Our Lady of Visitation parishioners appeal to the highest Vatican court
Our Lady of Visitation (OLV), a 70-year old local Catholic Church, was abruptly closed by Archbishop Samuel Aquila in April of 2017. Though the church was well-funded and enthusiastically supported by generations of Latino families, Archbishop Aquila closed it, ignoring pleas for dialogue from OLV parishioners.
Heartbroken members of OLV formed the non-profit Goat Hill Catholic Society vowing to take every measure necessary to re-open their church.
A petition was made to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, the governing body of Catholic Churches worldwide, on November 20, 2017. The petition cited OLV’s strong finances, vibrant Latino community and the willingness of retired area priests to celebrate its single weekly mass.
After 11 months, the Congregation for the Clergy decreed that Archbishop Aquila violated church law in eliminating all masses at OLV. The decree orders at least two masses per year be reinstated for parishioners, one on the anniversary of OLV’s dedication (Christmas Eve) and a second on the feast of its patron saint. It also directs the Archdiocese to permit entry to the church for private devotions.
“We were thrilled with this decision” says Sandra Garcia, whose family has worshiped at OLV for two generations. “We thought this meant at least two masses would be said at our historic church, beginning this Christmas and on our anniversary. But once again our efforts to communicate with Archbishop Aquila have been ignored. We have sent registered letters asking for the masses to begin, but to no avail.”
The Archdiocese refuses to engage with OLV representatives regarding the scheduling of masses, the granting of access to the church, and an accounting of monies seized at the time of OLV’s closure.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese claimed--falsely--that the Vatican “upheld the Archdiocese of Denver’s decision. This erroneous statement has compelled congregants to bring their story to public attention now, and has confirmed our decision to take our case to Rome again--this time in the form of a formal appeal to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura,” stated Garcia.
OLV parishioners are demanding that the Archbishop acknowledge the improper closure and that the church be reopened for public masses and private devotions as required by the Congregation for Clergy October 2018 Decree.
OLV had its most humble beginnings in two Denver Street Cars and grew over the past eight decades “one burrito at a time” as church members like to say. OLV sits on land donated by Benito Garcia in 1950 expressly for use for a church to serve the surrounding Latino Community.