seminary. Father Glenn succeeded then-Father Samuel Aquila, now archbishop of Denver, as rector and served there for 12 years alongside then-Father Jorge Rodriguez, now auxiliary bishop of Denver, who served as his vice rector for a time.

On July 7, 2009, Father Glenn was granted the title of Monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI.

Many priests of the Archdiocese of Denver have fond memories of attending seminary while Msgr. Glenn was rector, including current director of vocations Father Ryan O’Neill.

“When I was in seminary, Msgr. Glenn was my rector the whole time there, for all seven years,” Father O’Neill told the Denver Catholic. “He was very present, very available. … He knew who I was and what I needed to work on, he had this fatherly awareness of how to challenge me and help me be a better priest, a better seminarian.”

DENVER, CO – MARCH 7: From L-R, pallbearers Fr. Brian Larkin, Fr. James Thermos, Fr. Frankie Cicero, Fr. Eric Gilbaugh, Fr. Daniel Barron and Fr. Daniel Ciucci carry the casket of Msgr. Michael Glenn after a funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on March 7, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Father Jim Thermos, Director of spirituality year and formator at St. John Vianney seminary, has known Msgr. Glenn for over 20 years. He, too, was in seminary while Msgr. Glenn was rector and ended up working side-by-side there with him shortly after his ordination.

“[He was] one who [was] in love with Jesus and scripture. That’s what made me trust him initially and want to entrust myself over to him,” Father Thermos said of Msgr. Glenn. “I consider him a man of humility and one of friendship. He offered both to me.

“In my mind, we’ve been through so many times together. He was on the cross in the last few weeks … he was entrusting himself and offering his suffering for the seminary and holy priests, he was so vulnerable. I was able to witness a holy death, I believe. I’m grateful for his example.”

In Msgr. Glenn’s funeral Mass, celebrated March 7 and presided by Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Bishop Jorge Rodriguez referred to the Gospel message present in the life of his “friend and brother.”

“I am convinced that Father Michael was born to be a priest… [The] great good news [is that] God will always send us these kind of priests, as he sent Father Michael, his priest, to live and to serve you, as a friend, as a brother, as a minister,” Bishop Rodriguez said.

“He probably wasn’t aware that the broken body holding in his hands would be his broken body with Jesus, for the salvation of the world… This is the deep mystery of the life of the priest that, identified with Jesus Christ, falls to the ground and dies… [Msgr. Glenn] loved his priesthood, [and] he was a priest to the end.”

Msgr. Glenn was an avid outdoorsman, and upon learning of his brain cancer diagnosis in 2016, many began offering intercessory prayers to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati for healing. Msgr. Glenn kept a framed photo of Frassati in his office at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Silverthorne, which was given to him by a member of Frassati’s family during his studies in Italy.

In a 2017 article that appeared in the Summit Daily newspaper, Msgr. Glenn spoke of the blessing of being able to continue chemotherapy and radiation treatments at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco instead of in Houston, Texas, where he’d been receiving them for nine months. His parishioners raised $53,000 to contribute to a new addition at the hospital where patients could receive transfusions while looking out at the natural splendor of Lake Dillon and Buffalo Mountain.

“It’s good to be able to look at something while you’re doing it,” Msgr. Glenn told the Summit Daily. “Summit [County] is beautiful — but heaven is going to be a lot better.”

COMING UP: Kobe Bryant dead at 41: How scandal turned him to Catholic faith and Divine Mercy

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LOS ANGELES, Calif.  — Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Southern California. Bryant, the father of four, was 41.

Bryant’s daughter Gianna, 13, was reportedly killed in the helicopter crash as well, along with another teen and her parent, and the helicopter’s pilot. They were reportedly traveling to a basketball game.

Bryant is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He retired in 2016 after a 20 year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, in which the shooting guard won five NBA championships, a league MVP award, two scoring championships, and myriad other distinctions.

Beyond basketball, Bryant was a husband and a father who in 2015 attributed his Catholic faith with helping him move past a challenging period in his own life and the life of his family.

