Well done, good and faithful servants: Honoring our priests for their years of service

Denver Catholic Staff
25 years

Father James Goggins
Ordained 6/4/1994

Father James Goggins felt drawn to religious life when he was just a boy.

“We had wonderful priests and sisters at our parish and school, and I admired them a great deal,” he said.

Father Goggins was ordained a priest on June 4, 1994. He has served at parishes all around the archdiocese and is currently pastor of St. Mary in Greeley.

Father Goggins said he has discovered “a great joy in doing my duty and doing it one day at a time, and trying to connect people to the Lord.”

He believes that for a priest, “the most important thing is to connect people with Jesus, no matter what’s going on in their lives — whether it’s joy or suffering — and especially in the Eucharist,” he said.

He encourages young priests to “focus on Jesus,” he said. “Let him be the whole focus of your priesthood — nothing and no one else.”

Father Jerry Rohr
Ordained 6/4/1994

Father Jerry Rohr’s call to the priesthood was “an evolving” experience.

“It wasn’t a St. Paul moment,” he said. “It was a slow growing toward this need to give back somehow to what I believed Christ had given me.”

Father Rohr was ordained a priest on June 4, 1994. He currently serves as pastor of Christ the King in Haxtun, St. Patrick in Holyoke and St. Peter the Apostle in Fleming.

Because he didn’t enter seminary until he was 29, Father Rohr understands it can be challenging for older men who feel drawn to the priesthood to answer that call.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Anytime is the right time.”

His advice for young priests is to “remember that you do not bring Christ to your parish,” he said. “Your job is to discover the Christ that already exists in your parish and in your parishioners.”

Father Stephen Siebert
Ordained 7/2/1994

Father Stephen Siebert admits he wandered in his early adolescence before “Our Lord found me, and I heard the good news,” he said.

To this day, he remembers the exact dates he converted to Christ and eventually felt called to the priesthood.

“Love, peace and joy filled my life, and suddenly, vice fled,” he said. “Within a short time, my prayer became, ‘Lord, I want to serve you for the rest of my life.’”

Father Siebert was ordained to the priesthood on July 2, 1994 in Tijuana, Mexico as a member of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. He served as a missionary in Mexico and Italy and helped in the missions Mother Teresa opened in Albania.

Father Siebert returned to diocesan parish life in the U.S. after 11 years with the mission and was received into the Archdiocese of Denver.

He currently serves as pastor of St. Mary in Breckenridge and Our Lady of Peace in Silverthorne.

Father Gerardo Puga
Ordained 7/25/1994

Father Gerardo Puga began to feel the call to the priesthood during his high school years, but “I was a little afraid,” he said.

Father Puga thought he wanted to get married one day, but his love for the sacraments eventually led him to say “yes” to God’s call to religious life.

“I think God was patient with me and remained calling me,” he said.

Father Puga was ordained a priest on July 25, 1994. He currently serves as pastor of Holy Family in Meeker, St. Ignatius of Antioch in Rangely and St. Michael in Craig.

Father Puga wants young priests to know that “the call is not just once in your life.

“Put your vocation, your life in the mercy of God, permit the Holy Spirit to change you, to convert your heart and go ahead every day. Because the call is not in the past — it’s in the present.”

Father Daniel Leonard
Ordained 11/25/1994

Growing up in Ireland, Father Daniel Leonard took his faith seriously and attended daily Mass with his family. His mom gave him, the youngest child, the responsibility to pray the Prayer of St. Francis at the end of Mass.

It instilled in Father Leonard a “desire to help people — to bring hope and faith and life,” and sparked his interest in the priesthood.

Father Leonard was ordained a priest on Nov. 25, 1994. He has served as a parish priest and seminary professor and is currently the Rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

Father Leonard imagines his ministry is similar to Jesus’ work of teaching his followers to spread the Gospel.

“I know that all of these future priests are going to touch the lives of literally thousands and thousands of people,” he said. “It gives a lot of hope.”

His advice to young priests is to “live a strong life of prayer.”

50 years

Monsignor Bob Amundsen
Ordained 12/19/1969

Monsignor Bob Amundsen was working on an assignment in fourth grade that required him to find a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up.

