Denver’s new administrator draws courage from Pope Benedict

By Benjamin Mann

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2011 / 05:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop James D. Conley, the interim leader of Denver Catholics after the departure of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, says the Pope’s words at World Youth Day 2011 have given him confidence in a time of change.

Bishop James Conley

“Three weeks ago, I prayed with more than a million and a half fellow Catholics in a field outside Madrid, led by Pope Benedict XVI,” Bishop Conley recalled in a column for the Sept. 14 edition of the Denver Catholic Register. A thunderstorm descended on the outdoor World Youth Day vigil, prompting the Pope to speak words that Bishop Conley said “might have been spoken directly to the Archdiocese of Denver.”

“’Dear friends,’ he told us, ‘may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.’”

“His words that night were apropos,” wrote Bishop Conley, who was Archbishop Chaput’s auxiliary for three years and became administrator with his departure for Philadelphia. “For 14 years, we have been graced with the fine leadership of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. For many of us, he has been a friend, a pastor, a mentor and a spiritual father.”

Without Archbishop Chaput’s leadership, he noted, local Catholics “might be uneasy about the world, the future, or our own weaknesses … We might be anxious about the future of our Church, or wonder what kind of leader we will have.”

But Bishop Conley stressed that believers should focus on the tasks that lie before them, entrusting the future to God.

“The newly Blessed John Henry Newman, reflected once that ‘the power of Christianity is in its present,’” Bishop Conley wrote, quoting the English cardinal whose writings have also inspired Pope Benedict XVI. “This is true for us here and now.”

“Our task is not to wait idly for the appointment of a new archbishop of Denver,” he continued. “Jesus Christ has chosen us to continue the many good things which have already begun in the Archdiocese  … God has called us to use our creativity, and fidelity, and enthusiasm, for the fullness of his Kingdom.”

Bishop Conley also confirmed that “Catholic life in the Archdiocese of Denver is flourishing … and the future looks good,” with its two seminaries preparing a large number of new priests, and new churches slated for construction or consecration.

“This is due in no small part to the pastoral leadership and apostolic zeal of Archbishop Chaput. And for this we are eternally grateful to him and we send him off to Philadelphia with our love, affection and steadfast prayers.”

“I have big shoes to fill,” wrote Bishop Conley, who will take on leadership duties until Pope Benedict appoints a new archbishop. “Please pray for me.”