Bryant was raised in a Catholic family, and spent much of his childhood living in Italy. He married in 2001 in a Southern California parish.

In 2003, Bryant was arrested after he was accused of raping a woman in a Colorado hotel room.

Bryant admitted a sexual encounter with the woman, but denied that he had committed sexual assault. When the allegation became public, Bryant lost sponsors and faced criminal charges, which were eventually dropped.

Bryant issued an apology to his accuser, with whom he also reached a settlement in a civil lawsuit.

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter,” Bryant said in his 2004 apology.

In 2015, the basketball player told GQ that after the matter was resolved, he decided to shed some superficiality he felt he had built up in his public persona.

“What I came to understand, coming out of Colorado, is that I had to be me, in the place where I was at that moment.”

Bryant said it was a priest who helped him to make some important personal realizations during the ordeal.

Describing his fear of being sent to prison for a crime he believed he had not committed, Bryant told GQ that “The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest.”

“It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ’Did you do it?’ And I say, ’Of course not.’ Then he asks, ’Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ’Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ’Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point,” Bryant said.

A 2004 decision to place deeper trust in God did not mean the basketball star’s life was thereafter without difficulties, or defined by virtue.

In 2011, Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce from Kobe, citing irreconcilable differences. But Bryant said he decided not to give up on his marriage, and two years later, his wife withdrew her divorce petition.

“I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination,” Bryant told GQ in 2015.

“We still fight, just like every married couple. But you know, my reputation as an athlete is that I’m extremely determined, and that I will work my ass off. How could I do that in my professional life if I wasn’t like that in my personal life, when it affects my kids? It wouldn’t make any sense.”

Bryant and his wife have been reported to be regular parishioners at an Orange County, California parish.

Singer Cristina Ballestero posted on Instagram Jan. 26 a story of her encounter with Bryant at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California at a weekday Mass.

“As we went up to communion, [Bryant] waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice.”

“His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision,” Ballestero added.

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I wanna tell a story about the time I met Kobe Bryant. I was sitting in the very back of Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, CA, on a WEEKDAY mass. At the time I was very into wearing veils and on this particular day I had a scarf I used as veil. Right as mass begins I see a huge shadow in my right peripheral vision and hear a decently loud creak from probably a big man. I double took to see… it was KOBE BRYANT IN THE SAME PEW AS ME ON THE OTHER END! I just went about my normal praying and singing as usual cause he like all of us came to pray. Thank God I had the veil so I could stay focused on Jesus not this insanely talented Basketball player my whole family has looked up to and watched our whole lives. As we went up to communion, he waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice. I said thank you and went up to communion. @marydallal @mandymissyturkey and a couple other friends saw him standing behind me going to receive Jesus. And we talked about it after mass and freaked out together. It was such a cool experience to receive Jesus right before him, and also, to walk up to receive Jesus together. It was also cool to see him come for a weekday mass. He said in his GQ interview how a Catholic Priest helped him through the tough time he went through in the media. He also talks about how his faith is important. His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision. Him and his wife do so much great work with their foundation. I’m heartbroken at the news of his death, alongside his daughter Gianna. My prayers go out to his Family, friends and loved ones. Eternal rest grant unto him, and her oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they Rest In Peace, Amen. We love you Kobe & Gianna. 💔 . . . . #kobebryant

A post shared by Cristina Ballestero (@cristinaballestero) on

Bryant also had connected his Catholic faith to a family commitment to help the poor, through the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. The foundation helped fund youth homeless shelters and other projects aimed at serving the poor.

“You have to do something that carries a little bit more weight to it, a little more significance, a little more purpose to it,” he said in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Homelessness “is one that kind of gets pushed on the back burner because it’s easy to point the blame at those who are homeless and say, ‘Well, you made that bad decision. This is where you are. It’s your fault.”

“In life, we all make mistakes and to stand back and allow someone to live that way and kind of wash your hands of it … that’s not right,” he said.

Funeral announcements for Bryant have not yet been announced.

Featured Image: Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)