Seminarians give spiritual aid to pro-life warriors

Witnessing to our faith can be an intimidating task in any realm of the public eye. Those who choose to show this witness in praying for the defense of life know the challenges.

Imagine standing alone outside of Planned Parenthood clinic and praying for the souls of the men and women entering and exiting. You do your best to look at each person that passes, just simply to acknowledge their presence. No one seems to want to make eye contact with you. This avoidance from others makes you feel uncomfortable, insignificant, and you feel the weight of everything you’re confronted with. Despair may easily begin to set in.

The reality is, one can often feel alone in pro-life work. The recognition of this hardship prompted the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary to begin a pro-life apostolate aimed at providing spiritual encouragement.

Last year, with the help of four seminarians, and under the direction of Father Gary Selin and guidance from the Holy Spirit, they began their work. Father Selin, in summarizing the mission of the apostolate told the Denver Catholic, “The St. John Vianney Pro-Life Apostolate is to help form and mentor those people in the pro-life movement, particularly on a spiritual level.”

 With the help of the Respect Life Office of Catholic Charities, the group of seminarians began last year by educating themselves on the spectrum of life from conception to natural death. They continued their ministry with assisting in the twice-yearly 40 Days for Life campaign, which includes praying a rosary outside a Planned Parenthood.

Late last spring, the seminarians in this apostolate led a day of recollection with this focus of ministering to the spiritual leaders of the pro-life movement.

For the seminarians themselves, this apostolate is an opportunity to develop and grow in their abilities to minister to others as future priests. Opportunities for growth are abundant in being able to support future parishioners in pro-life ministry, along with how to educate and invite others within their future parishes to become active in pro-life ministry.              

Father Selin, in commenting on the need for this apostolate said, “Whenever we’re defending life … it brings up often times great visceral, emotional, even violent behaviors. … There’s very much a spiritual battle.”         

Leaders do feel this spiritual warfare at times. That is where The St. John Vianney Pro-Life Apostolate is important for encouragement, spiritual protection, and as being a visible sign of Christ’s hope in conquering death. Seminarians Jonathan Tansill from the Diocese of Phoenix, and Codi Krueger from the Diocese of Helena, will be taking this mission on as the seminarian leaders this year.           

They, along with other seminarians studying in the archdiocese, will be making their presence known throughout 40 Days for Life, which goes from Sept. 28-Nov.6.

This time will afford multiple opportunities to pray in community, strengthen one another, and to give hope for those who wish to inscribe a victory for life into the history books.

We should keep in mind that it’s God’s story we are a part of, said Father Selin, and we are not alone in being faithful instruments in filling the pages: “St. Mother Teresa . . . her famous quotation is ‘We’re not called to be successful, but to be faithful’. . .We have to lift up our eyes and say, ‘We have to do what we’re called to do to be faithful and leave the rest over to God’s divine providence and power because he’s the author of life.’”

40 days for life begins Sept. 28

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COMING UP: Past 25 years remembered, next 25 anticipated at More Than You Realize conference

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“Be not afraid!”

This was the rallying cry at the Aug. 11 More Than You Realize conference, echoing the very same call St. John Paul II gave exactly 25 years ago when he visited Denver for World Youth Day in 1993.

Over 5,000 faithful from across the Archdiocese of Denver filled the seats of the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland at what was the largest Catholic gathering in Colorado since WYD ’93. The all-day conference was presented in both English and Spanish tracks, featured a dynamic lineup of renowned Catholic speakers, and culminated in a powerful commissioning Mass.

The name More Than You Realize and consequently, the logo resembling an eyechart, stems from the idea that almost everything may appear a certain way at surface level, but upon closer inspection, it can be more than one realizes and seen in a different light. This is especially true when it comes to the Catholic Church.

Over 5,000 gathered at the Budweiser Events Center Aug. 11 for the More Than You Realize conference, which celebrated the last 25 years since World Youth Day in Denver and looked to the next 25. (Photo by Jason Weinrich)

In planning for nearly two years, pastors from each parish of the archdiocese hand-picked those parishioners and members of their community who they wished to attend the conference, which revolved around the idea of discipleship. Through engaging videos and talks given by speakers such as Chris Stefanick, Luis Soto and Dr. Edward Sri, attendees were invited to join a new movement of discipleship within the archdiocese, echoing the one sparked 25 years ago at World Youth Day.

“[I] had a great rejuvenating time at the More Than You Realize Conference,” said Alex Martinez, a parishioner at St. Pius X Parish. “I am excited to see the MTYR movement take shape.”

Brenda Garrett, a parishioner of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception said, “It was an amazing event, so blessed my pastor Father Ron from the Cathedral Basilica sent me. I am so proud to be part of this movement.”

The key to evangelization

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford spoke before Mass began about the impact of World Youth Day 1993 and the challenges the Church faces today.

“What does the summer of ’93 teach us about our present circumstances in 2018?” the cardinal asked. “The Holy Spirit was sent out in a special mission to our Church in 1993. The power of that sending was unexpected and disorienting to me as archbishop and to most others.”

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford speaks during the More Than You Realize conference. (Photo by Jason Weinrich)

But despite urban violence, threats of boycotts, organized protests and other issues prior to World Youth Day 1993, “a fundamental change took place in the Church of Denver,” said Cardinal Stafford, “but not only here — among the young people who came throughout the world, [and] even the Holy Father.

“Above all, our Church was transformed,” he said.

Cardinal Stafford said that to evangelize those who don’t know the Gospel, we first need “…a deep awareness of the delight of the Father taking in each of us as baptized men and women,” he said.

“I would urge you to think deeply and to pray deeply about realizing how delighted God is in you — each of you — because you are received by the Father as being [part of] the body of his Son, who is beloved.”

‘Jesus is much more than you realize’

In his homily given in both English and Spanish, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila also touched on what World Youth Day 1993 means for us today.

“The world likes to tell us many things about ourselves,” he said, “and not many of them today are good or uplifting. Just look at the distorted image of beauty that is prevalent today, let alone the distortions of what it means to be a human person…

“The devil is certainly having a field day in a world that has abandoned God, and even in some members of the Church who have a weak faith in Jesus,” he said.

But despite similar issues taking place in 1993, the pope brought to Denver a message of hope.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila celebrates the commissioning Mass that closed out the conference. (photo by Andrew Wright)

“When St. John Paul II spoke to the youth gathered for the prayer vigil on Saturday night at Cherry Creek State Park, he reminded them that God and a much bigger role for them to play in history,” said Archbishop Aquila.

That message is just as important today, within an archdiocese and Church that stand at a crossroads, the archbishop said.

“We have an opportunity to make a major impact for Jesus Christ, even as the surrounding culture is becoming less Christian.”

The pope opened the doors for those who attended to become greater disciples of Christ — not just directly after World Youth Day, but forever.

“St. John Paul II believed in retrospect that a revolution had taken place in Denver,” said the archbishop. “We, today, are the inheritors of this spiritual revolution, and we must not be afraid to put out into the deep to let our nets down for a catch.

“Jesus is much more than you realize. The Church is more than you realize. And your role in the plan of God is much more than you realize or [can] even imagine,” he said.

“And so, I beg you as your shepherd today to open your hearts to Jesus and speak heart-to-heart with him who loves you most.”

Aaron Lambert, Moira Cullings and Vladimir Mauricio-Perez contributed to this report.