No longer servants, but friends of Christ

Archbishop Aquila reflects on the priest as a man of charity

A priest’s relationship of friendship with Christ is at the foundation of his identity and mission, and so it is on that foundation of a relationship with Christ that the formation of future priests must rest, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver told a gathering of seminary formators and spiritual directors.

The archbishop said this at the Institute for Priestly Formation’s annual symposium, which took place Feb.19-22 at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. The Omaha-based Institute for Priestly Formation assists bishops in the spiritual formation of diocesan seminarians and priests.

Some 110 bishops, priests, and lay members attended the event, titled “Christ the Foundation and Center: The Integration of Human and Spiritual Formation.” Among the speakers were priests and lay faculty members of seminaries from around the country.

Cardinal Francis George, archbishop emeritus of Chicago, opened the symposium with an address in which he shared some of his own personal experiences of his 51 years of priesthood.

Archbishop Aquila spoke on “The Priest as a Man of Charity: On the Integrating Role of Charity as Friendship in Human and Spiritual Priestly Formation.”

Basing his comments on Saint John Paul II’s 1992 letter on the formation of priests, titled Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Shall Give You Shepherds), the archbishop noted that “the model for priestly formation is found in Christ’s appointing the twelve to be with him and to be sent out.”

Quoting John Paul II’s letter, he added that the time a future priests spends in seminary is aimed at developing “a relationship of deep communion and friendship” with Christ. The candidate to the priesthood seeks to “learn how to respond from the heart to Christ’s basic question: ‘Do you love me?’ For the future priest the answer can only mean total self-giving.”

“Thus,” Archbishop Aquila explained, “John Paul II teaches that one’s formation to the priesthood is to be oriented to charity and the gift of self. More concretely, it should be oriented to answer with one’s life to Christ’s love and gift of self to us, members of the Church.

“In the heart of the future priest is to be a deep receptivity to the love of Jesus Christ, who loves us first.”

“I wish for all of you the grace to rekindle daily the gift of God you have received with the laying on of hands,” the archbishop added, quoting Saint John Paul II, “to feel the comfort of the deep friendship which binds you to Jesus and unites you with one another.”

Abide in me

The archbishop asserted that “at the heart of everything the ordained priest does in relationship with [Christ]” are the following words from John’s Gospel: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

“To abide in Christ means to enter into a relationship of friendship with Him that is analogous to the relationship between God the Father and the Son,” he explained. “Jesus is the Way. Becoming sons in the Son, we are inserted in the very life of the Trinity.”

Archbishop Aquila explained that “Christ’s love for His Father—and friendship is a habitual form of love—is manifested in His obedience unto death and gift of self for the Church.”

“Analogously,” he continued, “our love for and friendship with Christ is manifested in our obedience and gift of self to Him and to the Church. For this reason, the Lord says: ‘If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.’”

The prelate reminded those present that God is the one who loves first, “teaching us in this way how to love, loving us when we were sinners.”

“He gave His own life for us,” he added, “his friends and enemies. For this reason, each and every one of us can personally say with St. Paul that Christ ‘loved me and gave Himself up for me.’”

“Here we have the foundational encounter and experience upon which all priestly formation rests,” the archbishop concluded. “The priest is to be a man of charity because he must know himself as a beloved son.”

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.