Archbishop's web site Denver Catholic Register Parishes Catholic Pastoral Center
March 6, 2002
Archdiocesan Pastoral Council gets new appointments
Archbishop's lay advisory group discusses Islam; issues of sexual misconduct
By Roxanne King
Ginny Riegel's experience as a church volunteer began in sixth grade when the religious sisters at her Boston parish asked for assistance scraping wax off the high altar following Holy Week services.
"`You better help,' my Mom said," Riegel recalled, laughing. "So, I did."
More than 50 years later, she's still helping. Riegel was recently reappointed as chair of the 3-year-old Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC), one of the archdiocese's senior advisory groups to Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
A parishioner at St. Jude in Lakewood, Riegel has belonged to the APC since its inception. In fact, she served on the steering committee to form it.
Archbishop Chaput instituted the council and appoints its members. Recent appointments include Bob Zarlengo of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Lakewood, who was named vice chair.
The 30-member council has a member from each of the 13 deaneries, two youth members and six at-large members. It also includes a priest, a deacon, a religious sister and five ex officio members, in addition to the archbishop.
"It's a consultative body with primarily a lay voice," said Fran Maier, chancellor for the archdiocese. "The APC focuses mainly on the pastoral realities facing the local Church. It's an important way for the archbishop to test ideas and get feedback on a range of issues from committed lay persons. It's structured to be a cross-section of the whole diocese, with people from all walks of life and every corner of the local Church."
The APC meets quarterly, Riegel said, and seeks to study and discuss issues related to the welfare of the archdiocese, to help the archbishop understand the pastoral needs of the people, and to enhance his ministry to them.
Members are appointed to three-year terms. Officers serve one year. Riegel gets member recommendations from pastors and others, interviews them with the assistance of APC colleagues, and recommends candidates to the archbishop.
"I look for a person who's been active in his or her faith, either on parish council or who has served the parish or deanery well," she said. But, she emphasized, "They do not `represent' the deanery in an electoral sense, they represent themselves."
The youth and at-large members are intended to ensure diversity, Riegel said.
Topics the group has addressed include St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, how to deepen appreciation of the Eucharist, Church teaching on homosexuality, Catholic educators' salaries, the archdiocesan marriage preparation program, youth ministry, and the vocation of the laity. Council advice contributed to the Eucharistic Congress held September 2000, a salary increase for Catholic educators, and an ongoing task force to improve youth ministry.
"We don't have hard and fast goals like people often find on a parish council, where there are objectives for the year. We're strictly an advisory group," Riegel said. "The archbishop recommends topics and encourages us to recommend them as well."
On March 2 the council explored the content of Islam and possibilities for dialogue with the growing local Muslim community, and sexual misconduct in the Church.
"Obviously these are two of the most serious topics we've had on our agenda," Riegel said. "They're both of immediate concern to the Church as a whole, not just the diocese."
The daylong meeting held at Bonfils Hall on the John Paul II Center campus featured political science professor Robert Hazan of Metropolitan State College of Denver speaking about the Muslim faith. Church history professor Michael Woodward of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary gave a historical overview of Christians' relations with Islam, and Bill Beckman, inter-religious officer for the archdiocese, talked about the growth of Islam in Colorado and the United States.
With 2 billion followers, Christians (half of whom are Catholic) claim the world's largest religious membership. Boasting just over 1 billion adherents, Islam is the world's second largest religious group. But, the council was told, that could soon change.
"Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and the second fastest growing is Christianity," Woodward said. "They have to grow that's the command given to both Muslims and to Christians by their founders. So the two usually coexist with difficulty."
Both faiths are exclusivist, teaching that only they are the sure way to salvation, he said. History has shown the two often going to war.
Fundamental differences in the way adherents perceive and practice their faith are giving Islam an edge, the speakers said. In some Islamic countries, trying to convert a Muslim is a crime punishable by death, whereas in the U.S., religious freedom is a right, a position also supported by the Church.
"Vitality of religion is stronger in Islamic lands," Woodward said. "Christianity seems to be losing its formative influence over Western culture. For example, abortion: There is no abortion in Islamic lands, but a horrendous slaughter of children takes place in the West."