But when he couldn’t find a photo of his dream job — a medical professional — his mom offered him a Catholic magazine.

“I cut out a picture of a priest saying Mass with my essay, ‘When I grow up I want to be a priest,’” he said. “And here I am 65 years later.”

Monsignor Amundsen was ordained a priest on Dec. 19, 1969. He is currently pastor of Immaculate Conception in Lafayette and enjoys celebrating Mass and confession, as well as offering spiritual direction to young adults.

His advice to young priests is “be a man of prayer and live in imitation of Jesus. Love the people you serve. Listen to their faith stories because the lay people will really enrich your understanding of the connection of life and faith.”

60 years

Father Thomas McCormick
Ordained 5/19/1959

After 60 years of priesthood, Father Thomas McCormick refers to himself as “God’s spoiled kid.”

“I’ve been spoiled with the gift of the priesthood, the gift of faith, the gift of health,” Father McCormick said with a smile. “I haven’t had a bad assignment in 60 years.”

Indeed, Father McCormick has had a variety of assignments throughout his priesthood, including pastor, junior high principal and missionary. He was even involved with the civil rights movement in the 1960s, when he marched on Selma with Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout his many experiences as a priest, Father McCormick fondly looks back at his time spent doing mission work in Colombia and Mexico. These experiences characterized his 60 years of priesthood and shape his advice to young priests.

“If we truly understand the Gospel, [we realize] that we need the poor more than the poor need us.”

Monsignor Raymond Jones
Ordained 6/6/1959

Msgr. Jones couldn’t be reached for an interview by press time.

65 years

Father James Purfield
Ordained 5/29/1954

Father Purfield couldn’t be reached for an interview by press time.

COMING UP: The shock of forgiveness

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Every so often, the media will pick up a story that serves as a potent reminder of what it means to be a Christian. That’s because living as a Christian in today’s post-Christian society is an unusual way of living, contrary to what the rest of society might say about it. It is not “outdated.” It is not “irrelevant.” It is radical, countercultural and, to some, even incomprehensible.

On Oct. 2, the trial of Amber Guyger came to a close. Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was charged with the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man who lived in the same apartment complex as Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she walked into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, saw Jean sitting there on the couch, and after giving verbal commands, shot him twice, killing him. It was an absolute tragedy and played into the ongoing national conversation about police behavior toward people of color (Guyger is white; Jean is black).

What I want to focus on is a particular moment that came at the end of Guyger’s trial, after she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jean’s younger brother Brandt took to the witness stand to address his brother’s killer directly. He wasn’t planning on saying anything during the trial but changed his mind at the last minute. A prompting of the Holy Spirit? I think yes, based on what happened next.

“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” Brandt told Guyger. “If you are truly sorry … I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” He continued, “I’m not going to say I hope you die … I personally want the best for you … I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want … and the best would be: give your life to Christ. Giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But it didn’t stop there. Brandt was bold enough to ask the judge if he had permission to give Guyger a hug. He was granted it, and they embraced for over a minute, Guyger weeping into Brandt’s shoulder, just as some of us might do were we to be embraced by Christ.

Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Brandt has every reason to hate Guyger. This woman gunned down his innocent brother who had his whole life ahead of him and was given a lighter sentence than what she originally faced. Those in the courtroom and watching on TV wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Brandt tell Guyger that he hopes she rots in hell. No, the shock from those in the courtroom – and subsequently, the rest of the nation – came when Brandt did the exact opposite.

With those words and the simple act of embracing his brother’s killer, Brandt gave the world an incredible witness to the forgiveness Christ calls us to live as Christians. Of course, you can count on the bickering voices of social media and pundits to take this powerful moment and exploit it for their own agenda, but that’s because many of them don’t understand. It is not normal in our culture to forgive. It is also not easy. And that’s what makes witnessing something like this so shocking. It was not supposed to happen, but it did. It defied every expectation. Make no mistake about it: Brandt was living his call to be more like Christ in that moment. And it is exactly this moment – this shocking moment – that we are able to get a glimpse of what it is to be a Christian.

Following Jesus does make for quite a shock. And it is that shock that we are called to bring to the rest of the world, just as Brandt Jean did.