Sailing through uncharted waters

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila

The feeling of being in uncharted territory is one that many of us are experiencing these days. When I consulted with Bishops Berg and Sheridan this past March and jointly decided to suspend public Mass, I certainly felt that way.

In the months since then, we have gradually worked toward reopening our parishes and welcoming more people back to Mass. Throughout this time, I have prayed about how to best balance protecting everyone entrusted to me by the Lord and to honor the right of every person to receive the sacraments.

I have also been thinking about the need that each of us has for community. We are social beings who are made for community with each other, and ultimately, with the Holy Trinity and the communion of saints in heaven. I know that these months and weeks of taking precautions to protect the health of our community have been difficult for everyone, and I greatly appreciate all the sacrifices that have been made and will continue to be made.

I am happy to announce that parishes in the Archdiocese of Denver are now being encouraged to increase the number of people who can attend Mass, with respect to local restrictions. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass every Sunday will remain in place for the time being. That said, this is not a dispensation from keeping the Lord’s day holy. Eventually, when the obligation is restored, those who are at risk or are possibly infected will not be expected to attend Mass. Before this occurs, clear guidance will be given.

For these challenging days all of us need the gifts of faith, hope and charity. I am reminded of the story of Jesus walking on the water toward the disciples as they were tossed about by the sea. He came in the fourth watch of the night, which was between 3 and 6 a.m. As the disciples cried out in fright, he told them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” And when St. Peter tried to walk on the water and began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, save me!” Jesus responded by catching him and saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Cf. Mt. 14:22-33).

Let us each ask the Lord for the gift of faith in his saving power, for hope in his goodness and love for us, and for hearts that love as he does. May you find inspiration and encouragement to continue your walk with Jesus and his Church at this particular moment in history. May God bless you! 

COMING UP: From rare books to online resources, archdiocesan library has long history of service to students

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National Library Week, observed this year from April 4 to April 10, is the perfect occasion to highlight the essential role of libraries and library staff in strengthening our communities – and our very own Cardinal Stafford Library at the Archdiocese of Denver is no exception.  

Since 1932, the library has served as a religious, intellectual, and cultural resource for seminarians and students at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

As the library of the seminary, we are always responsible for the four dimensions of the priestly formation of our seminarians. The library is charged with being responsible to all the divisions of the Seminary: the Lay Division (Catholic Biblical School and Catholic Catechetical School), the Permanent Deacon Formation Division, and the Priestly Formation Division, said Stephen Sweeney, Library Director. 

In addition to being one of the main resources to the seminary, the Cardinal Stafford Library serves the needs of other educational programs in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the St. Francis School for Deacons, the Biblical School, the Catechetical School and the Augustine Institute. While the library is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was previously open to anyone, giving people access to more than 150,000 books, audios, and videos. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library was named after Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican and former Archbishop of Denver from 1986 to 1996. He was a dedicated advocate of the library and of Catholic education.

In 1932, the library was established by two seminarians, Maurice Helmann and Barry Wogan. While they were not the first seminarians to conceive the idea of establishing a library, they are considered the founders for undertaking its organization.  

Since its founding, the library has grown and compiled a fine collection of resources on Catholic theology, Church history, biblical studies, liturgy, canon law, religious art, philosophy, and literature. Special collections include over 500 rare books dating back to the early 16th century and many periodicals dating back to the 1800s. The oldest publication in the library is a book on excommunication published in 1510. The Cardinal Stafford Library is also home to various relics and holds bills personally written by some of those saints.  

Over the past few years, the library has undergone a process of beautification through various renovations that include improvements in lighting, flooring, and even furniture restoration. During these difficult times, libraries are doing their best to adapt to our changing world by expanding their digital resources to reach those who don’t have access to them from home. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library provides a community space; we subscribe to about 200 print journals and have access to literally thousands more through online resources available on campus computers, Sweeney added. “I have been the Library Director for almost 11 years. I absolutely love my work, especially participating in the intellectual formation of the faithful from all of the dioceses we serve”.  

For more information on the Cardinal Stafford Library, visit: 

Featured photo by Andrew Wright