Courteney Saeman had everything to look forward to in life – graduation from Colorado State University in May, graduate school, a career in occupational therapy, a family. Those dreams ended when she was called to eternal life as the result of a tragic crash due to a rare ice storm near Fort Collins, CO on February 1st.
Denver Legatus members Craig and Shelly Saeman said they don’t know what they would have done without the overwhelming support of their fellow Legates following the death of their 21-year-old daughter.
“The outpouring of support was shocking to Shelly and I,” expressed Craig. “We never would have imagined 50 people being at our home every day for two weeks, but that’s exactly what we needed because when we were alone we just cried.”
Gifts of meals, support, conversation, Masses
Both Craig and Shelly belong to Legatus Forum groups. Their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ brought them meals, prayed with them, listened to them, supported them, took them to Mass, and had Masses said for Courteney.
“Courteney probably had over 250 Masses that were said and are still being said for her,” said Craig. “Every day we continue to receive texts and phone calls and invitations to lunch from others who tell us they’re continuing to think of us.”
Craig and Shelly blended their families when they married in 2008. Craig brought his daughters Megan and Courteney; Shelly brought her children Shauna, Steven, and Jackie. It was about the same time that they both got involved with Legatus. Craig works as a philanthropic consultant with Excellence in Giving and sits on the finance board at St. Vincent de Paul parish. Shelly works for the Catholic Alliance and serves on the board for Catholic Charities in Denver.
The Denver Legatus Chapter was started by Craig’s father in 2001 and is one of the largest chapters in the country, with approximately 90 couples as members.
Courteney was the baby of the family. She studied health and human services at Colorado State University and was set to graduate in May with honors. She planned to pursue a Ph.D. for a career in occupational therapy.
While returning home from a ranch the family used to own near Fort Collins, she lost control of her Hyundai Elantra on black ice, was struck by an oncoming vehicle and killed. She was among five people who died in northern Colorado as a result of the ice storm.
Fellow Legatus members stepped in immediately to assist the family in many ways. Some of Shelly’s Legatus Forum sisters came to spend time with Courteney’s siblings until their parents could be with them. Two days after Courteney’s death, 11 of Craig’s Forum brothers held a gathering at the Saeman home, where they supported Craig and listened to him share stories of Courteney.
“They immediately jumped in and planned where the funeral would be, they made arrangements with the mortuary and cemetery we were going to use, so that I could breathe,” explained Craig. “Our church wasn’t big enough, so they arranged with Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila to have the funeral at St. Thomas More, which seats 1,400.”
Courteney’s journey home
At the close of Courteney’s funeral, Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila spoke of the recent faith journey that Courteney had been on.
“It is truly wondrous, when one looks through the eyes of faith, what God was doing in Courteney’s life during these last three weeks,” said Bishop Aquila. “The Lord knew what He was doing. There is great hope in faith of the resurrection, and of knowing the Father’s personal love for Courteney. The most beautiful thing of all is that she had an open heart and responded to Him.”
In the three weeks prior to her death, Courteney had attended a FOCUS SEEK Conference with 14,000 other young adults in San Antonio. After the conference, she returned to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after a six-year absence.
“She hadn’t been to Confession since high school,” said her father. “About two years ago, I told her that she was near-perfect, but that she wasn’t strong enough in her faith. She always wanted my acceptance and approval, so after that she began going to Thursday evening Mass with FOCUS, and Sunday evening Mass and began growing in her faith.”
“After SEEK, while coming back on the bus, she and a girlfriend decided to go to Confession when they returned home,” said Craig. “She called me the next day to tell me about it. A FOCUS missionary at CSU said that she told him she felt wonderful.”
The Saturday before Courteney’s passing, she spent time with her parents and others at a Denver Catholic Charities’ Beacon of Hope Gala. Sitting next to Dede Chism, executive director of Denver’s Bella Women’s Center, Courteney told her that she wanted to make a financial donation. Her father said that Courteney also told Chism, “I’ve never felt closer to Christ than I am right now.”
In lieu of flowers, her family requested that donations be made to the Bella Women’s Center and FOCUS.
“Death is not the final word,” said family friend, Fr. Jim Crisman, pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Greeley, CO. “Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Our response is, ‘Yes, Lord I believe, I want to believe, help my unbelief.’”
TIM DRAKE is a Legatus magazine staff writer.