Participants share thoughts on A New Harvest
By Denver Catholic Register
A New Harvest Campaign has raised more than $23 million since October 2011, an outstanding start to the goal of modernizing and endowing the seminaries of the Archdiocese of Denver. Recently, the Denver Catholic Register spoke to two lay couples and five priests who are impacted by the campaign, either through their leadership roles or through their experience as seminarians and pastors. They offered their reaction to the campaign.
Msgr. Kenneth Leone
Chairperson of the Priest Advisory Committee, A New Harvest Campaign
“The success of the campaign so far is sending the message that people love their priests and they want to help future priests! In spite of the recession and everything else people are incredibly generous.
“I’m personally convinced the campaign will go over its goal because people have been so generous. I’m retired, but I work at the seminary two days a week, and my room is the same room I lived in 50 years ago. It was put up during the Depression; they haven’t fixed anything; the water is so bad I have to bring water from home; the windows barely open up, the pipes in the chapel clang so loud it’s hard to pray. Yet more and more guys are coming, and more space is needed and more professors—and God is providing!”
Father Joseph Toledo
Ordained in 2009. Attended Redemptorist Mater. Former parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Collins; now administrator at St. Helena in Fort Morgan and its quasi parish, St. Francis of Assisi in Weldona.
“(My parish is) facing very different circumstances than when I was in Fort Collins—there, the campaign was absolutely fantastic, and we raised more than $1 million. Now I’m in two very small towns in very small parishes with limited resources.
“We know God knows all our needs and therefore, he will fulfill them, so we must proceed by faith. Otherwise, why are we here? The purpose of a seminary is to create men of God, that is, men of faith. ... We face major financial needs in our two parishes, but we also have a unique opportunity to build two houses—the house of God at the seminary by supporting the future men who will give their lives in the service of the Church of northern Colorado, and the physical house of God here in Fort Morgan and Weldona by remodeling the Church, and thus bringing glory to God.”
Diana and Wayne Murdy
Co-chairs of A New Harvest campaign; parishioners at Church of the Risen Christ in Denver.
“The pilot and Bloc 1 parishes have clearly been generous, and the A New Harvest campaign is going very well. Diana and I were commenting today that the progress of the campaign shows the love the people of the archdiocese have for their priests.
“The pastors, along with the assistance of their parish volunteers, are really carrying this campaign. They are taking the message to the people, and the people have responded, as shown by the results to date. It demonstrates the community’s love for the Church and the affection and respect they have for their pastors, priests and the seminarians of the archdiocese.
“The seminaries have been around long enough that parishioners can see the results for themselves—they see newly ordained priests who are spiritual, well-prepared and on fire for their faith. Any parish that has been lucky enough to welcome one of these newly ordained priests knows their presence can be electric.”
Msgr. Bernard Schmitz
Vicar for Clergy, Archdiocese of Denver, Pastor, Mother of God in Denver.
“The results so far show that people have a great love for their priests, and they also recognize the physical needs of buildings—when you tell people how old the buildings are, how much is in need of repair, the state of the heating system—that resonates with people. They understand that because they have homes themselves.
“Plus, the endowment makes perfectly good sense because people are looking at the future for their kids, and their kids’ kids. For the future of the Church, this is a very good thing.
It also says that people are pleased in general with the service they are getting from the seminary and from their new priests. … I have been somewhat overwhelmed by my own parish, which went way over its goal. People responded with tremendous generosity to this campaign, despite the economic hardships today. Clearly, we are being guided by the Spirit.”
Father Ryan O’Neill
Ordained in 2012. Attended St. John Vianney. Parochial vicar to St. Anne in Grand Lake and its quasi parishes: Our Lady of the Snow in Granby and St. Bernard of Montjoux in Winter Park; and St. Peter in Kremmling and its quasi parish, St. Ignatius in Walden.
“Since moving to the mountains I’ve seen a real awakening of faith in the hearts of parishioners. …They see new priests like me come to their tiny little parish, priests who have had had good formation and are able to preach the word to them. … As for the success of the campaign so far, and as a recent seminarian, it’s really nice to have that affirmation from the people. It’s a sign of their love for me, that they love where I came from, and where I am going.”
Father Terry Kissell
Pastor, St. Michael the Archangel, Aurora, which participated in Bloc 1 of the campaign.
“When I saw that our goal was $840,000, my jaw kind of dropped. Our parish needs more space and eventually we want to begin a capital campaign of our own. This kind of derailed our plans, because you can’t dip into the well twice.
“But here’s what surprised me—we ended up with pledges of $1.2 million, which was well over our goal. It says to me that people are very responsive to the value of education of their priests, and they want well-trained, holy men to serve them. I think that says a lot about the people and their ongoing hunger for holiness and for a life of faith.
“This was an affirmation of the priesthood. It’s heartwarming and encouraging. … It is encouraging that people still hunger for a life of faith nurtured through the sacraments and that they appreciate the impact priests have had on their lives. I also want to say that we had many good volunteers who helped with the phones and made individual contacts with people, so the response was very affirming of the volunteers as well.”
Smokey and Debbi Mortus
Volunteer secretary/treasurers for A New Harvest campaign at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn. Their son, Cody, is a first-year seminarian.
“People were very enthusiastic when we met with them asking for their support, and they understood the reasons for the campaign with very few explanations.
“Many people were impressed with how many other dioceses send their men to us. Smokey and I were able to explain that not every diocese is blessed with a seminary, and that this archdiocese and its seminaries have a strong reputation in both faith and academics.
As for being parents of a seminarian—we began working with the A New Harvest campaign before our son, Cody, fully shared his decision to enter the seminary, so that was a side bonus. But after he entered, it has been such a blessing to see these young men and how they are living their call—they are personable and real and they lead by example. Their reverence when they hear Mass and the way they carry themselves and their knowledge of the Church is remarkable. These are our future priests! We know this is a campaign where the money will be put to excellent use.”