In Memory of Father Regis Scanlon, OFM CAP

Posted on November 14, 2021
Fr. Regis Scanlon with St. Mother Teresa and Friends

My dear friend, Fr. Regis Scanlon passed on last Saturday. He was one of my earliest friends in Denver. When I first got here, he was the regular Priest for Tuesday morning Mass at the Cabrini Shrine in Golden. He was solidly orthodox, with a lively wit, and a commitment to the sort of projects I love. After Mass, we would have breakfast with others in the cafeteria downstairs – and we just hit it off marvelously. In fact, he introduced me to my dear friend, Desmond Birch, the eschatologist. The three of us often went to lunch together.

From the time I first met him, Fr. Regis was focused on what he believed was his last mission on earth, getting the Julia Greeley Home for single, homeless women set up to spark new hope and get these women out of the hands of predators. We spoke often of the project and I offered a small bit of counsel. Over the course of this, we became great friends. 

I’m not sure exactly how it came to be, but as I became more prominent in Catholic Circles, everyone in the Denver establishment knew that he and I were close. Known as a very solid, no-nonsense type of Priest and man, Fr. Regis told me at one point he was getting asked five or six times a day about me. With a hearty laugh he told me that he told them all the same thing: “I don’t know about his prophecies, but he’s NOT nuts!” Not given to mysticism, it made for some interesting conversations. I have found that more than a few serious intellectual Christians avoid mysticism altogether, but when they feel they are not being recruited into nonsense and can really challenge it without causing hurt feelings, they enter into the subject with relish. So it was with Fr. Regis and me. It turned out he was deeply devoted to and engaged with Our Lady of Fatima – and we spoke often of it in very deep terms. While much of our perspectives differed, it was not an argument, more of an exploration, seeking what was true, testing the boundaries, while staying faithful to the fundamentals of the faith. Three years ago, Father wrote a lengthy piece on it for Homiletic and Pastoral Review. While you can see it has a significantly different perspective than much of my own, Fr. Regis was quite candid in noting that our discussions played a significant role in its development – and I was very pleased to see the perspective developed in a way that did not do violence to the integrity of St. John Paul, Cdl. Ratzinger – the future Pope Benedict, or to Sr. Lucia. One of the great delights of our friendship was being able to explore significantly different perspectives, while staying grounded in the faith and charity, in order to refine our own thought. In a time when too many empty-headed vessels angrily proclaim their own supremacy of knowledge, it is as comforting as a cool breeze on a hot summer day to speak in depth with a genuinely knowledgeable and serious man who has the humility to know he does not grasp the fullness of it all but deeply wants to get it right, rather than just maintain what he says is is right. It is easy to be vulnerable and questioning with a serious man who does the same – and it brings you ever closer to the throne room of God.

I was going to just repeat an article I wrote about Fr. Regis’ life six years ago – and I will put that at the end of this. But the Julia Greeley Home did a marvelous obituary and I want to highlight that. Have no fear about the Julia Greeley Home – several years ago Fr. Regis told me he was going to get Mary Callan, who he described as a brilliantly talented woman, to come in and take over as executive director – and that when that was accomplished he could rest assured that the project would fully take. At the time, he had no agreement with her – just the determination that by hook or by crook he was going to get her. Last year he did. Getting to know her, she is everything he said she was – and it delights me that she does some very heavy volunteer work for CORAC. Fr. Regis was one of those wonderful people I could speak deeply with. He challenged some of my assumptions as I did some of his, and we absolutely delighted in discovering new insights into the faith together because of that candidness. He made me a better man because of our honest discourse and deep friendship – and now I have good hope to call upon him as an intercessor from a mighty place (though one of his pet peeves was people automatically canonizing their loved ones who had passed on.) He once warned me that I had better not canonize him after he died before doing my best to help deliver him from purgatory. So I try to do both, praying for the repose of his soul and confidently expecting his intercession in the fullness of God’s time.

