Ownership found after friends join sacred art walk

Parishioners find sacred and community at 7 sites in Denver Archdiocese

After Barbara Finnegan and her friend traveled across the Front Range to visit some of the most notable sacred art and architecture spots, she felt like a member of the community.

Finnegan, 74, and Patty O’Keefe, 74, of St. Thomas More Church in Centennial still felt like transplants from other states until they completed the Denver Catholic Register’s summer Art and Architecture Walk.

“Once you start visiting other (parishes), it’s not just, ‘I’m at St. Thomas More (Church), but ‘I’m a member of this community of churches in this archdiocese.’”

The Illinois-native said “you take ownership” of a Catholic community once it’s participated in and explored.

“It has been a wonderful and great summer activity for us,” she shared. “The whole thing was a great experience.”

The Register invited faithful at the beginning of the summer to visit seven sites of exquisite beauty and stunning art among churches and sacred spots in the Archdiocese of Denver. They were also invited to search for answers to trivia questions and take photos at each of the sites: the adoration chapel at St. John the Evangelist Church in Loveland, icons in Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Church, St. Catherine of Siena Church, stained glass windows at Annunciation Church, Chapel on the Rock in Allenspark, the grotto at Our Lady of Lourdes Church and St. Peter Church in Greeley.

Pastors at the church sites reported receiving calls and visitors throughout the summer from interested faithful.

Father Michael O’Loughlin, pastor at Holy Protection, said he received several calls and gave tours of his church.

“That was one of the best experiences ever,” Finnegan said.

She said they arrived in the middle of Divine Liturgy (or Mass) and Father O’Loughlin stopped to inform them of the proper way to receive communion in the Eastern Catholic church.

“After Mass, he took his vestments off and he must have spent 20 minutes talking with us, telling us some of the differences,” she said about the traditions between Latin-rite and Byzantine-rite churches.

“It was such a nice warm visit. We definitely want to go back there,” she said.

The friends’ first visit was to see the grotto at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

Although frequently locked, a parish staff member was usually on site to let the two ladies into the church.

“Every single person we ran into, we were greeted,” she shared. “They were so gracious and so excited to be showing their churches.”

At St. Catherine of Siena Church, she said parish staff took them downstairs to its adoration chapel.

Pastor Father Gregoire Vidal said it’s not unusual for visitors to come and take photos at the historic church, which features a unique rose window depicting St. Catherine.

Finnegan said she and O’Keefe plan to continue to visit parishes to attend liturgies and view their art and architecture.

“The whole thing was a great experience,” Finnegan said.


Find Answers to the Art & Architecture Walk below

Adoration chapel at St. John the Evangelist Church Visitor question: In the foyer of the chapel is a copper water font engraved with five symbols of the faith. What are these symbols?
Answer: Water, dove, fish, flames of fire and the cross.

Icons in Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Church Visitor question: What Biblical event is depicted in the icon located in the arch above the altar?
Answer: The Last Supper

St. Catherine of Siena Church Visitor question: Whose image is depicted in the rose window that faces Federal Boulevard?
Answer: St. Catherine (as protectoress of Rome)

Stained glass windows at Annunciation Church Visitor question: Which stained glass window depicting Christ required repair after it was vandalized?
Answer: Sacred Heart of Jesus

Chapel on the Rock Visitor question: Who is depicted on the two medallions that hang on either side of the stone walls inside the chapel?
Answer: The Madonna and Child, and two angels

Grotto at Our Lady of Lourdes Church Visitor question: What saint statue is depicted kneeling before Mary inside the grotto?
Answer: St. Bernadette

Visitor question: When was the cornerstone of the church laid?
Answer: 1909

COMING UP: Collegiality and eucharistic integrity

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The concept of the “collegiality” of bishops has been sharply contested since the Second Vatican Council debated it in 1962, 1963, and 1964. That discussion was sufficiently contentious that a personal intervention from Pope Paul VI was required to incorporate the concept of episcopal collegiality within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in such a way that the pope’s primacy and universal jurisdiction were safeguarded. The debate about collegiality has continued ever since. Now, however, it’s focused more on what kind of collegiality exists within national conferences of bishops. Is it an “affective collegiality” of mutual support and encouragement? Or is episcopal collegiality within bishops’ conferences “effective,” such that a conference has real teaching and legislative authority?  

Whether collegiality is “affective,” “effective,” or some combination of the two, it ought to be clear what truly “collegial” behavior isn’t.   

It isn’t individual bishops attempting end-runs around their national conference, appealing for Roman interventions that would forestall debates that their brother bishops wish to engage. It isn’t bishops trying to browbeat the conference chairman into changing an agenda to suit the tastes of a distinct minority — and misleading their brother bishops as to what they’re about when soliciting support for such a gambit. And it isn’t trying to filibuster a conference meeting so that no action is possible on an agenda item that the great majority of bishops wish to consider and act upon. 

If any of those three maneuvers qualifies as collegial, then “collegiality” has no more meaning than the claim that my poor Baltimore Orioles have a great starting rotation. 

For years now — and by “years,” I mean long before the idea of a “President Biden” entered the stream of national consciousness — the bishops of the United States have been concerned that ours is becoming less of a eucharistic Church than Vatican II called us to be when it taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life. Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed that conciliar summons when, in his final encyclical, he taught that “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” which “recapitulates the heart and mystery of the Church.” Yet all around us we see declining Sunday Mass attendance: a sadness that preceded the pandemic but has been further exacerbated by it.  Moreover, surveys suggest that too many Catholics think of Sunday Mass as essentially a social occasion, rather than an encounter with the living God in which Christ is offered to the Father and is given back to his people in holy communion — a communion in and through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, received under the forms of bread and wine.

If the Church lives from the Eucharist and yet the people of the Church don’t participate in the Eucharist as often as they should, or don’t understand what they’re celebrating and receiving when they do, then the Church suffers from a serious eucharistic deficit. Those ordained to leadership in the Church are obliged to do something about that. 

That is why the U.S. bishops have been determined for some time to undertake a comprehensive program of eucharistic education throughout the Church. For the great majority of bishops, that determination has been intensified by the fact that our eucharistic deficit is being compounded by the eucharistic incoherence of public officials who, rejecting authoritative Catholic teaching based on both revelation and reason, nonetheless present themselves for holy communion as if they were in full communion with the Church. The longstanding episcopal failure to address this incoherence exacerbates the eucharistic deficit in American Catholicism by implying that the Church really doesn’t mean what it teaches about the sacred nature of the Eucharist. 

Those suggesting that this is all about “politics” are either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the Church and the gullible parts of the media. Concern for the eucharistic integrity of the Church includes, but goes much deeper than, concerns about the eucharistic incoherence of Catholic public officials who act as if the Church’s settled convictions on the life issues and on worthiness to receive holy communion don’t exist. That is why the U.S. bishops are forging ahead with developing a teaching document that will clarify for the whole Church why we are a Eucharistic community, what the Eucharist truly is, what reception of the Eucharist means, and why everyone in the Church should examine conscience before receiving Christ in the sacrament. 

The wheels of collegiality may grind slowly. In this case, however, they are grinding truly, and for the sake of the Gospel.

George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.