Mother Teresa’s gift to Denver continues

Missionaries of Charity reach 25 years of service

Nissa LaPoint

The gift Mother Teresa sent to Colorado 25 years ago keeps on giving.

A handful of meek and humble Missionaries of Charity nuns continue to pray, comfort and care for the poorest of the poor in Denver after their mother sent them in the 1990s.

“I have a gift for you,” Mother Teresa told a crowd in Denver’s old McNichols Sports Arena May 20, 1989. “I will give you my sisters and I hope that, together, we are going to do something beautiful for God.”

Much to then-Archbishop J. Francis Stafford’s surprise, the small nun from Calcutta, India announced to thousands during a prayer service she wanted to send nuns from the order she founded to serve in the Archdiocese of Denver.

Her gift was the story of the day for the media that heavily covered Mother Teresa’s Denver visit and seemingly-spontaneous announcement.

Reflecting back, Sister Damascene and the three other nuns running A Gift of Mary Shelter adjoining St. Joseph Church suggest there was no mystery to Mother Teresa’s decision—it was God’s will.

“It’s as God wants,” Sister Damascene, the superior, told the Denver Catholic inside the shelter. “We are missionaries so we are sent. We cannot choose where we want to go. There is no questioning.”

The first group of sisters sent to Denver in Jan. 1990 moved into the Seton House, which had been renovated and dedicated for housing AIDS patients. Mother Teresa received honors for making use of the former Cathedral High School and convent and founding the house.

By 2003, the order had cared for more than 490 patients. But improved treatment for AIDS and changing city requirements on the Seton House forced the sisters to relocate.

“We had to stop that work because they had better medication and the city requirement was more and more (patients), but we were getting less and less patients,” Sister Damascene explained.

They received permission to run a shelter for single, homeless women and began to look for a smaller space.

“That’s why we came over here,” she said of the shelter on Fox Street and 6th Avenue, where the sisters also live.

In Jan. 1990, the shelter began and the sisters open the doors at night to some 100 women over the course of a year.

“We do talk with them and pray with them and listen to them,” Sister Damascene said. “Many people here do change their life. They find much peace and prayer. There are times when they want to come back to the sacraments.”

During the day the sisters, who wear the order’s recognizable blue-boarded white sari, visit families and nursing home residents. They also visit the downtown jail weekly.

“When we go to the prison, we bring and present Jesus in the blessed sacrament. It’s also an opportunity for prayer,” she shared. “The most important thing is to be with them, to listen to them—sometimes they have a lot of sufferings and want to share things.”

 

The sisters thank God for the poor’s acceptance of their service. For in each person they serve, they see Christ.

“If we are not doing it for Jesus, if we are not seeing Jesus in them, we would not be able to do the work,” Sister Damascene said. “What we doing to them, we are doing it to Jesus.”

The sisters describe it as joy-filled work with occasional struggles only overcome by prayer.

“Prayer is important because otherwise we would not be able to do the work that we do,” the superior said. “The prayer gives us the strength.”

The sisters spend more than four hours of their day in prayer, waking up before 5 a.m. for morning prayer and Mass. They also say prayers with the shelter residents, spend 30 minutes of spiritual reading, dedicate one hour to eucharistic adoration and conclude with the Liturgy of the Hour’s evening and night prayer.

The sisters’ work and pray in the shelter that is one of 760 houses run by the order’s 5,100 nuns across the world. The future is unknown, but the Denver sisters are content with surrendering to wherever God sends them.

“We are happy. I am happy,” Sister Damascene said.


World Day of Consecrated Life Mass

Mass 10:30 a.m. Feb. 8
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 1530 Logan St., Denver.

 

By the Numbers
4 Missionaries of Charity sisters care for 8 homeless women at night at the Gift of Mary Shelter
5,100 professed sisters in the world run 760 houses in 139 countries

COMING UP: Repenting and renewing our role as shepherds

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Jesus tells the disciples in St. John’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” contrasting his goodness with the thieves who come only to steal and destroy.  This past week my fellow U.S. bishops and I sought to act as good shepherds by approving three measures to increase our vigilance and prevention of the evil of sexual abuse by bishops, shepherds who have betrayed the flock entrusted to them.

This last weekend we celebrated Father’s Day, which should remind biological and spiritual fathers of their great responsibility of protecting and raising up new life. This mission is further emphasized by the Rite for the Ordination of a Bishop, which says, “In the Church entrusted to you, be a faithful steward, moderator and guardian of the mysteries of Christ. Since you are chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.” This is the model for all bishops.

But the scandals of Theodore McCarrick, Bishop Bransfield and others have made it clear that our vigilance has not been adequate. To quote from the just-issued “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitment” statement, “We, the bishops of the United States, have heard the anger expressed by so many within and outside of the Church over these failures.  The anger is justified; it has humbled us, prompting us into self-examination, repentance, and a desire to do better.” This sentiment was clear in my interactions with my fellow bishops in Baltimore this past week.

As evidence of our commitment, we overwhelmingly passed a set of directives for the bishops’ conference to implement Pope Francis’ Vos estis lux mundi document on handling abuse by priests and bishops. These directives include the creation by May 31, 2020 of a third-party phone and online system that receives reports of potential violations by bishops, the establishment of a protocol in which the Holy See designates and authorizes metropolitan archbishops to investigate cases of alleged abuse by bishops, and the expectation that the investigating bishop involve lay experts in assisting with these inquiries. For any investigations that falls under my jurisdiction, I will ensure that lay experts are involved, as I’ve done throughout my time as a bishop. As the new directives indicate, I will also appoint a lay person to receive complaints from the third-party reporting system, publicize how to make reports, ascertain the credibility of reports and gather any additional information necessary for an investigation to commence.

I also want to highlight that the bishops overwhelmingly approved protocols for imposing limitations on former bishops who were removed from office for grave reasons and that we adopted a code of conduct for bishops, which explicitly states that the Dallas Charter will now include bishops.

All these measures are in addition to those we have been enforcing since 2002 in relation to preventing sexual abuse of minors by priests. The Archdiocese of Denver has a strong track record of actively working to protect children, including annual audits, background checks of employees and clergy, and a code of conduct that previous bishops and I have all signed, and a robust training program aimed at fostering safe environments for children. The effectiveness of these measures over the past 20 years has made us a model for other institutions seeking to combat abuse.

Pope Francis rightly noted in a January 2019 personal letter to the U.S. bishops that the consequences of our failures cannot be fixed by being administrators of new programs or committees.  They can only be resolved by humility, listening, self-examination and conversion.

My brother bishops and I hope that by obeying the Word of God, seeking the will of the Father and embracing what the Church expects of us, we will imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Read more

Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi can be read at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html

The USCCB Directives implementing Vos estis can be read at: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/2019-june-meeting/upload/usccb-modified-amended-directives-2019-06.pdf

Reach out

Christi Sullivan serves as the Protection Specialist for the Office of Child and Youth Protection and can be reached at 303-715-3241 or Christi.Sullivan@archden.org.

Victims of abuse can reach out to Dr. Jim Langley, the Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 720-239-2832 or Victim.Assistance@ArchDen.org.