Young adult event seeks to bridge English and Spanish-speaking communities

Makena Clawson

More than half of the Archdiocese of Denver is Hispanic, but the reality is that many young adult Catholic events in Denver do not reflect this statistic.

A committee of representatives led by Mary McGeehan and Alejandra Bravo of the Archdiocese of Denver’s Office of Evangelization wanted to bridge this gap and host a young adult event where the English and Spanish-speaking communities both felt welcome.

On Sunday, Oct. 20, Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez celebrated a bilingual Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception with a time of adoration and confessions before, followed by a time of food, fellowship and salsa dancing.

Both the pews and the dance floor were full. The event was well attended by both communities and was a start at bridging this gap and making each community more aware of the other.

“I hope that young adults see the Church more holistically and greater than what they just see at their own parish,” said Mary McGeehan, Young Adult Ministry Specialist at the Archdiocese of Denver.

Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez celebrated a young adult Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on October 20, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Although the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking young adults may have different strengths and weaknesses, they have a lot in common, McGeehan said.

“Young adults don’t like anything forced,” she said. So, the committee tried to create an event that was an organic and natural way to build community.

“Dancing and sharing a meal and prayer can go beyond the nuances of language,” McGeehan said.

“Our needs are often more similar,” she said. “We want to feel welcomed, we want community, we want to be invited into leadership.”

Each community possesses strengths that the other can learn from, like the Spanish-speaking community’s emphasis on family values, having a relational mentality, and being generous in giving of their time, McGeehan said.

The English-speaking crowd possesses strengths of being creative in evangelization, McGeehan and Bravo agreed. Apostolates like Catholic Young Adult Sports, Young Catholic Professionals, Catholic Beer Club and more are fruits of the community placing their resources in service of the Church for evangelization, they said.

Alejandra Bravo, the Associate Director of Hispanic Evangelization for the Archdiocese, was pleased with the fruits of the event.

“Yesterday we were able to see beyond differences and see more similarities,” she said. “We’re all young adults and we’re all one Church.”

Many of the Hispanic young adults Bravo works with are bilingual, but some have recently come from Latin America to study and then return to their home country. McGeehan and Bravo wanted the Mass to include both Spanish and English so that both communities felt welcome.

“The Hispanic community is all about relationships,” Bravo said. “They need to feel part of the Church, part of the community.”

The Mass was followed by a time of fellowship and salsa dancing. The event was meant to help bridge the English- and Spanish-speaking young adult communities in Denver. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Once these relationships are formed, she said, they bring the whole family to events.

David Cardoza-Rodriguez, a young adult from Annunciation parish, was part of the committee that helped Bravo and McGeehan plan the event. He was pleased with how well attended the event was and saw both communities engaging with each other.

One of the needs the Hispanic community faces is “seeing other Spanish-speaking people who are giving their life to God,” he said. This event gave both communities the opportunity to see other young adults doing just that.

Bravo hopes to continue planning “similar events to this one, to bring all of the young adults together,” she said.

COMING UP: New Lourdes church ‘in harmony with the beauty of the Liturgy’

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New Lourdes church ‘in harmony with the beauty of the Liturgy’

Our Lady of Lourdes in Denver completes renovation of continually growing church

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When the first parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes began their community in 1947, they never imagined the growth that the parish was going to have decades later.

Today, more than 70 years later, the parish, which began as folding chairs and the hardwood floors of the first Masses celebrated in the gymnasium of a children’s shelter, has become not only one of the fastest growing parishes in Denver, but also one of the most recognized Catholic schools nationwide.

Father Brian Larkin, pastor of the parish for the last 5 years, has witnessed huge growth in the last few years.

“I believe Lourdes has flourished in so many ways simply because the glory of God’s redemption has been allowed its proper place,” Father Larkin told the Denver Catholic. “Once the love of Christ is given its primacy, allowed to radiate in all its splendor, then our faith moves from simply being an obligation and becomes what it really is: the good news of our redemption.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila dedicated the altar in the newly renovated Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver Sept. 10. (Photo by Brandon Young)

Lourdes is a very vibrant and young parish. They have large RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and marriage preparation programs to support and teach parishioners the “why” of the Catholic Church and its faith.

“The Catholic intellectual tradition is greater than any that exists, but most people aren’t aware of it,” Father Larkin explained. “I teach our RCIA class every year and I invite anyone and everyone to come regardless of whether they are already Catholic or not even interested in becoming Catholic.  Our program had about eight people in it my first year, this year we’re averaging around 90 people each week.”

In 2016, Father Brian announced the beginning of the “Capital Campaign” which intended to repair, restore and embellish the church, as well as to add a narthex gathering space for the growing community. Although at times it seemed impossible, with the contributions of parishioners and the hard work of their general contractor, Fransen Pittman, the project was successfully completed this past summer.

The current church at Lourdes was built in 1966 and had remained unchanged since then. The renovation updated and fixed major issues with mechanical and electric systems, but the main objective of the project was to improve the aesthetics of the church.

For the last couple of years during construction, half of the school gym turned into the church, but in September, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila finally consecrated the altar and re-dedicated the church.

Lourdes pastor Father Brain Larkin said he hopes the parish can be a refuge from the world.. (Photo by Brandon Young)

“A friend of mine used to say that his church ‘lied to his congregation,’ meaning that churches are meant to teach us the faith by the way they are built, and that his didn’t measure up to that standard,” Father Larkin said. “Prior to the renovation, our church wasn’t one which lied, but it didn’t inspire a deeper faith. The new church, in my opinion, is in harmony with the beauty of the liturgy — the music and the gospel resonate with the beauty of the church itself.

“Our numbers have grown, but more importantly, people are drawn into prayer with the aesthetics of the church.”

With a new and renovated parish, Our Lady of Lourdes is now serving the growing community of the south side of Denver. The parish also has one of the most recognized Catholic schools for its unique classical model of education that has been expanding over the last couple of years. In addition to the classical method of education, the school is firmly Catholic, offering daily Mass and monthly confessions, and making devotion to the Blessed Mother one of its pillars.

“Our Catholic faith is the most important part of our mission here at Lourdes Classical and everything we do begins and ends in prayer. We participate in the sacraments frequently and help our students fall in love with Jesus in the Eucharist every day,” said school principal Rosemary Vander Weele.

Evangelization means that what is eternal enters into time, so the timelessness of God breaks into 2019 America. We try to embody that paradigm in our events, in our liturgy, in our community.”

Father Larkin said he is afraid of the future of our culture and the anti-Christian feeling that seems expand daily in our country and our society. Therefore, one of his main goals at Lourdes is to deepen the faith of his parishioners.

“Christians of the coming century in the United States need to know their faith and be on fire for it, or they will likely leave as the culture battles against the Church,” he said. “My hope for Lourdes is not that we do everything, but that we go deep, that people have strong relationships with God, with each other and that the parish can be a refuge from the world.”

Furthermore, one of the greatest challenges for the pastor is to reflect the incarnation of Jesus in our society and remind us that God sent his only begotten Son into the world to provide us salvation. At Lourdes, Father Larkin said this is at the core of the parish’s ministry.

“Christ is fully God and fully man, but it has always been easier to strip him of his divinity or of his humanity.  I see evangelization that way: it’s easier to either remove Jesus from humanity and make him someone wholly alien to the 21st century, or conversely to make him just another human who looks like us, but not like God,” Father Larkin said. “Evangelization means that what is eternal enters into time, so the timelessness of God breaks into 2019 America. We try to embody that paradigm in our events, in our liturgy, in our community.”