In 1600 France, St. Vincent DePaul was a man ahead of his time. When missionaries were evangelizing in countries far and wide, St. Vincent DePaul recognized our need to be evangelized by the poor. His was a ministry of mutuality.

As St. Vincent realized his two-fold mission of responding to the needs of the poor and the formation of priests, so, too, has the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Brothers and Priests) actualized that same mission here in Denver. The Vincentians first came to the Archdiocese of Denver in 1908, beginning their ministry at St. Thomas Seminary when the first seminarians arrived for formation as priests.

Last fall we said goodbye to two Vincentians who have served in the Archdiocese of Denver since 1977 and are retiring to the Apostles of Charity Residence in Perryville, MO, and the Lazarist Residence in St. Louis, MO.

Fr. Paul Golden, C.M., (left) came to Denver in 1977 as Rector of Saint Thomas Seminary (1977 to 1985). It was at this time that the Vincentians chose St. Thomas Seminary as the center of theological and pastoral studies for the Vincentian seminarians from their three provinces in the South, Midwest, and West. After St. Thomas Seminary, Fr. Paul went on to work as Senior Executive for University Mission at DePaul University in Chicago and as President of Niagara University (1995-1999). He returned to Denver in 1999 as a Canonical Advocate in cases involving priests and religious accused of misconduct. In this confidential capacity, only those he served will ever fully know how he blended the pursuit of truth, justice, mercy, and compassion in the role of advocate. Fr. Paul left Denver in November.

Brother Joe Hesse, C.M., (right) also served at St. Thomas Seminary as Treasurer from 1982 to 1992. For 17 years, he was the Treasurer of the Vincentian Community. Since his return to Denver in 2003, he has been involved in hospital ministry at Rose Memorial and has delivered meals through Meals-on-Wheels and Project Angel Heart. Br. Joe left Denver in January.

This is the end of an era, the end of the Vincentians’ physical presence here, the end of their mission in Denver.

The Vincentians first came to the Archdiocese of Denver in 1907 and opened St. Thomas Seminary in cooperation with Bishop Nicholas Matz, the Bishop of Denver, to provide priestly formation for both diocesan and Vincentian seminarians. During these 114 years, the Vincentians have formed men as priests (more than 1,100 ordinations for Denver and other dioceses while they were here), welcomed the laity into ministry, served in parishes, and served those living in poverty with such passion and integrity that their presence and the presence of the Vincentian charism remain with us here in Colorado. It remains in the deeply rooted values of service that we find in parishes in Burlington, Leadville, Limon, Cheyenne Wells, Pueblo, Rocky Ford, La Junta, Las Animas, and Walsenburg, as well as Denver’s Most Precious Blood Parish (which the Vincentians began in 1952) and Holy Ghost and St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

The charism remains in the ministry to women in prison and through the ongoing spiritual care that is central to Restoring Connections ( It remains in the lives of young people who continue to serve those living in poverty in nonprofit organizations through Colorado Vincentian Volunteers ( It remains in the Sisters of Charity through education and health care. It remains in the ongoing work of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul ( with parish-based conferences throughout Colorado. It remains in the soup kitchens that serve those who live on the streets. And it remains in the lives of the priests who received their theological and spiritual formation at St. Thomas Seminary.

Saint Vincent told them and us that when we stay focused on the mission, hearts are touched, lives are changed, and the spirit of that mission lives on in the people who have been involved. As St. Vincent said, “If God is the center of your life, no words are necessary. Your mere presence will touch hearts.” It is impossible to count the number of hearts which have been touched, and continue to be touched, by the Vincentian charism.

St. Vincent DePaul was ahead of his time, not only in response to the needs of those living in poverty, especially in rural France, but also in his collaboration with others. He was deeply connected to the Daughters of Charity, begun by St. Louise de Marillac and St. Vincent, to lay people in his parish church, and to the Ladies of Charity who, not belonging to a religious community, ministered to the poor as lay people. Now, some 400 years later, there is an entire Vincentian family active in countries all over the world. We can be sure that this Vincentian charism and that the family will continue the work of recognizing God in the lives of those who are most in need. The Vincentian charism was initially entrusted to the Congregation of the Mission who served the poor and formed priests in Colorado. Now the mission is entrusted to us. The Vincentian charism of being a bridge between those with innumerable resources and those who lack basic needs is vital in our divided world. The Vincentian charism, which recognizes Christ present in each person, is our call.

The Congregation of the Mission responded to the need for priestly formation in Colorado and the welcome of Bishop Matz in 1907, and its silent witness has given us the inspiration to carry on in the footsteps of Saint Vincent.  Let us respond with faith and love to the needs of those who are living on the margins of society and know the joy in Saint Vincent’s words of “going to the poor, so that we can find God.”

Mary Frances and Bill Jaster are longtime supporters and affiliates of the Congregation of the Mission Western Province and are also founders of Colorado Vincentian Volunteers, an organization that spreads the Vincentian charism to and through volunteers who serve at a variety of nonprofit organizations.