Year in Review 2018: Proud to be a Denver Catholic

It’s evident with the many happenings in the Archdiocese of Denver that the New Evangelization is alive and well here in the Mile-High City — a call heeded by the faithful 25 years ago when St. John Paul II visited Denver for World Youth Day and carried into the present day with purpose and fervor.

And it’s precisely that purpose and fervor that makes the Denver Catholic so proud to be a part of the Church of northern Colorado. We are honored to tell these stories — the stories of you, the faithful people of God, who spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world that so desperately needs it in a diverse array of ways.

In many ways, 2018 was a tough year to be Catholic. Echoes of the Church’s troubled past are resounding through freshly re-opened wounds, the ramifications of which remain to be seen but could be more painful than ever before. Even so, the Church that was founded by Jesus Christ, while shaken, remains faithful, especially here in Denver.

Whether it was within a classroom, in a parish, at a conference of over 5,000 missionary disciples, or through a powerful testimony of faith, here are but a few of the many ways the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver showed a glimpse of Christ to the world in 2018.

WYD ’93 25th Anniversary

If there is an event that has proven to be a turning point for American Catholicism, it was World Youth Day ’93 in Denver. When Pope John Paul II announced he wanted to hold the next WYD in the U.S., many American bishops were skeptical. They didn’t think this type of event could be successful in the U.S. Yet, the Holy Father insisted – and he was right. Around 700,000 young people from around the world attended, making it the biggest event in Colorado history.

(Photo by Andrew Wright)

“There was almost a spirit of maintenance, of just keeping things going, and WYD brought in the aspect of a deeper formation, a deeper relationship with Christ, and a deeper living out of the faith in the world,” said Cardinal Francis J. Stafford, who was then Archbishop of Denver. Twenty-five years later, the Church in Denver is a hotspot for the New Evangelization, giving birth to numerous lay and religious initiatives seeking to bring Christ to every home and aspect of society.

More Than You Realize

This year, the Archdiocese of Denver launched More Than You Realize (MTYR), a discipleship movement inspired by Saint John Paul II’s call to the faithful in Denver to share the New Evangelization. MTYR was introduced to over 5,000 Catholics across the archdiocese during a special conference celebrating the saint’s visit to Denver for World Youth Day 25 years ago.

(Photo by Jason Weinrich)

MTYR.Church was launched for practicing Catholics and will launch in 2019 for both secular and Christian audiences. Through intriguing videos, stylish merchandise and stimulating content, the movement will offer faithful Catholics modern tools for evangelization and non-Catholics the opportunity to learn the truth of the Catholic faith — something that is much more than most people realize.

A Bright Future

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains and resting in the shadow of Long’s Peak, Annunciation Heights is a new Catholic youth and family camp located just south of Estes Park in the Archdiocese of Denver that officially opened in 2018. Acquired in late 2017, the four-lodge, 188-bed camp will serve as home for new summer youth and family camps, spring and fall outdoor lab programs, and year-round youth, college and parish ministry retreats. The hope is for Annunciation Heights is to provide a place for visitors to get away from the hustle and bustle of life to gather in a beautiful setting only Colorado can offer, be served by a great staff and ultimately, grow closer to Christ.

(Photo by Andrew Wright)

Another exciting new addition to the archdiocese is the Prophet Elijah House, a retirement community exclusively for our priests located on the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization campus. The archdiocese is honored to provide a place for our fathers, who spend their entire lives serving the people of God, a place to retire and spend the remainder of their days in community with their brother priests. Our priests have helped nurture us spiritually throughout their lives, providing the sacraments and all that a priest does,” said Keith Parsons, chief financial officer for the archdiocese. “This will be an opportunity for retired priests to have a subsidized place to live, located on a beautiful, spiritual campus.”

