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: Faith and politics in the United States

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Cherished principles of the American revolution include religious freedom and the separation of Church and State. These principles should have benefited Catholics, who sought refuge from the persecution of the formally established Church of England. Catholics, however, could only vote in Pennsylvania and Maryland after the founding of the United States. Despite the original purpose of these principles, they have now falsely come to mean popularly that religion should have no role in public life. Not only did the Founding Fathers not intend this, but the Church also calls us to active engagement in political life by living out our faith in society. A number of books published in the last few years shed light on this call.

Josef Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, Faith and Politics (Ignatius, 2018)

This volume collects a number of distinct writings on the topic of politics from the life of the retired Holy Father. It addresses some of the most foundational elements of society: the relation of personal freedom to truth, how human dignity undergirds law and justice, and how faith gives reason a more expansive view of the goal of human life. Ratzinger explores the relation of faith and politics in the early Church for insights into the problematic secularism that now dominates our political life. In the end, he proposes that society depends upon an ordered freedom that directs government toward the fulfillment of shared goods. We need a genuine freedom that contains “the ability of the conscience to perceive the fundamental values of mankind that concern everyone” (101).

Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived (Crown Forum, 2017)

Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia represented a strong Catholic voice in the public square, though not without controversy. This volume offers a collection of his speeches, dealing not only with law, but also with education, the arts, virtue, and friendship. In his talks touching on faith, he contrasts Jefferson’s supposed sophisticated rejection of miracles with the wisdom of St. Thomas More; encourages us to live a distinct and even weird life in the eyes of the world; exhorts Catholic universities to fidelity; navigates the thorny issue of separation of Church and State; speaks on the importance of going on retreat, and the necessity and limits of faith in public life. He advises: You must . . . not run your spiritual life and worldly life as though they are two separate operations” (147). A Catholic justice, he clarifies, fulfills his office not by seeking to legislate opinion or belief from the bench, but by interpreting the Constitution and the law with integrity and precision. These speeches capture his living voice, in a compelling and accessible manner, which can continue to inspire Catholics to enter public service.

Daniel J. Mahoney, The Idol of Our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity (Encounter Books, 2018)

Mahoney, a professor at Assumption College, examines the trajectory of politics since the French Revolution and proposes that a humanitarian religion has supplanted the Christian faith and undermined the integrity of local, participatory politics. Favoring an abstract globalism that promotes individual rights and autonomy, “we increasingly despise meditation and the political expression of our humanity. In truth, human beings experience common humanity only in the meeting of diverse human and spiritual affirmations and propositions that arise from the concrete human communities in which we live” (8). This abstraction has also entered the Church, as Christians “increasingly redefine the contents of the faith in broadly humanitarian terms. Christianity is shorn of any recognizable transcendental dimension and becomes an instrument for promoting egalitarian social justice” (13). Mahoney draws upon key thinkers who have pointed to the dangers of humanitarianism — Brownson, Soloviev, Solzhenitsyn, Ratzinger — and the book is worth reading simply as an introduction to their thought. He concludes that in embracing the Church’s rich tradition of faith and reason, we can also return to a genuinely human political life, through “the humanizing discernment made possible by conscience” (124).

Timothy Gordon, Catholic Republic: Why America Will Perish without Rome (Sophia, 2019)

Gordon’s thesis seems to follow Mahoney’s in that Catholic Republic argues that the Catholic faith is necessary for the future of the American republic. Insofar as the flourishing of any republic depends upon an acknowledgement of the truth and virtue for its realization, Gordon’s thesis is correct: The Church can and should help our society to reach its true good. The details of Gordon’s assertion of a crypto-Catholicism underlying the Constitution and American life, however, overplays its hand. He contends that a so-called Catholic Natural Law, the Church’s development of the law of reason accessible to all people, uniquely supplied the vision for American government. In this, I find that Gordon overlooks the unique (and problematic) contributions of the Enlightenment to the American founding, as well as how the Catholic tradition teaches natural law and good politics as natural realities, not something that the Church owns and transmits in an exclusive fashion. While Gordon does note some instances of indirect consultation of Catholic sources, there are too many jumps of assertion that require more detailed explanation and proof. The book would have worked better as an exhortation to approach American politics from a Catholic perspective rather than a largely unproven accusation of plagiarism.