Tag Archives: Denver Chapter

A Life cut Short

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.


Dr. Tim Gray, Denver Chapter

Dr. Tim Gray is a busy man. He leads the Augustine Institute, a Denver-based organization offering a master’s program in sacred scripture, evangelization and catechesis. He’s also a professor at Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, a member of the Napa Institute board of directors, and a working author. Gray, 47, and other Catholic leaders developed the Augustine Institute to train Catholics in theology and leadership for the New Evangelization, as well as to create catechetical tools, leadership formation resources and youth ministry programs for parishes and dioceses. Gray spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

fiveminutes-grayHow is the Augustine Institute doing?

We are growing every year. We just acquired Lighthouse Catholic Media so that we could bring together our content generation and their distribution channels in a closer strategic way to reach more souls for Christ. We have over 376 students this semester, and we just had an incoming class of 88 new students, which is our largest incoming class ever.

To what do you attribute the increased enrollment and interest?

We have a phenomenal faculty that is interested in the Catholic faith and knows it deeply, but they’re also interested in engaging the culture. That’s what is unique and why people are drawn to us. They love that we have a devotion to scripture and the theology and tradition of the Church. They love our orthodoxy, but they also love that we want to understand postmodernism and how to engage it.

Why is the institute named for St. Augustine?

The first thing is: Here’s a man who is deeply embedded in the world of his day — and in the culture of ancient Rome. We live in a modern, sophisticated and oftentimes pagan culture, and how do we, like Augustine, come to personal conversion?

He was also a master of rhetoric, using his finely honed communication skills to communicate the Gospel. We’re trying to teach our students how to communicate the faith in a compelling, winsome way.

Augustine also wanted to engage the worldview of Roman paganism. In The City of God, he tells of this conflicting worldview between the city of man and the city of God, and that’s really what we try to train ourselves and our students to do, to understand a biblical Catholic worldview but also to understand the underpinnings of the postmodern culture worldview so we can engage it effectively.

How do you find time to juggle all your responsibilities?

I gave up TV a long time ago. The great thing about the Augustine Institute is we built it with a great team, and so I don’t have to do everything. I’ve got a team of people who are more capable than I am.

I love to read. I love hiking, fishing, backpacking, skiing. That’s the great thing about living in Colorado. I also love listening to classical music. I love the theater and the arts.

How did you come to be involved with Legatus?

I started speaking at Legatus chapters about 10 years ago, and the Denver Legatus chapter was such a terrific, dynamic chapter. They kept asking me to join. Once the Augustine Institute grew large enough that I could become a member, I did.

I’m a huge fan of Legatus because through Legatus, my wife and I have met some of our very best friends. The most important thing for us as Christians today is to live our faith. To do that well, we need to have models and a community, and Legatus is one of the most unique organizations in that it allows both those things to happen.

Great books in the great outdoors

cover-sept15Wyoming Catholic College marks 10 years of forming extraordinary leaders

To say there’s something unique about Wyoming Catholic College may be a bit of an understatement.

Founded 10 years ago, this faithful Catholic college is turning hearts and minds to Lander, Wyo. — literally the middle of “God’s Country” — on the southeast edge of the majestic Wind River Mountain Range.

“There has been a lot of excitement about Wyoming Catholic College,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society. “It’s an absolutely wonderful institution which has focused on the classical approach to higher education.”

Learning leadership

Wyoming Catholic College’s objective is to offer a world-class, traditional liberal arts education in a holistic way: mind, body and spirit. The college’s approach is truly unique. All freshmen begin their studies by going on a three-week leadership camping trip.

Anthony Vercio

Anthony Vercio

“Learning leadership in the outdoors is ideal,” said Anthony Vercio, a WCC senior from Virginia. “In the back country, the consequences of your decisions can be seen so much more clearly. You really get to know yourself — your strengths and weaknesses.”

While some colleges offer voluntary three-to eight-day camping trips, no other U.S. college has a mandatory 21-day camping trip for freshmen, which incorporates leadership training as well as Catholic spirituality.

In August, the college welcomed its largest-ever freshman class of 58 students, bringing its student body to 150 students. Each of those freshmen will complete four camping trips in their first year. Upper-class students are required to go on at least two weeklong camping trips per year. The spiritual aspect of these trips sets WCC apart.

“We get to know ourselves as sons and daughters of God in relationship with other people,” Vercio explained. “It transformed the way I looked at the world.”

Every WCC freshman is also required to take a one-year course in horsemanship — learning to ride and care for horses.

Vercio said working with horses is a great lesson in humility. “It’s sometimes difficult to work with a horse,” he said. “You learn how to lead others to do what you would like. You have to learn to work with them with understanding.”

Unmistakably Catholic

Legate Kevin Roberts poses with his wife Michelle and their four children (Kristy Cardinal)

Legate Kevin Roberts poses with his wife Michelle and their four children (Kristy Cardinal)

WCC’s curriculum builds on itself over four years. The classes are chronologically organized as well as integrated among themselves. All students read the Great Books of Western Civilization. They take classes in history, imaginative literature, writing, reasoning, oratory, Latin, art history, music, mathematics, natural science, philosophy, theology, spirituality, outdoor leadership, and horsemanship.

“We integrate everything we do,” said Dr. Kevin Roberts, a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter who has served as WCC president since 2013. “Every student takes the same set of classes, so they can have the same foundation for great conversations. This is what we call the ‘cultivation of wonderment.’”

Judy Barrett, a WCC board member and a member of Legatus’ Napa Valley Chapter, sees real value in this kind of education.

“Many people don’t understand the value of a liberal arts program,” said Barrett. “Somewhere along the way we became results-oriented as a country. But many employers don’t want someone who comes from a specific background. They want someone who has the capacity to think. A liberal arts program prepares students for everything.”

wyomingcollege-featureReilly, from the Cardinal Newman Society, has been following WCC’s growth for years.

“The reality is that a student who gets a strong liberal arts degree tends to do better as their career progresses,” he said. “They have thinking and communication skills, which aren’t common. It usually pays off.”

WCC is unmistakably Catholic with a predominance of Benedictine and Carmelite spirituality. There are daily opportunities for Mass, Confession and Eucharistic adoration. Non-Catholic students are invited to take part in the spiritual formation available on campus.

“We take theology classes all four years here,” said Laura Kaiser, a senior from California. “So you see a development within yourself each year. Each year that passes, you move on to another level of the spiritual life.”

All WCC faculty make a public profession of the faith and oath of fidelity at the beginning of each academic year. Non-Catholic faculty make a pledge of respect to the Catholic Church and her teaching authority.

National reputation

Judy Barrett

Judy Barrett

Established in 2005, WCC opened its doors to 34 freshmen in 2007. The school is on a roll with its largest class ever this fall and, despite its relatively small size, WCC is drawing interest from across the country.

“One of the things that excites me is that WCC is developing a national reputation,” Barrett explained. “Students come from everywhere — and it has been this way since the beginning.”

The college’s graduates have taken diverse career paths. The most common has been teaching in Catholic or charter schools. Some have gone on to work in Catholic/Christian ministries, enrolled in graduate school or entered the religious life. Others have started businesses.

“We have one student who is getting a Masters in engineering,” said Roberts. “One is going to law school. One graduate is the press secretary for the lone member of Congress from Wyoming.”

WCC’s campus is in downtown Lander, a west-central Wyoming city of 7,500. Although its campus isn’t considered permanent, Roberts says the college will stay in Lander instead of moving (as originally planned) outside the city to Broken Anvil Ranch, a 600-acre property owned by the college.

Laura Keiser

Laura Keiser

The school is moving toward full accreditation. One year ago, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) granted WCC “candidacy” status, which means the college’s credits are now accepted at other colleges and graduate school programs.

Candidacy status also qualified WCC to receive federal grants and student loans. However, because of the political climate, WCC’s board decided unanimously to forego all federal funds.

“Even student loans carry some strings for participating colleges, and there is real concern that regulators have been trying to push policies regarding sexual activity and transgender students that conflict with Catholic teaching,” Reilly explained. “So if a Catholic college can do well without federal aid, it’s a great way to safeguard Catholic identity.”

Roberts said WCC will never compromise its Catholic identity.

“One thing is for sure, we will never sign anything that will cause us to go against our beliefs,” he said.