Here, then, is the lovely obituary from Julia Greeley Home:

Father Regis Scanlon, OFMCap.
February 17, 1943 – November 6, 2021
Father Regis Scanlon, OFM Cap., Founder and President of the Julia Greeley Home, passed into eternal life on Saturday, Nov. 6. He entered the hospital on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and although he returned to the friary, his health never fully recovered.
But the irrepressible Father Regis, 78, had been down that road before. Last May, he made a video explaining how St Joseph has been helping him prepare for a happy death at least since 2010 when he faced another life threatening illness. In the video, he recalled how a kindly home-hospice nurse called to say she was en-route to the friary to help him make his end-of-life decisions.
But Father Regis had other plans. Sorry, he said, but he couldn’t meet her that day: “I’m at IHOP!”
Father Regis,
jaunty and confident
As it turned out, the decade to come would bring many more pancake mornings, pizza runs and friendships. In his 49 years as a Capuchin priest, Father Regis was, by turns, a teacher, writer, and youth leader (here he is, late 1980s, with some of his students). He championed the homeless and poor; to an order of nuns, he was spiritual director, and to hundreds of families and lay people, he was their favorite priest.
His crowning achievement was the Julia Greeley Home, which he founded after the earlier brush with death in 2010. Following his recovery, at age 70, convinced that God still had work for him to do, Father Regis threw his energy into founding a haven for women who are alone and homeless.
Inspired by a lifelong devotion to the Blessed Mother, Father Regis was appalled that the God-given dignity of any woman was threatened by the cruel conditions of street life. Homeless organizations offered few places for the woman alone. He was haunted by the cry of a woman trying to exist after losing home and family: “But Father, I have nowhere to go!”
Father Regis opened his first home in 2013 and chose as patron Julia Greeley, a former slave who was beloved a century ago as Denver’s “Angel of Charity.” Today, she is still fully present as a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church.
Father Regis always looked to the future. A few days before he died, a friend, hoping to encourage him, said, “The Julia Greeley Home needs you!” Not missing a beat, Father Regis replied, “It will continue, with me or without me.”
In fact, a year before his death, Father Regis coaxed Dr. Mary E. Callan, PhD, to join his mission as executive director. He valued Mary’s experience as a nonprofit executive, but even more that she was a longtime advisor to Julia’s, and has a great love for Julia’s mission.
He drew great support for Julia’s from all walks of life
He was always looking to the future. Here he welcomed Mary Callan’s arrival on Oct. 15, 2020.
“I only knew Father for about a decade, but once I met him, he was always ‘present’ even when he wasn’t with you,” Mary recalled shortly after his death. “Now that he’s passed to the other side of the veil, I can just picture him smiling and clasping his hands together, relishing the joy of beginning his finest work yet: interceding for all of us, and for the Julia Greeley Home!”
Julia Greeley wasn’t Father’s only encounter with a future saint. As a young priest, he met Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In the 1990s she asked him to give a series of spiritual talks to her nuns overseas.
While Father Regis was hard to intimidate (he happily claimed the title “bull in a china shop”), he softened his approach with Mother Teresa. A few years ago he wrote about the lunch-time meetings where she outlined her project. But at the end of lunch, Father Regis just wanted to slip away.
“In those days I use to smoke a pipe, but I didn’t want the sisters to know that,” he wrote. “So, at the end of the lunch I told Mother Teresa that I was going outside to stretch my legs. She would nod in agreement. Then, I would go behind the building and puff away. One day it was raining and I said, as usual, ‘I am going out to stretch my legs’ and Mother replied: ‘Father, you can smoke your pipe here today.’”
Mother Teresa not only forgave his smoking habit, she enlisted Father Regis as a spiritual director for her Missionaries of Charity. He also worked with Mother Teresa’s sisters in their ministry to AIDS patients in Denver. In addition, Father Regis was the official confessor of the Carmelite nuns in Littleton and the Benedictine nuns in Boulder.
In another brush with celebrity, Father Regis developed a teaching series on the Catholic faith for Mother Angelica’s EWTN. For years, people would greet him in restaurants and elsewhere, “I watch you on EWTN!”
His buoyant spirit made him a natural on TV. Yet when called upon in 1999, he gave up his TV series and embraced a humbler mission as director of Catholic Prison Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver. With his signature enthusiasm, he marshaled help from 70 volunteers and more than a half dozen priests and deacons, to serve 850 prisoners every week in 17 prisons and jails in Colorado. He was never happier than when he was bringing Confession and the Eucharist to men and women living within the grim walls of a prison cell.
For much of his life as a priest, Father Regis continued his major avocation as a writer. His goal was to use scholarly documentation to advance the truth by addressing all the major controversies facing Catholicism today. His articles have appeared in major publications including Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Crisis magazine, and New Oxford Review. In recent years he dived full-bore into the blogosphere, at http://frregisscanlon.com/.
