Priests form new ministries, find blessings during 40 years

The following priests are marking their 40th anniversary in the priesthood this year.


Father William Breslin
Breslin, Fr. WiliamBefore Father William Breslin became one of Denver’s priests, he was ordained in his hometown of Red Bank, N.J.

Father Breslin was born in Red Bank in 1948 and attended St. Charles College in Maryland before attending St. Mary’s Seminary. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the seminary and university and returned to New Jersey to be ordained in May 1974.

Father Breslin served as associate pastor in South Amboy, N.J., after ordination. He soon came to Denver in 1977 to serve as assistant pastor at St. Mary Magdalen Church and chaplain of Central Catholic High School before it closed. He became one of Denver’s own in 1978.

He went on to serve as pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Northglenn for six years, Queen of Peace Church in Aurora for 14 years and Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Rita churches in Boulder and Nederland.

“I would call Immaculate Heart of Mary my first love,” he said. “At Queen of Peace, we got to build a church together. I would call that our masterpiece.”

In reflecting on his time at Sacred Heart of Jesus, he said, “it was my most difficult hour but my finest hour. At all the parishes, the people have been splendid.”

Father Breslin said he loves his current post as confessor for Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary, a ministry that allows him to focus on the pastoral care of seminarians.



Father Thomas Coyte
Coyte, Fr. ThomasFather Thomas Coyte’s story begins in Fort Collins where he was born. He left Colorado to attend college in Indiana at the University of Notre Dame for a year when he realized his call to the priesthood. He then entered St. Thomas Seminary (now St. John Vianney Theological Seminary) and volunteered to minister to the deaf community.

“Some would say I was lucky and some would say it was the Holy Spirit,” he said. “The deaf have been such a blessing to me.”

He then attended Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., for a summer program to learn about the hearing impaired and the University of Arizona to take courses in counseling.

He graduated with masters’ degrees and was ordained in May 1974 in Denver.

Father Coyte’s ministry began at St. Philomena Church where he simultaneously coordinated the deaf ministry for the archdiocese, which he’s done for 43 years.

“Certainly for me the major focus has been the deaf ministry. That has been a pure delight. It has been a blessing to me,” he said.

Father Coyte also served at St. Joseph Church in Fort Collins and Holy Cross Church in Thornton, where he served from 1989 to 2013.

He is now pastor at St. Bernadette Church in Lakewood.


Very Rev. James E. Fox, V.F.
Father James Fox, is a South Dakota man by birth.

He was born in Rapid City before attending the University of Wyoming for a year then entering St. Thomas College. He was ordained in December 1974 at All Saints Church.

Father Fox first served as assistant pastor at Divine Redeemer Church in Colorado Springs before ministering as a chaplain to Catholic youth in Denver.

He then became pastor of St. Mary Church in Rifle for seven years and was dean of the Glenwood Springs Deanery. During that time, the community hit hard economic times when ExxonMobil abruptly left after the oil shale bust.

“We formed at the time one of the first ecumenical nonprofits called Lift-Up to serve people who were experiencing financial hardship. That organization is still in existence,” he said.

He also worked with another priest to provide the first spiritual and academic formation of deacon candidates outside the Denver metro area.

Father Fox continued on to serve at St. John’s Church in Longmont for 12 years and St. Michael the Archangel in Aurora for 11 years. He was at St. John’s during major reconstruction efforts and he found great joy in the “tremendous diversity of people” who came together at St. Michael’s.

He was also the dean for the Aurora Deanery and of the East Denver Deanery. Father Fox is now pastor at Good Shepherd Church.


Father Christopher Popravak, O.F.M. Cap.
Popravak, Rev. Christopher O.F.M. Cap.A New Jersey-native, Father Christopher Popravak served for many of his 40 years in the priesthood as a director and instructor for men in formation for the Capuchin-Franciscan life. He spent much time at St. Crispin Friary in St. Louis and St. Conrad Friary in Kansas City, Mo.

Father Popravak, born in Hackensack, N.J., in 1947, studied psychology at Marist College in New York. He earned his master’s at St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester and his doctorate at St. Louis University in Missouri. He was ordained a Capuchin in Hays, Kan., in 1974.

His first assignment was working as a theology teacher at a high school in Hays before coming to Denver to minister as an associate pastor at Annunciation Church and Holy Cross Church in Thornton. He also ministered at St. Joseph Church in Hays.

After receiving his doctoral degree in historical theology, he taught at The International Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, England, a Capuchin seminary in Modena, Italy, and at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

“I’ve been constantly surprised by the Lord in many ways in the different ministries I’ve been asked to be involved in,” he said. “Each ministry has been a blessing. My teaching experience and opportunities to preach have been the particular ways I’ve been enriched myself and, I believe, have been able to help other people to grow.”

Father Popravak ministered in various states before coming to Denver in 2007 to lead the post-novitiate formation at St. Francis of Assisi Fraternity. He is the provincial minister of the Province of St. Conrad and is assisting with prison ministry part time at the Denver County Jail.


Msgr. Bernard Schmitz
Fr. Bernie Schmitz 200dpiMsgr. Bernard Schmitz has served as the vicar for clergy and pastor of Mother of God Church since 2007.

“I am amazed that I have reached 40 years of ordination,” he said. “These 40 years have been much more than I expected and have years filled with many surprises as I have grown in my love of the Lord.”

Msgr. Schmitz was born in Denver and attended Bishop Machebeuf High School and Western State College before entering St. Thomas Seminary. He was ordained at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in May 1974.

His first parish ministry assignment was to St. John the Baptist Church in Longmont and subsequently Holy Apostles Church and St. Mary Church in Colorado Springs. He returned to Denver to be pastor at Our Lady Mother of the Church in Commerce City in 1982 and served as chaplain to the Knights of Columbus.

During the 80s, he also ministered to the congregation at St. Michael Church in Aurora and became the assistant vocations director as well as dean of the Aurora Deanery. He completed some mission work in Monteria, Colombia.

Msgr. Schmitz then ministered to a large Hispanic community at Our Lady of Peace Church in Greeley until his appointment as vicar for clergy and ministry at Mother of God Church.

He said that one of the greatest joys of the priesthood is the joy of praying with people and aiding them on their journey to know God.

“When, as St. Ignatius says, someone’s ‘eyes are opened just a little,’ it’s a great joy to see them discover the powerful love of God,” Msgr. Schmitz said.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI named him monsignor with the rank of chaplain in 2009.

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:  

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.