Though she didn’t know it at the time, Vie Thorgren’s first introduction to the Congregation of the Mission was on the night before her First Communion. In a dream, a man showed her to a bridge between some big, fancy houses and a rundown shack. She and the man stood on the bridge.
“It was so vivid,” she recalls. “I got a sense that this was my life calling — to be a bridge between those who have and others who don’t. When I woke up, I remembered it clearly, and I said, ‘OK, God, I’ll do that.’”
Vie never swayed from that commitment. All through school she studied the lives of people who had given themselves to the service of the poor.
Vie met Rick in high school, and the two married before their senior year in college. Rick enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to Korea for 13 months.
“Vie wasn’t going to sit home and wait for me,” Rick said. “She somehow landed a teaching position 30 miles from where I was stationed, working alongside Presbyterian missionaries.”
The couple and their two young daughters later settled in Denver, and around 1980 they began attending Most Precious Blood parish, which was founded by Vincentian priests.
“I didn’t know what C.M. meant after the priest names,” Vie recalls, “but we got involved and a couple years later I was offered a position as director of spiritual formation at the Denver Vincentian seminary, St. Thomas. Visiting Father Mike Joyce on my first day I noticed on the wall behind his desk an image of a man — the same man who’d shown me that bridge in my dream!”
Father Mike told Vie the picture was of the founder of the Congregation of the Mission, St. Vincent de Paul, solving the mystery of her childhood dream. The Thorgrens deepened their ties with the Vincentians.
Rick recalls the positive impact of Father Donald Berkbigler on his spirituality.
“He was a very down-to-earth guy; his whole focus was on love. At the time, I was sort of struggling with going and not going to church. Fr. Don just really had a big impact on my life. Through his gentle persuasion, I attended a Marriage Encounter weekend with Vie, and we ended up becoming a presenting couple.”
The Thorgrens’ financial support for the Congregation rests in their desire to participate closely in the Gospel mission they see the priests and brothers carrying out.
“In particular,” Vie says, “they care for those who are most neglected and most in need. It’s so exciting to also see and support what is happening in Kenya now, and because there are no Vincentian priests left in Denver, contributing keeps us more closely connected to the Province.
“It says a lot about the deep roots the Vincentian planted here at Most Precious Blood that so many years after their departure, there’s such a vibrancy in both charity and justice ministries — hands-on, direct relationships with people in poverty and also in creating systemic change.”
Vie and Rick Thorgren are affiliates of the Congregation of the Mission and founding board members for the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. They remain active in ministries that unite diverse members of the community for spiritual transformation and social justice, serving God’s people on the margins of society, including the community-based nonprofit Restoring Connections in Denver, of which Vie is Executive Director. The couple are loving parents to two daughters and grateful, adoring grandparents of four.