But if anyone tried to categorize Father Regis as “liberal” or “conservative,” they were confounded. The goal, he always insisted, was to teach the faith. His mission field eventually included hundreds of young people who grew up in the spiritual wilderness of the ’60s and ’70s.
Making the faith come alive to young people -that energized him. In the process, Father Regis made lifelong friendships, inspired vocations, and launched happy marriages.
“You always got the truth from him, and that’s why college-age people liked him,” says longtime family friend Rosina Kovar. In 1990, Rosina invited Father Regis to her home to give talks to confused Catholics on the puzzling messages flowing after Vatican II. “The crowd got so large that by the next year they had to move it to the Auraria (college) campus!”
Although associated with conservative thought, Father Regis always insisted, “Don’t be conservative and don’t be liberal, be Catholic,” says Bob Gallegos, one of those young people turned lifelong friend. Bob recalls how Father Regis enjoyed setting audiences straight – while getting laughs – by insisting that, yes, Vatican II represented solid, authentic, Catholic teaching. “Father would say, “if your pastor approaches you wearing a coat and tie, with a girl on each arm, and he tells you, ‘Vatican II says this is OK,’ don’t believe it!”
The Auraria Catholics club, as it was known, quickly morphed into a veritable grassroots movement of committed young Christians. What was the pull of Father Regis? “He taught me how to be a Catholic,” is the instant reply of Anne Sanfilippo Yanez. When the group exploded into the hundreds, Anne became Father Regis’s secretary, organizing activities and managing meetings and retreats (shown here, the crowd at a Father Regis-led retreat at Cabrini Shrine in the 1990s). “All the kids used to hang out at the office. Father was teaching classes two nights a week and the room was packed with students and adults.”
In 2015, Richard Milinazzo, a businessman and Julia advisor, shows software materials to Father Regis …
… in June 2021, Richard was ordained a deacon, and he credits Father Regis for enkindling his faith
Encountering Father Regis: Richard Milinazzo still remembers the dinner invitation of many years ago that he wanted to avoid. “I was getting to know more about my faith, and Bob Gallegos said he was meeting a friend for dinner on Friday and would I like to come? Great! After we set it up, I asked Bob who his friend was, and he said, “Father Regis Scanlon.”
A priest! I was intimidated by priests. I didn’t think they were approachable. No way I was going to meet him! But it was too late. On Friday I sat in the restaurant parking lot, terrified…
Finally I went in. We met, and the waitress came to take the order. I said, “I’ll have a steak.”
“What?!” I felt Father staring at me with those bullet eyes. “It’s Friday, and you’re gonna eat steak?”
“I thought Vatican II did away with that,” I said.
“All this is happening within five minutes of meeting him. He starts shaking this pistol finger at me and says, ‘Listen buddy, if you’re gonna hang out with us you can’t eat meat on Friday!’”
“I’ll have a salad,” I said.
Father Matchmaker: Father Regis had an uncanny sense of who belonged with whom, and he’s credited with launching a dozen or more marriages from the Auraria Catholics club. One of those couples was Eric and Kathy Lederhos:
“For some time he kept telling me about this wonderful lady named Kathy,” Eric Lederhos recalled recently. “Father gave each of us each other’s phone numbers, but it took over a year for one of us to call the other…”
Meanwhile, Kathy had gone on a retreat, and she told Father Regis that, maybe, she was called to be a nun? At that, says Eric, “Father Regis laughed out loud — ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’”
Father knew better. Here is Father Regis with Kathy and Eric on their wedding day, September 17, 1994.
From love matches, to marriages, to families – Father Regis ended up with generations of fans. One of them was Michael Lederhos, son of Kathy and Eric. Michael (now grown up), was given the middle name “Regis” in honor of the family’s beloved priest. By age four, the precocious youngster was proudly introducing himself to guests: “Hello, my name is Michael Father Regis Lederhos!”
Happy New Year! Nick Gallegos had been pondering the priesthood, and then he met a young woman named Doris Soileau. On a retreat led by Father Regis, the answer to Nick’s vocation was becoming clear. Soon, his next question was, “Father Regis, when can you marry us?”
“Father was always practical, never emotional,” says Doris. “He told us he was probably going to be shipped to Nebraska or Kansas, so we had to decide quick if we wanted him to marry us.” The date (why not?!): New Year’s Eve, 1994. Nick and Doris became two of Father’s closest collaborators, working closely with him in prison ministry, and joining him in many projects to the end.
They also knew all Father Regis’s quirks, like his legendary dislike of hugging and all displays of affection.
But on one of the last days of his life, Doris outsmarted him. At hospice, as she was saying good-bye, she whispered, “You can’t stop me now,” and planted a kiss on his forehead.
Nick and Doris
on their wedding day,
December 31, 1994
“Father Regis liked this photo because he wanted to show
he was bringing the lambs and sheep back into the fold.”
Funeral services for our beloved Father Regis will be held November 14-15 at St. Jude’s Catholic Church, 9405 W. Florida Ave., Lakewood, CO 80232
Viewing begins at 6 p.m. Sunday, November 14, followed by a vigil service at 7 p.m.
The funeral Mass will be Monday, November 15, at 10 a.m.
Interment is in the Friars Plot at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Wheat Ridge, CO
Rest in peace, dear Father Regis. We love you!
Julia Greeley Home
3613 Wyandot Street
Denver, Colorado 80211
The Julia Greeley Home Inc. is a 501(c)(3) registered in Colorado.

