Year in review

A look back at 2017

When the year 2017 is looked back on as a chapter in the rich history of the Archdiocese of Denver, it will likely be remembered as a year dedicated to Mary. It was 100 years ago that Our Lady appeared to three young shepherds in Fatima, Portugal, delivering a profound message of hope that has lasted over a century. 2017 was also the year that Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila would consecrate the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, honoring her apparition at Fatima but also reminding the faithful of her everlasting presence among us and her crucial role in always directing us toward her son.

2017 was also a year of excitement for the Catholic Church of northern Colorado. The excitement came in many different forms – a new school, two new parishes, eight new priests, nine new permanent deacons, and the possibility of Denver’s first saint – and proved that the Catholic faith is alive and well here in Denver.

Of course, 2017 brought with it some challenges as well. 500 years ago, Martin Luther split off from a corrupt Catholic Church and ushered in the widespread splintering of Christianity that exists to this day, and this year was a time for the Church to humbly acknowledge its broken past, but also to continue to work toward the unity that Christ intended for it. Furthermore, the Church raised its voice to challenge legislation that could negatively impact the lives of millions of immigrants who are as much a part of this country’s history as its natives.

This contrast between positive and negative is telling of the Christian life. It’s not always easy, and sometimes we’re forced to examine our consciences and reconsider what it really means to be a disciple of Christ. However, hope that something better is on the horizon always remains. Here’s a look back at the faith-filled year that was 2017.

(Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

Bell rings for first time at Frassati Catholic Academy

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and 6th grade students at Frassati Catholic Academy practice viewing the solar eclipse through special solar-viewing glasses on the first day of the brand new school Aug. 21. Archbishop Aquila blessed and dedicated the school, which was the first new school to open in the Archdiocese of Denver since 2012.

(Photo by Daniel Petty | Denver Catholic)

A step toward Christian unity

On March 19, Archbishop Aquila co-presided over a prayer service alongside Lutheran Bishop James Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The service was held at Bethany Lutheran Church in Denver, and marked an important milestone in local ecumenical relations between the Catholic and Lutheran churches.

(Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

Eight priests ordained on Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

On May 13, the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to the young shepherds at Fatima, eight men were ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Denver. Speaking of Mary’s example, Archbishop Aquila urged the men to stay rooted in the virtues of humility, patience and charity in their own priesthood.

(Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

Wrangled by faith

In June, we wrote a story about John Calderon, better known as “Cowboy John” to those in the community of Glenwood Springs who know him. Calderon is a Catholic convert whose life was radically changed by Christ after an encounter with him. He pours out the love that Christ poured into him by helping homeless people around the town. Calderon was one of several inspiring stories of faith we discovered throughout the year.

(Photo by Anya Semenoff | Denver Catholic)

Former slave Julia Greeley first to be buried at Denver’s Cathedral

In what was a historic first for the Archdiocese of Denver, the exhumed remains of a potential saint were laid to rest at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception June 7. At the transfer ceremony, Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez proudly proclaimed of the former slave to an applauding congregation, “[Julia Greeley] will be the first person buried in Denver’s cathedral. Not a bishop, not a priest – a laywoman, a former slave. Isn’t that something?”

(Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

The faces of DREAMERS in the Archdiocese of Denver

The repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) earlier in the year raised several questions. What will happen to the 17,000 beneficiaries of DACA currently residing in Colorado? What does this mean for future children born to immigrant parents? And perhaps most importantly, what role does the Church play in helping those affected? The answers to these questions are not readily apparent, but the conversation spurred this past year will hopefully lead to some.

(Photo by Andrew Wright | Andrew Wright)

Investing in the Cathedral’s future

Repairs to the Cathedral Basilica have been underway since 2016, but as pastor Father Ron Cattany pointed out this past year, there’s still a lot of work to be done; $2.3 million worth of work, to be exact. The 105-year-old mother church of the archdiocese is embedded in the very history of Colorado, and Father Cattany urges the faithful to consider investing in its future so it can stand as Denver’s mother church for many years to come. “[We] need to keep it functional, [we] need it evangelical in terms of serving people, and [we] need to keep it safe so people feel comfortable to come here.”

(Photo by Anya Semenoff | Denver Catholic)

Nine men ordained to the permanent diaconate

It’s essential that your marriages stand out,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila told nine men who were ordained to the permanent diaconate June 17 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. “As deacons, you will be called to serve in numerous ways,” he said in his homily before the ordination of nine permanent deacons and one transitional deacon. “Always remember that marriage is your first vocation, and that your marriage must come first.”

Two new parishes for Denver

At the beginning of November, Archbishop Aquila announced that two new parishes would be established in the archdiocese: St. John Paul II in Thornton, and St. Gianna Molla in Green Valley Ranch. “It’s not that often that bishops are able to announce the kind of good news I am about to share with you,” Archbishop Aquila wrote of opening the new parishes. They serve as a testament to the rapidly growing faith community in northern Colorado.


(Photo by Anya Semenoff | Denver Catholic)

‘My Immaculate Heart will triumph’

On the centennial of Our Lady’s final apparition to the Fatima children and the Miracle of the Sun on Oct. 13, hundreds were gathered in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and thousands more gathered in parishes across the archdiocese as Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila consecrated Denver to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “As we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let us pray for faith… to love Jesus as Mary loved Jesus, and pray for peace and let us pray for hope, rooted in the promise of eternal life,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It is only by keeping our hearts fixed on Jesus that this will come about.”

(Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’

On Nov. 4, Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez celebrated a Spanish-language Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for all immigrants, their families and those who support them. The Mass fell on the Solemnity of Christ the King, which holds a special meaning for the Mexican community. During the religious persecution at the beginning of the 20th century, many Christians bravely proclaimed the motto, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”), before being killed, and this same spirit was echoed within the immigrants gathered at the Mass in regards to their future here in America.

COMING UP: There is no higher knowledge than Jesus Christ, says Cardinal Stafford

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There is no higher knowledge than Jesus Christ, says Cardinal Stafford

Archdiocese marks his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination with Mass at Cathedral

“Gaudete” Sunday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was a day to rejoice not only in the Savior to come, but also in Christ’s work in the life and priesthood of Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, on his 60th anniversary as priest.

The cardinal, who served as archbishop of Denver from 1986 to 1996, celebrated a Mass on Dec. 17 accompanied by his brother bishops of Colorado: Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Auxiliary Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez and Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs; and by many brother priests and deacons.

“On this ‘Gaudete’ Sunday we gather to rejoice, to rejoice first and foremost in Jesus Christ… in the gift of salvation and his conquest over sin and death,” Archbishop Aquila said in his homily. “We rejoice too for the 60 years of priesthood that the Father has so generously bestowed upon Cardinal Stafford.”

“He is a man of Jesus Christ, one who understands what it means to be a disciple,” the archbishop said. “Whether in marriage or consecrated life, we can all learn from his example.”

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 17: Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila preaches the homily during the 60th Anniversary Mass commemorating the Presbyteral Ordination of Cardinal James Stafford (wearing rose-colored vestments) at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on December 17, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Cardinal Stafford was ordained Dec. 15, 1957 in Rome for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where he served as pastor, director of Catholic Charities and president of the Presbyteral Senate. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Baltimore in 1976 and bishop of Memphis in 1981, prior to becoming archbishop of Denver.

It is when Cardinal Stafford became bishop that “he understood well what it means to offer oneself completely to Christ,” Archbishop Aquila affirmed.

After being Archbishop of Denver, Stafford was called to serve the universal Church as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1996. John Paul II appointed him cardinal in 1998 and Major Penitentiary in 2003.

He also emphasized the fruits of numerous organizations and initiatives that World Youth Day brought to Denver through the leadership of the apostolic penitentiary emeritus: “He said ‘yes’ and trusted in the Lord. Few could guess what that ‘yes’ would bring for [the local and universal Church].”

Centered in Christ

The cardinal chose St. Augustine’s words for his holy card: “I was not yet humble enough to receive the humble Jesus as my God.” The archbishop of Denver explained the cardinal’s intention for choosing that phrase: “He recognizes the essential virtue of humility because our faith is never about ourselves but about Jesus Christ and the work he accomplishes in us and with us when we open our hearts to him.”

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 17: Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila embraces Cardinal James Stafford during the 60th Anniversary Mass commemorating the Presbyteral Ordination of Cardinal Stafford at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on December 17, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Cardinal Stafford thanked his brother bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful for their presence and prayers at the end of Mass.

The cardinal said that his acceptance to become archbishop of Denver was not without fear. “[But] you prayed in hope that I would grow in love to overcome whatever fear I had,” he said to the congregation.

“What happens when a bishop is prayed for by his people? It means that the bishop has grown in love of his people,” he continued. “I grew in love of you, dear brothers and sisters, and because I loved you, I trusted you.”

Such trust was present in the decision to bring World Youth Day to Denver, Cardinal Stafford stated. He firmly believed the coming of John Paul II to Denver would open the doors to the freedom Christ desired for his people. And now, the whole body of Christ was present to also praise God for the fruits of the event, made possible by the work of the faithful in communion with Christ.

The cardinal recalled three images that have had special significance in his 60 years as priest: The plaited spiritual wreath, the cross and the rainbow.

He referenced St. Ignatius of Antioch’s metaphor: The presbyterate of the diocese is a “neatly plaited spiritual wreath,” highlighting the importance of the relationship and unity among priests. “[The priest is] called to be plaited, united with the archbishop,” he said.

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 17: Cardinal James Stafford celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist 60th Anniversary Mass commemorating his ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on December 17, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

The cross was the image that led his priesthood, especially in its beginning. Evoking the hardship of his first years as presbyter, he assured, “It was only by discovering the mystery… of the Holy Cross, that I began to experience freedom.” The writings of St. John of the Cross helped him find that freedom, the cardinal said.

“God is present to us even [when he seems] absent, when we are suffering, as [when] the Eternal Son was suffering on the cross,” he told the Denver Catholic.

Finally, Cardinal Stafford remembered vividly the image of the rainbow that appeared on the sky of Denver after a storm, as John Paul II entered the stadium during WYD: “Our young, suffering people of ’93 pointed with joy to the rainbow in the southwestern mountains… I pointed to it and was overwhelmed with that sign, what did it mean?” It was a source of hope for things to come, he assured.

Cardinal Stafford told the Denver Catholic that upon his retirement, his mission is to offer what he has experienced and learned in his path: “I hope to be able to convey to people that the greatest treasure we have in this life is to understand the depth, height and beauty of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.

“There is no higher knowledge than that. Nothing is as rich in life on earth than to come to know Jesus. Nothing… We can strive to become engineers, doctors, professionals… but all of those things are penultimate,” he continued. “Parents, above all, have to share this with their children.”

Featured photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic