Ministries keep spirit of St. Vincent de Paul alive in Denver Archdiocese
By Julie Filby
Photo by Julie Filby/DCR
The Vincentian spirit of bringing God to the poor has a long history in the Archdiocese of Denver.
The Congregation of the Mission order first arrived in Denver in 1903, and established St. Thomas Seminary, which they operated until its closing in 1995. Though the Vincentian priests and brothers no longer have an institutional presence in the archdiocese, the charism of their founder, St. Vincent de Paul, continues through the ministries of nearly 1,000 laity, religious women and clergy.
Those ministries include the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, associates of the Sisters of Charity, some 30 parish-based conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Ladies of Charity, Colorado Vincentian Volunteers and the Center for Spirituality at Work. There are four Vincentian priests in the archdiocese: Father Tom Nelson, Father Paul Golden, Father Richard Ryan and Father Larry Christensen; and one religious brother, Joseph Hess.
Recently the Center for Spirituality at Work and the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers were recognized by superior general of the Congregation of the Mission and Daughters of Charity, Vincentian Father Gregory Gay, visiting Denver from Rome, as official new affiliates of the Western Province.
At 4 p.m. Jan. 31, more than 100 people gathered at Most Precious Blood Church in Denver for evening vespers with Father Gay and Vincentian Father Perry Henry, provincial. There they honored and celebrated the affiliates’ respective founders: Vie and Rick Thorgren, and Mary Frances and Bill Jaster.
The Center for Spirituality at Work, founded by the Thorgrens in 1996, is a network of some 200 volunteers who teach and mentor women incarcerated at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, assist the women with successful re-entry into the community, provide spiritual direction programs and formation for spiritual directors, and offer spirituality workshops to businesses and other organizations.
“(The Vincentian spirit) is a deep commitment to living in solidarity with people who are in material poverty or live on the margins,” explained Vie Thorgren.
St. Vincent de Paul encouraged bringing the poor into relationship with those who are “comfortable,” believing that each has something to give, Thorgren said.
“There’s a mutual transformation that happens and that’s totally what we’re about,” she said.
Colorado Vincentian Volunteers, established by the Jasters in 1994, are a group of men and women, age 22 to 30, who live together for one year while working full time at nonprofit and charitable organizations. Since opening a second community home in 2011, they increased their number of volunteers that serve local agencies from 12 to 20.
“You have chosen to walk alongside us,” said Father Henry of the Thorgrens and Jasters during his homily. “You embraced this charism a long time ago. Once you’ve gotten to know Vincent, who he is ... your life has been changed forever.
“We’re very happy to welcome you ... very thankful, very happy.”