And finally, a reprint of my piece on Fr. Regis from six years ago:

Love Them All

By Charlie Johnston

In the late 1950s young Regis Scanlon, a high school student on Pittsburgh’s north side, faced a conundrum. Throughout his childhood, for as long as he could remember, he had wanted to be a priest. But in his freshman year at high school, he discovered girls. He liked them. A lot. A charming and affable young man with a lively wit, Regis started dating. A lot. The problem was, he liked almost every pretty girl he met. He would visibly light up with enthusiasm whenever an attractive woman was near.

An older mentor told him that, should he get married, his wife would not be terribly happy with his enthusiasm over other pretty girls. At one point, he got engaged, but soon recognized the truth of what his mentor had said. Regis did not want to become a scamp who disappointed, or horrors, even betrayed his fiance in a moment of weakness. So he prayed to the Blessed Mother, asking for wisdom and direction. He received a locution of just three words: “Love them all.”

A genuine scamp would have imputed a much different interpretation to that locution than what Regis Scanlon did. For all his lively humor and joy of living, Scanlon is very serious about his faith – and both completely and joyfully orthodox. The engagement was ended amicably. His plans to become a math teacher gave way to a new determination to go back to his first love, the priesthood. From that moment, Scanlon resolved to love all the women in his life both passionately and chastely. In time, he came to love almost all he met with the same passionate and holy vigor.

*******

At first, Scanlon sought to enter the priesthood through the Archdiocesan Program. After several months, though, he recalled how much he had been impressed by the deep prayer life of the Capuchins. For all his life and laughter, Scanlon finds his interior life nourished by deep contemplative prayer, directed to Our Lord through Our Lady. It is, in fact, the unending source of that life and laughter. The Capuchins are widely regarded as the contemplative branch of the Franciscan order.

“Capuchins came to my parish after I had been working there about five months,” Fr. Regis said. “I really wanted more prayer in my life. I remembered the wonderful retreats they had done when I was in grade school.” So he got engaged again, devoting himself to prayer and the active ministry to the poor of the Franciscan Capuchins. Fr. Regis Scanlon was ordained a priest in 1972 in the brown robe of a Capuchin Friar. This time the engagement took.

