Tag Archives: colorado springs

Colorado chaplain’s common-sense faith

Monsignor Robert Jaeger loves serving Legatus’ Colorado Springs Chapter . . .

Monsignor Robert Jaeger

Monsignor Robert Jaeger

Monsignor Robert Jaeger
Colorado Springs Chapter

Ordained in 1990 at the age of 39, Monsignor Robert Jaeger became a priest after working in the secular world for a decade. He is currently pastor of St. Paul’s Parish in Colorado Springs (where he had served as an associate pastor after ordination) and vicar general and master of ceremonies for the Colorado Springs diocese. Previously, he served as vicar for clergy, pastor of Annunciation and St. Joseph parishes in Leadville, and pastor of St. Peter Parish in Monument.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

Prior to priesthood, I worked 10 years for the State of Nevada in the adult parole and probation department. I had an older brother who was a priest in Illinois and always had a good connection with priests and bishops. They were always very encouraging to me to become a priest. I thought about it for a long time and made some efforts earlier on in life — but not very sincere — attempting to be a priest. Ultimately, I went to seminary at 35 and felt I needed to be honest with God and answer the call on his terms, not mine.

What have you found to be the most fulfilling aspect of your priesthood?

I’m really big into Catholic education. There’s a Catholic school here in my parish. Catholic education is an opportunity to build a strong faith foundation in young people. It’s a great gift and a great way to learn more about your own faith and put it into action every day.

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

Primarily through working for the diocese and through the previous chaplain, Fr. Mark Pranaitis. When he was transferred to Chicago, I said I would volunteer to be the chaplain. There happen to be a lot of people from my parish who belong to Legatus and we keep inviting more and more.

What impact has Legatus had on your diocese?

It has provided the opportunity to get better educated about who the Lord is and what He has done for all of us. It’s bringing a message to business people that it’s OK to be a person of faith — and that they need to bring the message of faith to businesses. It has built a nice little subset community that is actively promoting the faith life through what they do on a day-to-day basis.

You have a vocation, of course. Any avocations?

I enjoy traveling. I’ve been afforded that opportunity through the Church and have gone with the bishop on pilgrimages to Rome. I also play a little golf. I like scramble matches because I’m not a good long-ball driver, but I can chip and putt.

Are there any lessons you’ve learned as a priest that are especially apt for business leaders?

You have to be honest in all relationships and that’s what God asks of all of us. I’m a straight shooter. You can’t say, “I’m a good, strong Catholic only on Sundays.” You have to be a good, strong Catholic every day. I ask people all the time, “How do people know we’re Catholic?” They know by our demeanor, what we say, how we respond to things and how we treat people. I come from a pretty common background and try to make faith as practical as it can be. How do you live that in your business? Does your handshake, your word mean anything? That’s what faith is about.

Are there any devotions you recommend to Legates?

I enjoy praying the rosary and I think that’s very important. I have a devotion to St. Jude. I prayed to him and had others pray to him, too, before I went to seminary.

Cross-country hero

Jason Christensen’s ride for real hope and change did just that for the less fortunate . . .

Jason Christensen

Jason Christensen

It might seem that a 5,000-mile trek across the country is an odd way to raise awareness of poverty in the United States. But Jason Christensen, a member of Legatus’ Colorado Springs Chapter, saw the potential in a cross-country bicycle trip to do just that — and to raise funds to help the poor.

As the former director of Catholic Charities in Colorado Springs, Christensen has spent years working to alleviate poverty. He’s witnessed the tremendous work the Church has done on this front, and Christensen knew he could help.

Man on a mission

“Three years ago Catholic Charities issued a policy paper on poverty in the U.S.,” Christensen explained. “The idea was to cut it in half by 2020. At the time, there were 38 million people living in poverty. Today it’s over 40 million.”

Father Matt Ruhl, a Jesuit from Kansas City, proposed a cross-country bike ride that would showcase the Church’s commitment to the poor while raising funds for Catholic Charities’ Caritas Center of Kansas City. Christensen heard about the ride last May, and the idea touched his heart so he signed on.

“Father Ruhl was frustrated by the media’s portrayal of the Church because of the scandals,” said Christensen. “This would be a way to unify Catholics across the political spectrum.”

The ride coincided with the 100-year anniversary of Catholic Charities in the U.S. The ride — called Cycling for Change — began in Washington state on Memorial Day and concluded in Key West, Fla., on Sept. 4. They finished in 99 days and celebrated with a Mass on the 100th day.

crosscountrymug2Participants rode four to seven hours every day, and rested every seventh day. The core group consisted of 12 riders. Several other cyclists joined the ride for different segments of the country. Altogether, over 400 people participated.

