New priestly assignments: an intricate process

Archbishop Aquila

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28: 19-20). These are the closing words of Jesus to his disciples prior to his Ascension into heaven, the great commissioning to go
out and proclaim the Good News.

Jesus is still with his Church today as we bring the Gospel to the world! Each year at this time, pastors, parochial vicars and newly ordained priests receive their assignments that tell them where their mission field is. I am deeply grateful to all of our priests, who continue to fulfill the command of Jesus to bring others to him, to teach and to preach, and to celebrate the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. Our priests tirelessly carry the Gospel throughout the vast expanse of our Archdiocese,
which covers 39,000 square miles stretching from Rangeley on the Utah border to Julesburg on the Nebraska
border. Altogether, our 146 locations include 121 parishes, 22 mission churches and 4 station churches.

As is evident, the archdiocese is vast, with many places that need the service of our priests, which makes the task of discerning how to serve the nearly 600,000 Catholics
in our territory a complicated one. Since the announcement of the new assignments always brings letters to my office complaining about a priest being moved or others thanking me for moving the very same priest, I would like to explain what guides the changes and the many factors that are considered.

When a man is ordained a priest, his mission is to serve in the entire archdiocese, whether it be on the Western Slope, on the Eastern Plains, or along the I-25 corridor that ranges from County Line Road to the Wyoming border. The mission is the same for every priest: to bring others to encounter Jesus Christ, to be a shepherd after the heart of Christ, to love and walk with the people he serves as Christ in their midst. His mission is one of service on behalf of Christ and the local Church. And certainly, if a man has the heart of Christ and loves with Jesus’ love, there will always be sadness when he is moved to another
parish, both on the priest’s part and that of the faithful. Yet one knows one’s mission is to serve where one is called to go, and it is important for the faithful to always welcome a new priest coming to their parish.

Parochial Vicars are assigned for a 2-3-year period to a parish to gain experience ministering in a parish setting. They are moved more frequently than pastors so they can have a variety of experiences. Pastors are assigned for a 6-year term, with a usual maximum of two terms in one parish. In some very rare cases, a pastor might be given a third 6-year term. All the faithful should be aware that when a pastor completes a 6-year term, he could be moved, and when a 12 or 18-year term is complete, it is most likely that he will have a new assignment. There are also times when a priest can be moved quickly to respond to a great need in a parish. I was moved from my first assignment to my second assignment with only a few weeks’ notice by the archbishop at that time.

The assignment of priests is not done lightly and is made in consultation with the personnel board, which presently consists of 12 priests who are the deans of their region (deanery), the Vicar General, the Vicar for Clergy and me. We begin to reflect on the assignments in September of each year and try to complete them by the end of March. The dean also visits with each priest in his deanery
to discuss their current situation. Sometimes a priest might request to be moved — even before his term is done — if he believes he has given all he can to a particular parish or if a need arises for his gifts and talents in another parish. Other factors involved in determining assignments are the size of the parish, whether a school is present, what ministries are operating, and what type of pastor or parochial vicar they need.

Most years we also have priests who retire from active ministry, and that means we need to find a priest to serve full-time in their place. It is true that we are blessed with a healthy number of vocations to the priesthood in our archdiocese, but our current numbers only keep pace with the number of priests who retire.

In closing, I encourage the faithful of the archdiocese to thank their priests who will be moving this year and to receive their new priests with open hearts. Hopefully, this column has helped you understand the mission of our priests, the geographical challenges of our territory, and the prayerful process behind each priestly assignment. May we all continue to pray for our priests, that they may have the heart of Christ the Good Shepherd, and for vocations, following the command of Jesus. “The harvest
is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

COMING UP: Local artists choose life in pro-life art show

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For someone who’s always been in love with art, it’s not surprising that Brett Lempe first encountered God through beauty. Lempe, a 25-year-old Colorado native, used his talent for art and new-found love of God to create a specifically pro-life art show after a planned show was cancelled because of Lempe’s pro-life views.

Lempe was “dried out with earthly things,” he said. “I was desperately craving God.”

Three years ago, while living in St. Louis, Mo., Lempe google searched for a church to visit and ended up at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

“I was captivated by the beauty of the 40 million mosaic tiles,” he said.

Lempe is not exaggerating. This Cathedral is home to 41.5 million tiles that make up different mosaics around the sanctuary. Witnessing the beauty of this church is what sparked his conversion, he said, and was his first major attraction towards Catholicism.

Lempe continued on to become Catholic, then quit his job several months after joining the Church to dedicate himself completely to art. Most of his work post-conversion is religious art.

Lempe planned to display a non-religious body of artwork at a venue for a month when his contact at the venue saw some of Lempe’s pro-life posts on Facebook. Although none of the artwork Lempe planned to display was explicitly pro-life or religious, the venue cancelled the show.

“I was a little bit shocked at first,” he said. “Something like me being against abortion or being pro-life would get a whole art show cancelled.”

Lempe decided to counter with his own art show, one that would be explicitly pro-life.

On Sept. 7, seven Catholic artists displayed work that gave life at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Denver.

“Catholicism lends itself to being life-giving,” Lempe said.

The show included a variety of work from traditional sacred art, icons, landscapes, to even dresses.

Students for Life co-hosted the event, and 10 percent of proceeds benefited the cause. Lauren Castillo, Development director and faith-based program director at Students for Life America gave the keynote presentation.

Castillo spoke about the need to be the one pro-life person in each circle of influence, with coworkers, neighbors, family, or friends. The reality of how many post-abortive women are already in our circles is big, she said.

“Your friend circle will get smaller,” Castillo said. “If one life is saved, it’s worth it.”

Pro-Life Across Mediums

Brett Lempe’s Luke 1:35

“This painting is the first half at an attempt of displaying the intensity and mystical elements of Luke 1:35,” Lempe said. “This work is influenced somewhat by Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ painting as I try to capture the moment when the “New Adam” is conceived by Our Blessed Mother.”

Claire Woodbury’s icon of Christ Pantokrator

“I was having a difficult time making that icon,” she said. “I was thinking it would become a disaster.”

She felt Jesus saying to her, “This is your way of comforting me. Is that not important?”

“Icons are very important to me,” she said. “I guess they’re important to Him too.”

Katherine Muser’s “Goodnight Kisses”

“Kids naturally recognize the beauty of a baby and they just cherish it,” Muser said of her drawing of her and her sister as children.

Brie Shulze’s Annunciation

“There is so much to unpack in the Annunciation,” Schulze said. “I wanted to unpack that life-giving yes that our Blessed Mother made on behalf of all humanity.”

“Her yes to uncertainty, to sacrifice, to isolation, to public shame and to every other suffering that she would endure is what allowed us to inherit eternal life.”

“Her fiat was not made in full knowledge of all that would happen, but in love and total surrender to the will of God.”

All photos by Makena Clawson