Nuggets game a slam dunk for families


Organizers behind the inaugural Catholic Families Night with the Denver Nuggets Dec. 14 want to give participating youths from area schools a memorable experience.

“We hope it’s one of those experiences they may never forget—that they had a chance to get on the court where the Denver Nuggets play,” said Jeff Stemper, one of the organizers.

Stemper, a parishioner at Most Precious Blood Parish, is helping to create a series of pre-game events for Catholic school students during the special group night at the Pepsi Center.

Youths will be given the chance to participate in a free pre-game basketball clinic at noon on game day. Students were also selected to participate in the national anthem, a flag presentation and player high-five tunnel before the Denver Nuggets face off against last year’s NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs.

“At one point the kids will get T-shirts and they’ll be able to high-five players as they’re coming out on the court,” Stemper said.

Bill Hanzlik, a retired Nuggets basketball player and coach and parishioner at St. Thomas More Church in Centennial, is organizing the group night during which he’ll interview special guest Archbishop Samuel Aquila. The interview will appear on the Altitude Sports channel.

Discounted tickets are available for Catholic families to purchase before the game.

“The Nuggets have made it such a great opportunity for these families to attend at an affordable ticket price,” Stemper said.

A portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit the St. Sebastian Project Denver, an organization that supplies inner-city Catholic schools with grants to help stem the costs of its athletic programs.

Stemper said he started the project about five years ago to support Catholic school youths, who desire to play but may lack the necessary uniforms, equipment or funds.

“The St. Sebastian Project’s goal is to let these kids participate and play a sport while also feeling like a part of their team and their school, and taking pride in it,” Stemper said.

This year the project is aiding 14 Catholic school’s athletic programs, he said.


Catholic Families Night with the Denver Nuggets

When: 6 p.m. Dec. 14 (pre-game activities start at noon)
Where: Pepsi Center, 1000 Chopper Circle, Denver
Special guest: Archbishop Samuel Aquila
Students: encouraged to wear their school colors to game
Pre-game events: free basketball clinic for students in fifth-eighth grades; registration open until Dec. 11 at
Tickets: $15 upper level, $45 for lower level
Details: Call 303-405-7635 or email [email protected]


COMING UP: Archbishop Aquila on ad limina visit, Pope Francis and more

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During his ad limina visit Feb. 10-15, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila was granted an audience with Pope Francis for over two hours where they discussed several topics pertinent to the Church today.

Archbishop Aquila was among a contingent of U.S. bishops representing Region XIII in the United States, which includes the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah. He along with the bishops of those states met with the Holy Father Feb. 10. With the release of Querida Amazonia scheduled just a few days later on Feb. 12, Pope Francis discussed the document produced from last year’s Amazon Synod with the bishops.

“He brought up the question of celibacy, and he said [his] primary concern is that Gospel be proclaimed in the Amazon and that all of us need to focus on Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel first,” Archbishop Aquila said in an interview with EWTN. “If they proclaim the Gospel and are faithful to the Gospel, then vocations will come forth.”

Archbishop Aquila with Pope Francis during his ad limina visit Feb. 10. (Photo: Servizio Fotografico Vaticano)

With much discussion surrounding the Amazon Synod and possible implications it would have for the universal Church, Archbishop Aquila was reassured by the Pope’s comments on synodality and the Church’s application of it.

“Even in the understanding of synodality, which we spoke about, it always has to be ‘under Peter and with Peter’ and that synods cannot be going off and creating things that they want done,” the archbishop said. “He made it very clear: that is not synodality in the Catholic understanding. That was very reassuring.”

Among the other topics the bishops discussed with the Holy Father were some of the challenges faced by the Church in the United States and how to address them.

“The Holy Father was very clear: He said transgenderism is one of the great challenges in the United States right now, and the other is abortion,” Archbishop Aquila said. “Both of them really deal with the dignity of human life and the understanding of human life and do we truly receive from God the gender that he has given to us.

Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez with Pope Francis during his ad limina visit Feb. 10. (Photo: Servizio Fotografico Vaticano)

“There are only two genders, male and female, and so how do we open our hearts to receiving that as gift.”
Archbishop Aquila said that they Holy Father also “spoke of media, and how the far left goes after him and the far right goes after him, and neither one really presents who he is.”

In a time where Pope Francis’ comments can be rather polarizing and even mischaracterized, Archbishop Aquila was struck by the depth of the Holy Father’s faith in his audience with him.

“[The Pope] has a very, very deep faith. He is convinced of the Gospel, he is totally convinced of Jesus Christ, he is convinced that there are teachings in the Church that can never change and that we have to be faithful to the Church.”

Hannah Brockhaus of Catholic News Agency contributed to this report.

Featured image by Paul Haring/CNS