A Solemn Promise

In light of a new wave of victims coming forward with accusations of sexual abuse made against bishops and priests, the Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila asked for the Promise website to be created and continuously updated “to ensure that the archdiocese is transparent about our handling, prevention, and response policies in regards to the sexual abuse of minors and misconduct.” details the promises made by Archbishop Aquila to everyone, the Catholic faithful, all priests and deacons, and seminarians, in which he outlines the zero-tolerance procedures that the Archdiocese of Denver has held for decades regarding sexual abuse or misconduct and adheres to them “with great diligence.” Moreover, it offers an overview of the archdiocese’s track record, providing context of the broader issue, sharing resources for anyone seeking healing from abuse and serving as a channel for people who want to have their voice heard.

Servant of God Julia Greeley

(Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

This year was also another exciting year for our very own Angel of Charity, Julia Greeley. June 7 marked the 100th anniversary of Julia’s death, and to celebrate that occasion, Governor John Hickenlooper declared June 3-9, 2018 “Julia Greeley Week” for the state of Colorado. On that same day, the new tomb housing Julia’s remains was unveiled at the Cathedral in a powerful ceremony. The tomb was designed in Colorado and the raw materials were excavated from the world-famous marble quarry in Carrara, Italy, which is best known for producing works of art like Michelangelo’s David. Last but not least, Julia’s cause for canonization was sent off the Vatican, where they will review the pertinent documents and, led by the Holy Spirit, determine whether or not Julia is worth of sainthood. The faithful are encouraged to continue praying for Julia’s intercession, as it could prove instrumental in her cause. Julia Greeley, pray for us!

Vibrant Schools

(Photo by Jason Weinrich)

Our schools continue to prove they are worthy of the name “Catholic.” The Archdiocese of Denver gained a new superintendent of Catholic Schools in Elias Moo, the former principal of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Academy. Moo’s vision is to be successful academically but more importantly “to be known as the best for the world.” The Variable Tuition Program was launched to adjust tuition for families based on what they can afford, while Seeds of Hope continued to help families who desired a Catholic education for their children make that a reality. Many of our schools embraced exciting changes, including St. Frances de Sales’ new STEM program, Our Lady of Lourdes’ additional campus and Nativity Catholic School’s new principal and new name — Nativity: Faith & Reason. The strong faith of our Catholic school students was evident when they honored the victims of the Parkland, Fla. shooting with prayer this spring.

Sophia Montessori Academy opened in February and thrived in its first year. Augustine Institute began offering lay people and clergy the chance to take a series of three-class seminars from leading theologians. The Fill the Seats campaign was created to allow schools to provide scholarships for middle-income families. The Saint John Institute held its inaugural graduation for its MBA program centered on the New Evangelization. Holy Family High School broke ground on its expansion.

Parish Life

This year the Denver Catholic introduced “Parish Spotlight,” a section meant to keep the archdiocese informed of the initiatives and highlights of other parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Denver. The parish is really the heart of the Church; it’s where the faithful gather to receive Jesus in the Eucharist each week as well as other sacraments, where the young, curious and everyone in between are educated in the faith and where the Church community is built. And based on the many stories we told about parishes in the past year alone, we’re happy to say that parish life is alive and well here in the archdiocese.

Among the parish occasions we highlighted were the beautiful renovations of St. Mary’s Parish in Aspen, Holy Name Parish in Sheridan and, of course, the extensive restoration of our beloved Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception; the 50th anniversary of Queen of Peace Parish and its future building projects; the great evangelizing efforts at Christ the King Parish in Evergreen, Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada, St. Mary’s Parish in Littleton and St. Peter’s Parish in Greeley; the groundbreaking for a new church building for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Ft. Collins and for renovation and expansion at St. Mark’s Parish in Westminster; the family-like environment present at St. Martin de Porres in Boulder; and the Capuchin spirit of service to the poor witnessed at Annunciation Parish in Denver.

Powerful Testimonies

(Photo by Andrew Wright)

Catholics in northern Colorado inspired us with powerful stories of faith throughout the year. Tom Martinez unexpectedly went blind in December 2016 but continued to pursue his dream of opening a brewery, reaching success through Blind Faith Brewing. Elías Venegas jumped from the third floor of a construction site consumed by a raging fire and suffered no broken bones, organ damage or a concussion. He believed God was there protecting him from harm. Doctor Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence for National Geographic, and a team of researchers from the National Technical University of Athens, shared with the Denver Catholic their incredible experience going inside the Tomb of Jesus Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and how it shaped their faith.

