Colorado Bishop Leads the Way for Good Amidst the Flames

Thomas Griffin 1/11/22

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Much is on fire in our country and in the Church. There is much to be restored and repaired amidst the flames, but sometimes leaders in both politics and religion can be stumped when faced with decisions about how they can practically help a situation. Recently, a bishop highlighted a prompt, compassionate and needed response that shines light on the path for those seeking to do good as well. 

At the end of this calendar year Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver announced an initiative to give aid to those in his diocese who are experiencing hardship due to the large number of forest fires. The Marshall Fire Recovery Assistance Fund was created to directly help those who were impacted by the devastating fires in recent days in Colorado. The archbishop has continued to be a beacon among the Catholic leadership in America for combining decisive action with great compassion for those in need.

On December 30th, a power line fell and made direct contact with the ground which sparked a fire that spread rapidly due to a tremendous drought and winds that gusted over 100 miles per hour. Over 1,000 homes were destroyed and the fire is being reported as the most devastating in the entire state’s history. As winds died down and temperatures diminished, the fire also quieted on December 31st. 

As one year wrapped up and another year began, Denver Catholics were being asked to put their Christmas tidings of good-will to proper use. In a December 31st statement the archbishop noted that “The wildfires that suddenly started yesterday and spread through more than 6,000 acres of the northwest metro Denver towns of Superior and Louisville have shocked everyone. Hundreds of people, including parishioners of St. Louis, Sacred Heart of Mary and Immaculate Conception have lost their homes and need our support.”

Suddenness can often lead people to be speechless and inactive. Christians and Americans for that matter can often be at their best when there is a need that catches us off guard. Aquila’s swift response is a perfect example of how our country and our Church ought to respond to perilous circumstances. He acted right away and he implored all able-bodied people to give according to their means and situation. Some can give with their wallets and some can give with their volunteer action. 

The monetary offerings of Denver Catholic’s from the weekend contributed to the effort. The money generously given would go directly to fire relief. “Donations from this collection will be put into a special fund that will be distributed through parishes in the affected region,” said Aquila. While there are no reports, as of yet, regarding the amount raised over the weekend it is sure to be a great start to funding this great effort. 

The bishop also noted that “Thanks to the generosity of the faithful to this year’s Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal, the archdiocese will be contributing $250,000 to the fund.” The Catholic Appeal is the yearly endeavor by a diocese to raise funds for their operations and charitable efforts for the upcoming year. It is a major testament to the generosity of Denver Catholics and the organization of the archbishop that they could contribute such a large offering at a moment’s notice. 

Along with helping others through financial motives the Archbishop Aquila also asked that “our parishes and entities help in whatever ways they can, including hosting those who are displaced, opening food pantries and engaging Knights of Columbus councils for volunteers.” He called upon parishes and parishioners to make their parishes, and maybe even their houses, into shelters for those who had lost their own homes. 

This tragedy occurring so close to Christmas makes the line from Scripture tremendously practical: “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).  Mary and Joseph had plans for the birth of their son, but circumstances changed when the time arrived. For those who have lost their homes unexpectedly, they are also found in a place that they did not plan. Unlike the Holy Family, who were not taken in on that holy night, Colorodians are being asked to ensure that no one goes without shelter and warmth during these days. 

The archbishop was extremely thankful that there was no reported loss of life (as of this writing) and he applauded first responders for this feat. “We are especially grateful that it appears no one has died in this fire, which is a testament to the quick action taken by our first responders to the fire and the threat to life and property.” These men and women are the heroes of our time who are willing to place themselves in harm’s way so that others can live. Yet another connection to the Christian story. 

There are situations in our communities, parishes and families that can only be fixed by us. While we must look to leadership to repair fires that are outside of our control, we must always be searching for ways that we are being called upon to be like those first responders. There are countless ways for each one of us to bring the flame of Christ’s light and love to a desperate situation that is close to home. 

As 2022 begins may we all help where we can and respond to crises with swift action and decisive hearts, like Archbishop Aquila. There is much good that still needs to be done, but the opportunity to give of ourselves is for the taking.

Thomas Griffin teaches at a Catholic high school on Long Island and lives with his wife and son. He writes for several Catholic media outlets.

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