New priest opted to care for souls, rather than budgets

Father LaJoie once pursued an accounting degree

Father Joseph LaJoie’s path to the priesthood was stitched together with threads from across the Archdiocese of Denver.

His parents, Joe and Vickie, began the first stitch when they wed at Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora. Joseph, who was born in Wichita, Kan., made his first Communion at Queen of Peace after the family moved back to Colorado. And while other kids his age were playing cowboys and Indians, Joseph was “playing priest.”

When he made his confirmation at 14, he felt a spiritual thread leading him to the priesthood that tugged at his heart through his teens and young adult life.

Another thread to his father’s past surfaced after Joseph entered St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in August 2006 and he lived with other seminarians at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in northwest Denver. His father received his first Communion there and attended fourth-grade at the former parish school.

When Joseph became a deacon in 2012, he was assigned to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver and the last five months at St. Michael the Archangel in Aurora near his family’s home. Some of the parishioners recognized Joseph from when he worked at a nearby King Soopers while in high school and college.

On Dec. 7, the woven threads revealed his destiny when the 31-year-old was ordained at the Cathedral Basilica by Archbishop Samuel Aquila.

“Today our Lord chooses you to be a priest,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It is his word within your heart and soul that calls.”

The 90-minute ceremony and Mass began with Archbishop Aquila introducing Deacon Joseph LaJoie to the celebrants and congregation that included his fellow seminarians, priests, family and friends.  Shortly after the ordination, Father LaJoie emotionally embraced his parents and three younger sisters before bestowing a blessing on them.

The archbishop urged Father LaJoie to be a humble, understanding priest while administering the sacraments. He also thanked Father LaJoie’s parents for encouraging their son’s faith and giving him to the Church.

“You give up your mother and father, your brother and sister to follow Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He comes first before anything else.”

The days leading up to the ordination were filled with excitement and pride for his family.

“When he entered the seminary, his great-grandmother was so excited,” his mother, Vicki said. “She told us she wished to live long enough for Joey to say her funeral.”

Great-grandmother Ann Dohmen, 96, watched the ceremony via a live computer feed from the cathedral to her Nebraska home with other family members there. The ordination can be viewed here: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/3170708/events/2598859.

“As parents, we raised our kids to be good people and we also want them to be happy,” his mother said. “Joey has put so much time and effort into this and he is so happy.”

A few days before the ordination, Father LaJoie reflected on his eight-year journey to the priesthood. His parents were initially conflicted when their son, the first to attend college, announced he wanted to quit school and enter the seminary.

“When I finally allowed myself to be open to the priesthood, I left both my degree in progress and my job in a matter of months to enter seminary,” Father LaJoie said.

He attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Colorado at Denver and had only a semester of college left for his accounting degree. He said his return to the sacrament of confession, after a 10-year absence, helped him reach his decision not to delay entering the seminary.

“He wrote me a letter from his heart explaining his decision and I finally understood,” his father, Joe, said. “I broke down and wept because he was able to articulate his passion and why this was his career path.”

His mother said the priesthood is her son’s true calling.

“Anyone who knew Joseph before the seminary and sees him now understands how he has transformed,” Vicki said.

While he continued his college studies and eventually received a degree in philosophy, his sister, Ashley, completed her master’s degree in counseling.

“We definitely were shocked when he told us he wanted to go to the seminary,” Ashley, 28, said. “But he was so ready to go; so while it was a surprise it was very cool, too.”

Father LaJoie acknowledged he faced challenges while in the seminary, including the death of his young aunt and a few weeks later the passing of Pope John Paul II, who he considered a hero.

“The struggles came on and off but that is good because it actively engaged me to really believe this is what Jesus wants me to do,” he said.

He credits the Blessed Mother and reciting the rosary daily for helping him find the right direction in his life.

Father LaJoie will continue to serve St. Michael’s through until Jan. 7. The next day, he’ll begin a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Stephen Parish in Glenwood Springs.

 View a clip of the Ordination Mass here

ordination

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 


HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.