How does the Church respond to a Pandemic?

Other questions no one expected in 2020…

“How do we best ‘social distance’ during confession?”

“Are parishes eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program?”

“If there’s no donation basket for 3 months, will our parish go bankrupt?”

…that demanded immediate answers.

The Mayhem of March

In less than a month, public health officials went from telling Coloradans that their risk was extremely low, to shutting down the entire state. The information, government orders, and public health advice was changing daily as our understanding of this new coronavirus continued to evolve. 

March 1

There were no known cases of Coronavirus in Colorado.

March 5

There were two.

March 10

The governor had declared a state of emergency.

March 26

Colorado was under a state-wide Stay-at-Home Order.

Stronger Together

Looking back, it’s clear that no one – including health experts and elected officials – really understood fully what we were up against. Difficult decisions had to be made, which created situations no one could be completely prepared for.

But the strength of our Archdiocese has shown through during these dark times. By working together, our parishes and schools were able to focus on serving their communities, while the offices of the Archdiocese provided an unprecedented level of resources, guidance and support to navigate all of the issues of maintaining operations during a pandemic.

Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Rodriguez

  • Ordained five men to the priesthood on May 16th
  • Livestreamed weekly Masses in English and Spanish
  • Led Novena to Our Lady of Monte Berico, intercessor and protector in moments of plague)
  • Led Novena to Our Lady of Fatima concluding with a special livestream Mass (Archbishop Aquila), and prayer service (Bishop Rodriguez) on May 13th
  • Produced numerous videos with prayers, messages and greetings for multiple groups and the entire archdiocese.

Denver Parish Connect
Prepared Us For A Pandemic

In 2016, the Archdiocese launched Denver Parish Connect, an online resource for parishes that provides support for all areas of running a parish.  

Over the last few years, we’ve built up our individual and collective communication channels that proved to be invaluable when important information had to be shared quickly and widely. And we established a team of experts our parishes can rely on for help. 

So instead of every parish having to navigate uncharted territory on its own, we did it all together.  

Archdiocese Areas of Expertise

A diverse team of professionals within the Curia helped our archdiocese, parishes, and schools respond to the crisis in many ways. A few highlights:

  • The Office of Parish Finance helped nearly 90 parishes successfully access the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans.
  • The Office of Human Resources helped parishes navigate payroll and benefits issues while most employees were forced to work from home.
  • The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministry brought parish ministry leaders together to share and develop best practices for online ministry.
  • The Office of Catholic Schools quickly moved to online classrooms for our students, redeveloping curriculums to meet the needs of students and parents.
  • The Office of Child and Youth Protection continued leading training online, ensuring that our high standard of safety is maintained now and into the future.
  • Centro San Juan Diego continued providing education and assistance to the Hispanic community, launching a support group for new mothers and serving over 500 people since mid-March.
  • The Office of Communications, Marketing, and Services quickly built a coronavirus web page that was constantly updated with the latest information and other helpful resources. Archdiocese of Denver web servers recorded millions of pageviews throughout the pandemic.
  • The Office of the Vicar for Clergy and the Office of Liturgy provided detailed liturgical and sacramental guidance in a situation that seemed tailor-made to disrupt public gatherings (Mass) and physically close interactions (sacraments).
  • The Office of Development contacted every parish to provide guidance and tips necessary to weather the storm, and worked with Seeds of Hope to launch the Catholic School Emergency Relief Fund.

Archdiocese Areas of Collaboration

  • March 18-21 sent a 4-part series of communications with detailed guidance during the first week after public Masses were suspended.
  • Topics included Finance, HR, Sacraments, and General Operations.
  • April 1 Zoom Call with 350+ priests, deacons, and parish administrators.
  • Staff from multiple offices personally reached out to every single parish to find out how we could better support them.

Orchestrated the following Special Events and Projects:

Virtual Town Hall

The Archdiocese hosted a virtual Town Hall call for nearly 20,000 people, with Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and former CDC virologist, Deacon Robert Lanciotti. 

Denver Catholic Easter Magazine

A magazine full of inspiring and hopeful content mailed to 84,000 homes. 

Livestream / YouTube Masses

Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Rodriguez have livestreamed Sunday Masses and other special Masses throughout the pandemic.

A pre-recorded Sunday Mass from the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception has become one of the most-watched Masses each week on YouTube, now nearing 100,000 views per week from around the world.

Training and tips on how to livestream Mass and other events were provided to parishes and Archdiocesan entities. They streamed retreats, Stations of the Cross, reflections, and trainings. At last count, 63 Archdiocese of Denver parishes were providing Mass online for their parishioners – many of them daily!

Emergency Support Campaigns

The Development Office assisted Seeds of Hope and the Office of Catholic Schools with a Catholic School Emergency Relief Fund to support at-home learning for students. 

The #PasstheBasket fundraising campaign reminded parishioners to directly support their parishes, even in the absence of public Mass. 

Both campaigns were successful, allowing our schools and parishes to continue focusing on their primary mission – rather than worry about insolvency or whether they’d be able to reopen ever again. 

Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal
Parish Relief Fund

The first $1 million raised by the Appeal is being reinvested directly into our parishes. At the outset, every parish received an equal amount. Additionally, parishes have been invited to apply for an extra grant – to either mitigate an especially serious hardship or to continue with special projects that have proved to be fruitful during this pandemic.

Thanks to you,

The Archdiocese Remains Strong

We’ve seen and heard reports from dioceses devastated by the financial impact of the virus.  However, the Archdiocese of Denver remains strong thanks to our dedicated donors and significant operational improvements in recent years.  Relationships between curial offices, ministries, and our parishes and parishioners have never been better.  And as a result, our communications systems and ability to work together as a team has enabled us to respond to this developing crisis quickly and effectively, without losing sight of our most important mission: to make disciples of all nations.