“When Jason came to me with the mission, I was a little hesitant,” said Lenore Christensen, Jason’s wife. “However, I saw the passion in his eyes about helping this cause — to be a voice for those in poverty and to promote the good work of the Church.”

The Christensen family and countless others tracked the riders’ progress online and supported them through prayer.

“Jason needed my strength in prayers — not only for his safety, but also for the 40+ million people living in poverty and for our Church that is trying to do something about it,” she said.

Pilgrims’ journey

It took Kansas City’s Catholic Charities three years to organize Cycling for Change at the national level.

“They created the route and mapped it out. They looked up Catholic Charities organizations along the route, and called to find lodging for the riders,” said Rochelle Schlortt, communications director for Catholic Charities in Colorado Springs.

“We slept in parish basements, family houses, Catholic universities, the occasional motel and outside in sleeping bags,” said Jason.

Riders also participated in service projects along the way. They visited a homeless shelter in Tacoma, Wash., worked at a food bank in Ennis, Mont., and spent time with children at the Centro Hispano Católico in Miami — just to name a few.

Christensen said that daily Mass sustained him during his time on the road.

crosscountrymug1“It was a fabulous, peaceful way to conclude the day,” he said. “And we didn’t always have access to a Church. We went from trailer parks to state parks.”

What made the ride even more of a triumph for Christensen was that he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last year. Because of this condition, Christensen took time off in the middle of the ride to be with family and see his doctor.

Despite the setback, there were a number of high points for Christensen — including his meeting with a man named Lawrence at a Catholic transitional housing facility in Seattle. Lawrence had been sober for six months after living on the streets for 15 years. Now he plans to open his own coffee shop. Christensen said the man’s energy and spunk reminded him of himself.

Another emotional moment was when riders stopped at the Hospitality Center of Catholic Community Services in Tacoma, Wash. A veteran named Robert, who had been homeless for years, thanked the riders. Then he told them he wanted to make a donation. Christensen and the crew were uncomfortable about accepting anything from the veteran, who was clearly not a “man of means.” But Robert insisted — bringing the parable of the widow’s mite to mind.

“When you’re riding 70 to 90 miles a day, you have a lot of time to think,” said Christensen. “There is such amazing beauty in this country, and I’m not just speaking about the Columbia River Gorge. It’s in the love of the people we saw. We met a lot of people who were living on the margins. They have great reason to be downtrodden, yet there is a lot of hope out there.”

Christensen also witnessed how grateful people are when they’re given a little bit of help.

“Our problems are nothing compared to what others encounter every single day of their lives when trapped in poverty,” said Lenore. “I never stopped to think about the magnitude of what the poor encounter every day. Just trying to figure out where to eat, how to pay the bills, how their children could get what they needed — it’s unimaginable.”

Ultimately, Cycling for Change raised $500,000. More than 3.5 million people heard about the ride through media coverage.

“I’ve always believed my discipleship is in solidarity with the poor,” said Jason. “That will always be with me. I believe we honor Christ when we care for the poor.”

Christensen laments the many misconceptions about the poor — misconceptions that melt when one actually engages them. His fellow riders all experienced a real conversion after sitting down and eating with people at soup kitchens.

“All too often we say we’ll take care of the poor by making a contribution,” he said. “Our Holy Father has said that is not enough. We all have to engage in that caritas, that charity.”

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.

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Marian House

Colorado Springs’ river of hope

One of the projects closest to Jason Christensen’s heart is Marian House — the largest soup kitchen in Colorado Springs and a poverty reduction center. Marian House is a part of Catholic Charities, and it benefited from Cycling for Change’s ride through Colorado Springs.

“Everybody who comes to Marian House is fed,” said Christensen, a member of Legatus’ Colorado Springs Chapter and former director of Colorado Springs Catholic Charities. The facility serves hot, nutritious meals for between 600 and 700 people 365 days a year.

If guests want to take part in poverty reduction services, they’re given rights and responsibilities. Marian House helps those who are willing to help themselves, Christensen explained.

A master case manager assesses each guest in 22 different categories, analyzing each person’s housing, education, life skills, mental health, transportation, child care, employment/income and medical health profile. The guest is then rated on a scale from one to 10. They’re reassessed every 30, 60 and 90 days.

“Most people come in under a four,” Christensen said. “We try to move them as high as we can.”

