Q&A: Parish boundaries review aims to ensure the faithful are well served

Last week the Denver Catholic spoke to Very Rev. Randy Dollins, V.G., moderator of the curia, about the parish boundaries process that is currently under way.

Read Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila’s column here.

Q: The archdiocese is reviewing and making changes to parish boundaries; who is involved in that process?

A: A little over a year ago all the parishes did a self study, part of which was questions about their boundaries—whether they felt their boundaries were correct. We got a lot of feedback from the parishes. The key people involved are the pastors themselves. We’re going deanery by deanery. We’ve finished the Boulder Deanery, so we have 12 to go. I take the current boundaries, draw them up in a mapping program, incorporate suggested changes pastors gave in the self study, then the whole deanery gets that map and they discuss it. Through a process with the deans we determine where the boundaries should be. The pastors sign off on them and the archbishop confirms that those are the boundaries.

Q: Why is it necessary to change some boundaries?

A: This process hasn’t been done in a really long time and there are a lot of new roads, for instance, E-470. In some cases, new boundaries might just make more logical sense. Sometimes a parish’s boundary was the whole county because it was the only parish in the county. Then you get odd boundaries like St. Augustine in Brighton, which technically goes from Brighton all the way down to I-70 and includes the airport—it’s this huge area. But the airport is technically closer to Ascension Parish in Denver and if we’re going to have a Mass at the airport then the question is: Whose authority is that under? Pastors need to know what area is under their purview; what are they responsible for? It’s helping us to find that. Mapping technology now is amazing. You can get on the Internet and draw a boundary line around an area and label that. We’ll be able to promulgate these boundary maps with a link on the archdiocesan website (www.archden.org/boundaries) where people can go and see the location of each parish, the boundaries, and the boundaries of the overall deanery. It’s an opportunity in this moment of technology.

Q: What is the status of the boundary review process?

A: The Boulder Deanery is done and we’re going to try to get another six or seven of the remaining 12 deaneries done by June 2017. From this point, it’s probably another two years before we have them all done. As they get promulgated the map on www.archden.org/boundaries will show them. Boundaries exist for all the parishes right now, but sometimes those are up in the air.

Q: When will the new boundaries be announced?

A: Concurrent with this article, the Boulder deanery boundaries will be announced. As we get others done they will get promulgated. There will be notice in the Denver Catholic and the map on www.archden.org/boundaries will get updated.

Q: In this Denver Catholic, the archbishop offers guidelines for the faithful to consider when choosing a parish to attend, would you like to talk about some of those?

A: The archbishop wants people to think about where they’re going to Mass, where they consider themselves parishioners, and why they are going there. Sometimes people are floaters; that doesn’t really build community. Wherever you choose to go, become a parishioner there.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add about the parish boundaries process?

A: Because we are the church instituted by Christ, the Catholic Church feels responsible for the whole world. At some level the entire world is divided up. In the Archdiocese of Denver, every area is under the spiritual care of a pastor. This is our way of reviewing that and making sure the parish boundaries make sense for us.



COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”