Maria Antonia, mother of seven children — four of whom are priests and three of whom are married with families — maintained an unwavering faith despite suffering an aggressive cancer that paralyzed her body and took her life. Maria Deflin encouraged her friend Angela Brown to baptize her first child, and years later he became a priest. Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips won the Supreme Court case that addressed his decision not to write a message about same-sex marriage on a wedding cake because it contradicted his beliefs.

Lieutenant Derrick Johnson, a veteran of the Denver Fire Department and now a candidate in the archdiocese’s diaconate program, shared with the Denver Catholic his devotion to Julia Greeley, a former slave now on the road to sainthood. Firefighter and paramedic Mark Hutchinson prayed as he fought the Lake Christine Fire this summer, which, despite its rage, did not injure or kill anyone in the area affected. Deacon Witold Engel shared his remarkable story of surviving three concentration camps during the Holocaust before answering the call to the diaconate. Pat opened up to the Denver Catholic about the abuse she suffered at the hands of a priest when she was five years old, but the courage she has mustered to remain in the Church her entire life. The D’Onofrio family subtly inspires many through their Stargazer Fine Chocolates shop.

Thanks for your support, Denver Catholic readers. We’ll see you in 2019!

COMING UP: Embrace the ‘good news of great joy’

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“Do not be afraid … I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11). The angels announced to the stunned shepherds, as they proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promise to the people of Israel.

It’s worth noting that the angels appeared to the shepherds at night, when they would have been on guard against the dangers of predators looking for their sheep. Likewise, when the magi arrived to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews, they first encountered Herod, who later massacred the children of Bethlehem out of fear that a challenger to his throne had been born. Eventually, the threat of Herod’s wrath drove Mary and Joseph into hiding in Egypt, only to return to Nazareth when Herod had died.

With the passing of the centuries, it can be easy to recast Christmas as a time of utter peace and tranquility and forget the turmoil into which Jesus was born. In a way, this is comforting as we reflect on the state of the world and the Church today. Certainly, there is great uncertainty and moral poverty in many places. And yet, Christ’s birth is even more joyous because of the dark surroundings.

This past year has been both blessed and challenging for the Church.

We had the privilege of celebrating the 25th anniversary of World Youth Day in Denver on August 11th and the beginning of the More Than You Realize discipleship initiative. The archdiocese also closed the local phase of the Cause for the Canonization of Julia Greeley, completed the construction of the Prophet Elijah House for retired priests and opened the Annunciation Heights youth and family camp.

On the other hand, the Church and the archdiocese have been dealing with the Archbishop McCarrick scandal and the fact that some bishops covered up the sexual abuse of minors. At the same time, the broader culture has also become increasingly hostile to faith, while becoming more accepting of beliefs and activities that are contrary to our faith. This can be seen in the aggressive advancement of gender ideology, the abandonment of the common good in favor of a more tribal and divided society, and the willingness of many to cast aside the unborn, the immigrant, or the elderly.

It is this world — one that is both broken and dark yet filled with the potential for great good — that needs to hear the proclamation of the angels at Christmas: “Do not be afraid … I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.”

We all need saving, which is clear from the fallen state of us all. It is truly good news that Jesus was born and continues to come to us in each Eucharist and the other sacraments. His sacrificial outpouring of love for us should cause us to boldly trust in his love and provision for us as we seek to build up the kingdom in our life.

Let us make our own the words of Pope St. Leo the Great as he preached about Christmas. “Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all.”

May you and your family’s celebration of Christ’s birth be one that fills you with hope, joy and peace, so that the world can experience through your works of mercy and love the good news of salvation in him. In the midst of the darkness around us, may we the bring the light and joy of the Gospel to each person we encounter!

Celebrate Life March

As we look forward to the new year, I invite you to join me in celebrating the gift of life and salvation through your prayer and lived example.

One specific way you can do this is to participate in the Celebrate Life March on January 12th at 1:00 p.m. at the State Capitol. This will be preceded by a Mass at the Cathedral at 11:30 a.m.

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