Rocky Times

Fr. Regis spent 17 years studying Greek, Latin, the Church Fathers, praying, contemplating, preaching and working directly with the poor. In 1989, he was sent to Denver. It soon became obvious he was a priest who was going to make a difference. The unusual combination of a keen mind, restless energy, rigorous orthodoxy and passionate charity made him a unique character – and a forceful one. While working as chaplain to the Missionaries of Charity in Denver, he ministered to patients in the AIDS hospice, served the poor at Seton House, and ministered to homeless women at the Gift of Mary shelter for homeless women. He loved them all. Meantime, Fr. Regis’ reputation as a thinker who could defend the faith in solid theological terms that were easily accessible to laymen grew. Many Catholic Magazines and publications began to publish articles he wrote on Vatican II, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and fully Catholic answers to the questions that confronted modern times. The more that he wrote, the more publications came calling for him to pen something for them.

In 1995, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was seeking someone to give intensive Eucharistic Formation to her nuns. She spoke with a Jesuit Priest with whom she was close, Fr. John Hardon, to ask for recommendations. Fr. Hardon told her that Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap. was the obvious choice. So Mother Teresa contacted Fr. Regis. He formally asked his superiors for permission. Apparently they needed a little quiet, for he says they gave their sanction to the proposal “with joy.” For the next year and a half, he spent time in Africa, Madagascar and Tijuana, conducting retreats for the sisters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity throughout the world, often having working breakfasts with Mother Teresa to discuss what was upcoming and review how things were progressing.

Working With Mother Teresa

Having survived the horrors of both the Nazis and the Communists, Pope St. John Paul II made the fullness of the “dignity of the human person” a central thesis of his papacy. Blessed Mother Teresa lived that thesis every day.

Fr. Regis says that Mother Teresa spoke constantly about the need to defend the unborn. She maintained that, at its heart, defense of the unborn was the defense of the possibility of civilization. “If we kill our babies, who is going to prevent us from killing one another?” she would often ask, making the point that to defend the unborn is not just to defend the unborn, but ultimately to defend all life, including the life of abortion advocates who did not yet understand that their advocacy jeopardized their own future as well as a child’s.

In the most benighted areas of Calcutta, Blessed Mother Teresa would have her nuns pick dying women out of the gutters to carry them back to a shelter to be cared for. Once they got the women inside, they would often have to pick worms out of the open, running sores the dying women suffered from. Fr. Regis says that once an observer asked why they used their fingers to pick out the worms; wouldn’t it be easier to use tweezers? After all, the women were going to die anyway. Mother Teresa said it would be easier for the dying woman to know that God loved her if she knew that she was loved here, in this world, before she died – and love does not use tweezers. They always used their fingers, and the dying women were visibly comforted by that simple human touch.

While Mother Teresa helped show Fr. Regis a new depth to what loving them all actually means, she had a piercingly practical awareness, as well. At the time, Fr. Regis smoked a pipe. In order to be discreet with the nuns, when he needed a nicotine fix, he would tell them he needed to go out and “exercise” a bit, then wander off out of sight.

“Mother Teresa would often sit with me as I ate lunch during that three week period (of preparation to go out in the field with her nuns),” Fr. Regis says. “She would tell me many stories about the sisters and what she wanted me to emphasize when I would go to South Africa and Madagascar. In those days I use to smoke a pipe, but I didn’t want the sisters to know that or see me do it. So at the end of the lunch I would say to Mother Teresa that I was going outside to stretch my legs. She would nod in agreement. Then, I would go behind the building where no one could see me and puff away. One day it was raining and I said the usual ‘I am going out to stretch my legs’ and Mother replied: “Father you can smoke your pipe here today.”

Amusingly bracing to be busted by a saint-in-the-making!

From EWTN to Last Rites

When he got back home to the States, Fr. Regis’ reputation as an effective defender of the faith continued to rise. He went right back to publishing articles in major Catholic and Religious publications, then was asked to tape several series for EWTN. He taped a total of 24 hours worth of material for the dominant worldwide Catholic network, most in half-hour segments. He did a series on “What Did Vatican II Actually Teach?” along with several on “Crucial Questions” and “Catholic Answers.” He went to EWTN’s studios in Irondale, Alabama to tape the programs. You can still see them occasionally, though now they are mostly to be found in the wee hours of the channel’s programming. I was delighted to find a younger version of the Fr. Regis Scanlon I know explaining things to me early one morning from my television after I had come to Denver.

