Pope makes waves in year one

Pope’s humility transforms Denverites

The effects of Pope Francis’ election as the vicar of Christ a year ago March 13 have been felt across the globe and in the smallest corners of Denver.

Catholics and non-Catholics alike are finding the pope’s characteristically humble and simple manner are opening them to the truths of Christ and what it means to be his disciple.

Anything but the Catholic Church

Patti Lynch wasn’t Catholic, but she tuned into the radio March 13, 2013, to listen to what millions of people were breathlessly waiting for: the first Argentine pope’s speech in Rome.

“It was the first papal address that I had ever heard and my first time (listening to) Catholic radio,” said 54-year-old Lynch.

The effect on Lynch was so profound as she was driving her Buick Enclave in Westminster, she stopped paying attention to the road.

“I was so taken with the vision, passion and compassion of his speech that I actually rear-ended a CDOT truck at an intersection,” she said. “I was in Italy with the pope inside of my car!”

She and her son, 22-year-old Tyler Lynch, are in the Rite of Christian Initiation of  Adults at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn and will enter the Church on Easter.

“The pope has been pivotal in my conversion,” Patti said. “I feel like he will really be a catalyst in unifying the greater Church as well as bringing more people to God.”

Tyler, who graduated from Simpson University in California, had the same sometimes non-denominational and other times, Baptist, upbringing. He always felt an unspoken discrimination against Catholics. He could be anything as long as he wasn’t Catholic.

Tyler Lynch - Rite of Election

Archbishop Aquila greets candidate Tyler Lynch during the Rite of Election held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver. March 8, 2014.

When he heard of Pope Francis’ election as pontiff, he said flippantly: “If there’s anybody who would make me consider being Catholic, I think it’s this guy.”

Through their association with Father Brian Larkin and Queen of Peace Parish’s Father John Nepil, whose sister Katie married Patti’s son Jordan, they learned more about the truths and beauty of the Church as well as the pontiff’s predecessors.

“Pope Francis initially captured my imagination and opened me up to the truth of the Church through his simple humility and just his way of conducting himself,” Tyler said. “Throughout my life I had caricatured the Church as an army of robots, that (Catholics) didn’t need to interpret or reason—just do as they’re told.

“Pope Francis just showed up and broke that caricature. He showed me how radical obedience is necessary and important to the faith life. It wasn’t me turning into a robot but me offering my gifts to God.”

A striking honesty

Marissa Evans, 27, a music teacher who attends Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Church, follows Pope Francis’ homilies on the Vatican website.

“He will always hit something that’s a good reminder for me or a new way to look at something,” she said, adding that she loved the “newness” of the pope.

His answer to the question “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” in an America Magazine interview August 2013 struck Evans.

“I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition,” the pope told the reporter.

“Just his answer was good for me to hear,” Evans said. “I feel like the world is always asking us to put ourselves out there as something we’re not. We’re all just a bunch of sinners. It was the truth and it’s striking.”

Marissa Evans holds a baby while volunteering at the Gabriel House near St. James Church.The pope’s decision to travel in a Ford Focus—the same car Evans drives—reassured her that simplicity is OK, he said.

“I thought that was really neat,” she said. “I could drive the pope around.”

Evans began volunteering at the Gabriel House near St. James Church to help disadvantaged mothers and children in September.

Jonathan Ghaly of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Broomfield, who’s a member of the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation, said that he’s been moved by Pope Francis’ witness.

He gave his breakfast away, which he said he never does, at a stoplight to a homeless man “not because Pope Francis said so, but because of Pope Francis’ witness. I looked at this homeless man differently than I had before, as my brother—two broken brothers finally talking to each other. And he was so happy.”

The Denver real estate agent said the pope has challenged him to real conversion and to not reduce others to their religion, lack of religion or even lifestyle.

“He is truly the face of Christ who is changing my life now,” he wrote. “Just watching him—so real and unassuming in front of everyone, even and especially in front of non-Christians—gives me a certainty that Christ is among us joyfully, unbiased and present through his friends, here and now, concretely.”

Ambassador of faith

“What I have loved most about Pope Francis is his universal appeal,” said Deanne Vizurraga of St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial. “It really opens doors.”

The 49-year-old mother and wife said she’s had several discussions about the pontiff with strangers and others in her life.

“I had a conversation with a lady, a former Catholic, sitting next to me at the ski lodge who told me how much she liked him, when our conversation turned to discussing universities,” Vizurraga said. “And even my chiropractor, who is Jewish, commented on how much he likes Pope Francis. He just said that out of the blue. I thought that was awesome.”

These conversations are opportunities to evangelize, she said, which she hopes will continue.

“He’s warmed the market for us,” she said. “So when we are in our daily lives, if ‘Catholic’ comes up in a conversation, people are so enthusiastic. I think Pope Francis is such an ambassador for our faith.”

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.