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: A holy Church begins with you

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A holy Church begins with you

Bishop Rodriguez challenges Catholics to realize their call to holiness

Roxanne King

Even as the Catholic Church deals with the disgrace and shame of the clergy sexual abuse scandal and moves forward with repentance and renewal, it is challenging as faithful not to be disheartened and discouraged.

The answer to this situation is to follow the Scriptural mandate to holiness all Catholic Christians have been given, Denver auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez told attendees of the May 17-19 Aspen Catholic conference titled, “The Encounter: New Life in Jesus Christ.”

As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘be holy, because I [am] holy,’” the bishop said, quoting I Peter 1:15-16.

“Holiness,” the bishop asserted, “…is the only thing that will get our Church through this crisis. It’s a transformation that we all need.”

The annual conference, an initiative of Father John Hilton, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Aspen where the event was held, drew people from the Archdiocese of Denver and from outside the state to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ, deepen their understanding of the Catholic faith, renew their spirit in the beauty of Colorado’s high country, and return home equipped to better share their faith.

Despite the current crisis, which is evidence the Church is comprised of sinners, every Sunday when professing the Creed, Catholics say, “I believe in the holy Catholic Church.”

“We say publicly that we believe the Catholic Church is holy. Do we mean it?” Bishop Rodriguez mused before affirming: “The Catholic Church, like it or not, will always be holy for three reasons.”

First: “Jesus Christ is the author of holiness and he is the head of the Church. … Jesus is the Church with all of us. The holiness of Jesus fills the whole Church.”

Second: “The Church is the only institution in the world that possesses all the means of sanctification left by Christ for his Church to sanctify its members and to make them holy.”

Third: “There are many, many holy people in the Church, both in heaven and here on earth.”

Holiness…is the only thing that will get our Church through this crisis. It’s a transformation that we all need.”

Slain STEM School shooting hero Kendrick Castillo is an example of a holy, young Catholic, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“He gave his life for his classmates. If this is not holiness, what is?” the bishop said about the 18-year-old who was killed May 7 when he tackled a teen shooter.

Servant of God Julia Greeley, a former slave known for her acts of charity and generosity from her own meager means to others in early Denver, and St. John Paul II, who in emphasizing the universal call to holiness of all Christians beatified and canonized more people than the combined total of his predecessors in the five centuries before him, were among others Bishop Rodriguez mentioned who comprise “the great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) of those believers who have preceded us into God’s kingdom. Additionally, there are countless “next-door saints,” he said, using a term coined by Pope Francis to describe those unknowns of heroic virtue among our family, friends and neighbors.

Rodriguez said, because the Scriptures say, Christ so loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy (Eph 5:25-26).

“‘The Church is holy because it proceeds from God, who is holy,’” the bishop said, quoting Pope Francis’ Oct. 2, 2013, general audience address. “’It is not holy by our merits; we are not able to make her holy. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who in his love makes the Church holy.’

“The Catholic Church is and will be holy, even though some of her members still need repentance and conversion,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “Great sinners don’t make our Church unholy, but make the Church a factory of saints, where sinners are made holy by the power of God.”

Holiness is our deepest longing because we were created to be holy, the bishop said. But the only way to realize that call is to submit to God and allow him to transform us, he said, using the scriptural analogy of clay taking shape in a potter’s hands.

“We cannot deserve, produce, gain, create, or make holiness,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “Only God in his gratuitousness and infinite love can make a saint of you. … Holiness is pure gift, is grace.”

Catholics believe holiness is real — that grace received through the sacraments, prayer and reading Scripture, infuses and transforms the believer into a new creation, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“Salvation is real,” the bishop said. “Pope Francis [warns] about a heresy that has been in the Church since apostolic times under different appearances — Gnosticism. It is a doctrine of salvation by knowledge, reducing Christianity to doctrine [or] text, to something intellectual.”

In doing so, Gnosticism loses the flesh of the incarnation and reduces Jesus to his message, Bishop Rodriguez said. Likewise, Protestant theologian Rudolf Bultmann, a major figure of 20th-century biblical studies and liberal Christianity, promoted “demythologizing” the Gospel to attract modern adherents.

As a result, “people lost faith that these things really happened,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “[Bultmann] did tremendous damage to Christianity.”

The Apostles, however, insisted on the truth of Jesus’ incarnational reality, the bishop said, noting the First Letter of St. John proclaims: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands, concerns the Word of life — for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you.

Great sinners don’t make our Church unholy, but make the Church a factory of saints, where sinners are made holy by the power of God.”

“Our Christian faith is not a body of doctrines, not a code of conduct, not an ethical idea, not an elaborated ritual,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “It is not even a community. It is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It is an event. It is a person. It is an event that happens. In the Gospel everything begins with an encounter with Jesus. Have we encountered Jesus?”

Jesus may be encountered through prayer, Scripture and the sacraments, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“These are three gifts God has given to us to open us to holiness,” he said. “These are the Catholic ways to have a personal encounter with Jesus that is real.”

Regarding prayer: “The best way to start is to become aware of Jesus presence. … prayer [then] becomes a personal encounter, otherwise it’s an intellectual exercise.”

Regarding Scripture: “It’s not about information … it’s about God telling his love for me.”

Regarding sacraments: “The sacramental life is God touching me with his holiness.

“In the Catholic Church we believe that Jesus Christ didn’t want us to only have a recorded memory of him as in the Scriptures, but a living presence among us. He said: ‘I will be with you until the end of time.’”

I dare you to allow God to make a great saint of you.”

Just as Jesus was present with the people of Galilee healing and forgiving them, so he is present with us today through the sacraments, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“That’s why he instituted the sacraments. Each sacrament is a merciful and sweet touch of Jesus in our lives,” the bishop said. “This is what we mean when we say he makes us holy through the sacraments.”

So why isn’t there more holiness in our lives and more saints in the Church?

“God wants to work with our clay … but to make a saint is a question of love,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “Love cannot be imposed, it cannot be mandated.”

Rather, one must cooperate with God’s grace to become the saint God desires.

“Last March, Pope Francis wrote an apostolic exhortation on our call to be holy, Rejoice and Be Glad,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “His thesis is that we have been made for happiness, and true happiness and joy only comes from a holy life.”

Holiness doesn’t mean perfection, performing miracles or that we are not tempted, Bishop Rodriguez said. Rather, it means loving God and one’s neighbor by doing the everyday tasks of life with love.

The answer for times of persecution and crisis in the Church has always been the holiness of the people of God, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“I dare you to allow God to make a great saint of you,” he challenged.

“This is our response to the Church crisis today: holy Catholic men and women,” he asserted. “We will never give up and we will fight against discouragement and loss of hope. Jesus is with us as he promised.”

Featured image by Roxanne King