The speakers pointed to the secularization of Western culture as contributing to Islamic growth, saying the separation of Church and state has resulted in compartmentalizing life into religious, economic and political categories which is virtually impossible in Islamic nations.
While attracting converts is an opportunity a pluralistic society provides, Catholics don't appear to be as aggressively engaged in winning souls as are Muslims and other proselytizers, Beckman said.
"They're convinced their religion is true," the archbishop said about Muslims. In contrast, he added, too many Catholics have seemed to lose their zeal and sense of mission.
At the end of the discussion, council members advocated that parishes hold events to educate their people about Christianity's historical encounter with Islam and to increase their knowledge and witness of the Catholic faith, saying such steps are critical in winning the struggle for souls.
The daylong workshop concluded with the archbishop answering questions about allegations of sexual misconduct in the Church, especially in light of recent events in the Archdiocese of Boston.
The archdiocese has had a strong sexual misconduct policy in place since 1991 and works hard to ensure the safety of every parish environment, Archbishop Chaput said.
Ex officio member Msgr. Walker Nickless, a vicar general who headed priest personnel for 13 years before returning to parish ministry last year, said every complaint about past or present sexual misconduct in the archdiocese is taken seriously and treated with compassion and respect.
Both he and the archbishop noted that many of today's clergy sex abuse cases stem from 25 years ago or more. At that time, much less was known both by the medical establishment and Church authorities about the nature of illnesses like pedophilia, which is treatable but not curable. This in no way reduces the gravity of the problem or the suffering of victims, but it may help explain the flawed decisions made by some Church leaders, who reassigned troubled clergy instead of ending their pastoral ministries.
Council members said the workshop was both informative and heartening.
"One thing I find consistently coming out of this council is that people need to be better educated. Catholics need to understand their obligation to learn about their faith and keep it vital," said Mary Cohen of St. Vincent de Paul Parish. "The sexual misconduct discussion was direct and reassuring. Our archbishop and our diocesan officers are dealing with these issues honestly and well. I feel I can go back and tell that to my parish."
Confronting issues in a timely manner armed with the most current information is the best way to handle them, said Gregory De Cuir of Cure d'Ars Parish.
"I think the archbishop and the archdiocese are doing that," he said.
Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., recently appointed the following to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, a predominately lay advisory board. Members serve a three-year term. Officers serve a one-year term.
Elizabeth Lee, St. Lawrence Korean Parish, Aurora Deanery
Jack Duffy, St. Louis Parish, Boulder Deanery
Gregory De Cuir, Cure d'Ars Parish, East Deanery
Stanley Cuba, St. Joseph Polish Parish, East Central Deanery
David Foy, St. Joseph Parish, Eastern Plains Deanery
James McCormack, St. Joseph Parish, Fort Collins Deanery
Ann Obrzut, St. Peter Parish, Greeley Deanery
Jackie Bell, Holy Trinity Parish, North Deanery
Mary Cohen, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Southeast Deanery
David Hunter, All Souls Parish, Southwest Deanery
Bob Zarlengo, APC vice chair, Our Lady of Fatima Parish, West Deanery
Cynthia Anglada, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, West Central Deanery
Francis Conlon, Holy Name Parish, Western Slope Deanery
Father Robert Reycraft, pastor St. Louis Parish, EnglewoodPermanent deacon member:Deacon Chet Ubowski, Light of the World Parish, LittletonReligious member:Sister Alicia Cuaron, O.S.F., St. Joseph Redemptorist Parish, Denver Ex officio members:Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Bishop José GomezRev. Msgr. Raymond N. Jones, V.G., P.A.Rev. Msgr. R. Walker Nickless, V.G., pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, LakewoodRev. Msgr. Thomas Fryar, vicar for clergy and seminariansFrancis X. Maier, chancellor Youth members:Mark Wisthoff, John XXIII Parish, Fort Collins Mandi Haggerty, St. Mary Parish, Littleton At-large members:Toni Armstead, St. Ignatius Loyola Parish, Denver Michael Del Hierro, Assumption Parish, DenverSpencer Gardner, Our Lady of the Snow Parish, GranbyNora Mercado, Holy Trinity Parish, Westminster Robert Owens, Church of the Risen Christ Parish, DenverGinny Riegel, APC Chair, St. Jude Parish, Lakewood