Christensen uses the analogy of a crew team. If one person drops an oar, the entire boat spins around. The same is true of each person’s life. If one of the above categories is not working well, it can push them into poverty.

“We decided to honor the dignity of the whole person and go about helping them in a systematic way,” he explained. “We want to get beyond the stabilization model to self-sufficiency.”

—Sabrina Arena Ferrisi

Colorado Springs charters

Legatus’ newest chapter becomes the second for the Rocky Mountain State . . .

Members of Legatus' Colorado Springs Chapter gather with Bishop Michael Sheridan at their May 4 chartering ceremony

Members of Legatus’ Colorado Springs Chapter gather with Legatus founder Tom Monaghan and Bishop Michael Sheridan at their May 4 chartering ceremony

Legatus’ Colorado Springs Chapter became the state’s second chartered chapter during a ceremony and Mass on May 4 at St. Paul Church. Launched in 2007, the chapter has grown to include 21 business leaders and their spouses. Among them are owners of car dealerships, construction companies and cattle ranches.

Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan celebrated the Mass, together with chapter chaplain Monsignor Bob Jaeger, diocesan vicar general and pastor of St. Paul, and Fr. Larry Brennan, diocesan director of continuing formation.

During his homily, Bishop Sheridan talked about the Gospel reading (Jn 14:27-31), where Christ leaves his peace with his disciples — a peace not from the world but rather a divine peace. He said this distinction is important when discerning Christ’s message of peace in a world full of crime, war and other chaos.

Bishop Sheridan said that peace comes with what St. Augustine calls “tranquility of order.”

“We confront situations that sometimes seem to have no order,” he said. “You know the business world is not always an orderly world. The order we seek is a right order with God. When we live in his grace, practice charity, seek and work for justice, there is serenity, tranquility and peace — even amid some intense sufferings.”

Bishop Sheridan called on members to be agents of peace through charity and justice.

“The fruit if charity is peace. The fruit of the justice of God is peace. That can belong to every one of us, and it can make a difference in the world,” he said. “We ought not to be discouraged that we don’t have this peace Christ offers to us … we do have it. We need to live it and share it with others.”

After Communion, the chapter’s charter officers were presented: Mike Faricy (president), Paul Sprehe (vice president), Greg Papineau (treasurer), Art and Katheleen Nutter (membership chairs) and Randy and Missy Cloud (program chairs).

Each of the chapter’s charter members were then greeted by Faricy, Bishop Sheridan, Monsignor Jaeger and Legatus founder Tom Monaghan — who gave them a Legatus pin and a signed copy of his autobiography, Pizza Tiger.

Dr. Edward Sri

Dr. Edward Sri

After Mass, members transitioned to The Broadmoor Golf Club for dinner. Ted Sri, professor of theology and scripture at Denver’s Augustine Institute, spoke to members on “Praying the Rosary Like Never Before.”

Sri lauded the Legatus members for making the rosary an important part of their mission. He urged them to read Pope John Paul II’s 2002 letter on the rosary, which introduced the Luminous mysteries. He challenged members to persevere when praying the rosary and not to worry about not being focused the entire time. He likened it to a parent who receives a drawing from their child.

“A good intention still gives glory to God,” he said. “Our Father doesn’t see just the scribbles, He sees our heart. Satan wants us to feel discouraged when praying the rosary. He knows how powerful it is.”

The evening came to a close with comments from Monaghan and Legatus’ executive director John Hunt who pointed out the significance of being Legatus’ newest chapter. He recalled visiting the diocese last year to determine whether or not the Colorado Springs group was ready to be chartered.

“I sensed a real enthusiasm for making this happen,” said Hunt, acknowledging Faricy’s efforts as well as the chapter’s two chaplains in its brief history — Monsignor Jaeger and Fr. Mark Pranaitis. “A chartering event is a special time of joy. All of the Legatus chapters are with you tonight.”

Monaghan gave a brief history of Legatus which he said isn’t a project-driven apostolate, but rather offers a unique environment for business leaders to grow in their faith.

“We take people like you, proven leaders in your community who meet the payroll, bring them together and become better Catholics,” he said.

Monaghan said he’s frequently moved by “how some people’s faith are enlivened by being part of Legatus.”

Before Monsignor Jaeger closed the evening with prayer, Faricy reminded the charter members one more time of Legatus’ spiritual mission.

“We’re here to get to heaven and take as many people as we can with us,” he said.

Bill Howard is the Colorado Catholic Herald’s editor. An abridged version of this article appeared in the July/August issue of Legatus Magazine.