You can help to form our future priests

Amy Bryer Brumley

Our seminarians are visiting parishes in November to share their unique calling to serve and to ask for your prayerful support.

God spoke to some of them at an early age and others were well into their adulthood, but they each heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood.

Michael Pitio said he remembers he was only 6 years old when he first heard Jesus speak to him. Now, at 22, he is studying in Denver to become a priest. 

“The will of God has me in the right place today,” Pitio said.

The Archdiocese of Denver is uniquely blessed to have two seminaries that help answer God’s call to serve His Church. St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary offer two distinct paths to the priesthood with a shared goal of strengthening the future of the Catholic Church.

It can take seven to 10 years to be a Catholic priest. Right now, 110 seminarians are studying what it means to hand your life over to God’s will and serve His Church.  

St. John Vianney Theological Seminary began in 1999 as a diocesan seminary rooted in the firm dedication to prayer. Since then, the seminary has been making disciples of men called to proclaim Jesus Christ with ordinations totaling 139.

Each candidate to the seminary must be sponsored by his Bishop or Religious Superior before entering St. John Vianney. While attending the seminary, each man is immersed in the Four Dimensions of Formation — spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral — which prepares them for the lifelong demands of the priesthood. 

Formation and education for seminarians ranges from between seven to 10 years. Right now, 110 seminarians at St. John Vianney and Redemptoris Mater seminaries are studying what it means to hand your life over to God’s will and serve His Church.  

Amidst their studies, the seminarians perform works of mercy by visiting hospital patients, engaging in prison ministry, comforting the elderly, befriending the homeless, working in schools, or assisting in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Denver.

Redemptoris Mater was founded in 1996 to form diocesan and missionary priests willing to serve the universal Church where they are needed. Redemptoris Mater seminarians share academics with St. John Vianney seminarians, but their vocational formation is based on the Neocatechumenal Way which offers them an itinerary of formation into an adult faith in a concrete Christian community inserted in a particular local parish. 

Redemptoris Mater welcomes seminarians from 12 different countries of origin to the Archdiocese of Denver. Upon ordination, the Archbishop may send the Neocatechumenal priests to local parishes or to a missionary assignment.

In the expected 45 to 50 years of priesthood, a priest will touch so many lives.  We need to invest in that future, said Father Daniel Leonard, rector of St. John Vianney. That is why priest formation is such an important investment, because it is an investment in the future of our Church, Father Leonard said.

 “They are ordained, not for themselves, but for their flock,” Father Leonard said. “It is the heart of a good shepherd who loves his flock.”

Seminarian Timothy Skoch went to the University of Kansas and in his sophomore year he was introduced to St. Philip Neri, who’s the patron saint of joy. That’s when he started to become interested in the priesthood and what a priest’s life looks like.

By his senior year, Skoch was listening to God’s voice in his life. The desire to follow Christ grew and he gained the courage to apply to the seminary.

They are ordained, not for themselves, but for their flock. It is the heart of a good shepherd who loves his flock.”

Father Daniel Leonard

In one of his classes at the seminary, the instructor asked, “how is modern man going to encounter the Lord?”

“I truly believe that one way that will happen is through the Catholic priesthood and good men saying yes to that call that Jesus is inviting them into,” Timothy said.

Jesús Martinez Vargas remembers vividly when he was called.

“I remember exactly when the Lord spoke to me. I was about 23 or 24 years old at mass and watching the priest celebrate the Eucharist during the consecration, and I was overwhelmed with a desire to be doing what he was doing,” Vargas said. 

The 28-year-old seminarian is grateful to donors who help make his dream to become a priest possible. Priest formation is costly to cover tuition, books, and laptops, but it is an investment in the future of our Church.

“I’m so grateful to the donors who allow me to follow my desire,” Vargas said. “Without them, there is no seminary to form good priests.”

You can learn more about your future priests and support them on their journey at archden.org/futurepriests.

COMING UP: ‘I have seen the Lord’: St. Vincent de Paul’s new adoration chapel honors St. Mary Magdelene’s witness

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“I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18). 

One couple from St. Vincent de Paul parish took these words to heart with urgency last year during the pandemic and decided to build a Eucharistic Adoration chapel for their fellow faithful to be in the Lord’s presence themselves. 

Mike and Shari Sullivan donated design and construction of the new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene adjacent to their parish church to make a space for prayer and adoration that they felt needed to be reinstated, especially during the difficult days of COVID-19. 

The chapel was completed this spring and dedicated during Divine Mercy weekend with a special blessing from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. 

“It was invigorating to have the archbishop bless the chapel,” Mike said. “The church has been buzzing.” 

Mike has been a Catholic and a member of St. Vincent de Paul since his baptism, which he jokes was around the time the cornerstone was placed in 1951. The Sullivans’ five children all attended the attached school and had their sacraments completed at St. Vincent de Paul too. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila dedicated the St. Mary Magdalene adoration chapel with a prayer and blessing at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church on April 9, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

The 26-by 40-foot chapel is a gift to fellow parishioners of a church that has meant so much to their family for decades, and to all who want to participate in prayer and adoration. 

The architect and contractor are both Catholic, which helped in the design of Catholic structure and the construction crew broke ground in mid-December. The Sullivans wanted to reclaim any Catholic artifacts or structural pieces they could for the new chapel. Some of the most striking features of the chapel are the six stained glass windows Mike was able to secure from a demolished church in New York. 

The windows were created by Franz Xaver Zettler who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century.  The Munich style is accomplished by painting detailed pictures on large pieces of glass unlike other stained-glass methods, which use smaller pieces of colored glass to make an image. 

The two primary stained-glass windows depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, the chapel’s namesake, and they frame either side of the altar which holds the tabernacle and monstrance — both reused from St.  Vincent De Paul church.  

The Sullivans wanted to design a cloistered feel for the space and included the traditional grill and archway that opens into the pews and kneelers with woodwork from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. 

The chapel was generously donated by Mike and Shari Sullivan. The stained glass windows, which depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, were created by Franz Xaver Zettler, who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Shari is a convert to Catholicism and didn’t grow up with the practice of Eucharistic adoration, but St. Vincent de Paul pastor Father John Hilton told her to watch how adoration will transform the parish. She said she knows it will, because of what regular Eucharistic adoration has done for her personally. 

The Sullivans are excited that the teachers at St. Vincent de Paul school plan to bring their classes to the warm and inviting chapel to learn about the practice of adoration and reflect on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

The words of St. Mary Magdalene “I have seen the Lord,” have become the motto of the chapel, Mike said, and they are emblazoned on a brass plaque to remind those who enter the holy space of Christ’s presence and the personal transformation offered to those inside.

The St. Vincent de Paul  Church and The Eucharistic Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene is located at 2375 E. Arizona Ave. Denver 80210 on the corner of Arizona and Josephine Street. The chapel is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Visit https://saintvincents.org/adorationchapel1 for more information about the chapel and to look for updates on expanded hours as they occur.