He also “vividly” remembers Pope John Paul II's trip to Denver 1993 for World Youth Day, when he served on the committee that helped to put the visit together and assisted as master of ceremonies.
Since Blessed John Paul II's historic visit, the Denver archdiocese has been the launch site for numerous ministries under the banner of the New Evangelization – the late Pope's call for reaching formerly Christian societies with the Gospel.
These include initiatives such as the college campus ministry program FOCUS, the Catholic graduate school the Augustine Institute, and the women's educational organization ENDOW.
“It's been very exciting to see what's happened in terms of the New Evangelization,” the archbishop-designate noted. “I want to continue all of the work that has been done by both my predecessors.”
One area of ministry close to his heart is priestly formation, he said, observing that the Denver archdiocese is “blessed” to have such thriving seminaries.
“I plan on working closely with the priests of the diocese, and with the permanent deacons, and really focusing in on their spiritual life and to continue to build the fraternal relationship among the priests.”
“I am thoroughly convinced that the deeper the intimacy that priests have with the Father, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit -- in living in the communion of love -- the more will they return that love and serve their people better,” he said.
Another mission within the Church that's deeply important to him is pro-life advocacy – an area he is known for in the Fargo diocese.
For the new archbishop, any questions surrounding the issues of abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide all “get back to the basic dignity of the human person.”
“Every human being, each one of us, began at the moment of conception,” he underscored. “There is no human being that has not begun at the moment of conception.”
With that in mind, he said he's been unequivocally supportive of efforts such as the international 40 Days for Life campaign, a peaceful protest initiative that seeks to put an end to abortion.
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“It's a great way to give witness to life, it's a great way to demonstrate prayer, it's peaceful,” he said. “And then there's always the tremendous joy when you know you've saved an unborn child.”
Also high on the priority list for Archbishop-designate Aquila is the local young adult Catholic community, which is among the largest in the U.S.
“I want them to know I love them,” he stated. “I look forward to working with them, to serving them, to bringing Christ to them.”
Archbishop-designate Aquila said he is also passionate about meeting and connecting with Northern Colorado's Latino population, who make up over 50 percent of the area's Catholics.
“I've always had a love” for the Hispanic community, he said.
“I want to certainly continue to support them, to enable them in their faith and their culture, in their family life to continue to strengthen that in Christ and also in their devotional practices.”