In its 10th year of operation, Wyoming Catholic College continues to form students as bold and joyful witnesses in the public square.

“If you’re looking to be pushed to grow in mind, body and spirit, this is the place to be,” Kaiser said. “WCC pushes you outside your comfort zone. You are allowed to grow more than you ever thought possible — and this growth is towards God.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

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The optimal Legatus experience

Want to know how can your chapter experience go beyond the usual? Check this out . . .

Joseph J. Janiczek

Joseph J. Janiczek

Legatus’ Denver Chapter just marked its 10th anniversary, and members here had a lot of success to celebrate. Over the past decade, Denver has grown from a founding group of about 20 CEO members to a thriving community of 65 executives — the largest Legatus chapter in the country.

Growth and success raise questions like, “What are they doing right, and what can we learn from them?” I have been personally involved in two efforts to answer these questions. Last year, I led Legatus’ Board of Governors in a two-day retreat to zero in on the best practices of great chapters across the country. More recently, I worked with Denver Chapter member Terry Combs to hold a conference where all members were invited to discuss what the chapter was doing well and how we could build on that. The feedback from both events provides a road map that any chapter should find useful in striving to reach its full potential.

“Full potential,” in this case, means making Legatus a more powerful tool to do God’s will. True success in Legatus is measured by more than the number of chapters or members. Success flows from helping all members to deepen their Catholic faith and grow spiritually — and to see how this growth results in stronger families, friendships and businesses. When chapters keep a clear focus on spiritual growth, they flourish. When members receive what they need most, they naturally turn into ambassadors for Legatus.

So how exactly do Denver and other great chapters put these concepts into practice? We’ve identified several key traits they have in common:

Meeting members where they are spiritually

Legates are at different points in their lifelong spiritual journey. They may have a profoundly deep faith life, or they may be just beginning to move their faith more into the center of their lives. It’s important to meet members where they are spiritually — and to humbly but decisively help them to grow through support and mentorship. The key word here is humbly. Chapter leaders must guard against any inclination toward spiritual pride as Christ warned against in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. There is no spiritual pecking order in Legatus. We don’t judge where members are in their journey; we help them to grow in love for Christ and fidelity to the teachings of his Church.

Enhancing the Legatus experience

All members are acquainted with Legatus’ core format — a monthly meeting offering the rosary, Confession, Mass, time to socialize, dinner and a speaker. But just as there’s more to being Catholic than going to Mass on Sunday, this core format is the starting point, not the end point, of the full Legatus experience. In Denver, for example, we’ve enhanced the monthly meeting with features like:

BYOP (Bring Your Own Priest), which gives members a way to thank their priests  and grow closer to them as well.

Seminarian Guest of the Month, which introduces seminarians to Legatus and allows them to provide a brief overview of their faith journey.

Member Testimonials, which encourages people to share their own personal spiritual insights and faith experiences.

Activities between meetings are also vital in making a chapter a real community. Great chapters make great use of Legatus Forums — small subgroups of members who help each other to apply their faith to life’s challenges and opportunities. Denver has also been fortunate to have a Bible study class led by the well-known Catholic writer and president of the Augustine Institute, Dr. Tim Gray. On top of these spiritual growth experiences, we have our share of social activities between monthly Legatus meetings. In short, these events build strong relationships, and they are further enhanced by member participation in their parishes, Catholic schools and Catholic charities.

Creating missionaries for Legatus

There’s a business model that underscores the value of attending to people’s needs. When you customize a product, it becomes a service; a customized service becomes an experience; and a customized experience becomes a transformation. Great chapters reach this level of transformation by helping members to experience better marriages, families, friendships and careers.

In doing so, they also move members up the commitment ladder from “I’ll try it” to “I’ll renew” to “loyal member” to “missionary member.” Missionary members drive the chapter’s success and growth by being totally engaged and co-creating an ever better Legatus experience.

Legatus’ Board of Governors encourages each chapter to focus on enhancing the Legatus experience for its members. Pick one or two experience enhancements that build relationships and strengthen each other’s faith, and your chapter will flourish.

Joseph J. Janiczek is founder and CEO of Janiczek & Company, Ltd., an investment and wealth management company. He is a member of Legatus’ Board of Governors and past president of the Denver Chapter.