He is thunderingly orthodox in his homilies, but also self-deprecatingly funny. Fr. Regis usually does the Tuesday morning Daily Mass at Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado. If he doesn’t get three belly laughs even during his abbreviated homilies for Daily Mass, it means he is not in his best form that day.

But he is ferociously serious about sticking with the Truth – and will tell you so instantly. Just before the ugly episode with the Black Mass in Oklahoma City, a communicant who received in the hand walked off with no sign of intending to consume it. Before the man had gotten four steps away, Fr. Regis, his eyes flashing, had stopped the Communion line and said, “Sir…Hey…I need to see you consume that before we can continue here.” Abashed, the man consumed the Host and went back to his seat. (While most such cases are harmless, satanists try to obtain consecrated Hosts by sending adherents into Masses to receive in the hand, then pocket and abscond with it. They won’t have much luck with that plan on Fr. Regis’ watch).

In 1999, Fr. Regis took over as director of Prison Ministries for the Archdiocese of Denver. It was not something he had planned to do – or even was sure he wanted to do. When it was proposed to him, he asked God for a sign, because he really did not think that was what he was supposed to do. Shortly after that, he lost his voice for a time. As it turned out, the loss was caused by an aneurysm in the spot where a defective aorta had been operated on while he was just 17 years old in 1960. Since his voice was impaired for a time after the successful surgery, he figured that was a message from God to stay close to home for a while.

Over the course of the next 11 years, Scanlon directed six deacons, three priests and 70 trained lay volunteers in providing ministry to some 9,500 inmates throughout the Denver area. He said monthly Mass at three state prisons and had volunteers running weekly Communion services in prisons throughout the Archdiocese. He emphasized offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation – or Confession – to Catholic inmates and would sometimes spend days at a prison to see that all who wanted to take advantage of the Sacrament could receive it.

That ministry continued until 2010, when Fr. Regis developed serious new health problems. They were serious enough that most thought they would take him to his eternal reward. His vital systems were shutting down. He was attended by many doctors. When the fourth doctor told him he would not live, he was consigned to a hospice, as all expected the end was near. While confined to that hospice, an idea that had been forming in his head  the whole time of his prison ministry came to the forefront of his thinking. He promised that if he made a miraculous recovery, he would dedicate the rest of his life to this last mission, to bring God’s love to all.

Amazingly, he did recover. His one-time superior, Provincial Superior Fr. Charles Polifka, commented that one night “we were visiting Regis in the hospice and three weeks later he was going out to eat with us.” When he just wouldn’t die and was expressing a plaintive desire for a good pizza, hospice officials eventually took him off the bland prescribed diet and let him eat what he wanted. They weren’t convinced he was going to live, but didn’t quite see what good depriving him of the food he wanted would do.

Fr. Regis gets a twinkle in his eye when discussing the last contact with the social worker assigned to oversee his care. She called and told him she was going to be there and wanted to visit with him. He responded that it was not a convenient time for him. She gently explained that, with his condition, this might be the last chance she would get to see him. So he impishly gave her the address of the IHOP at which he was eating when her call came in. He was shortly released from hospice. His engagement with the grim reaper didn’t quite take.

Walking With Julia Greeley

While running the Prison Ministry for the Archdiocese, Fr. Regis had noticed that there were many programs available to help men – and even more to help women with children. While these were important ministries, there were practically none to help single, unattached, homeless women. About the best they could get was a night in a shelter. In prison, many such women had explained to him how vulnerable to predators they are out on the streets; that their options generally came down to finding a man to take shelter with in exchange for sharing his bed or be subject to much more serious abuse and violence.

It seemed to him that these women needed more than a shelter for a night. That was merely a brief respite from the jungle they faced each day. They needed a way to rebuild their lives, the sort of opportunity that men in similar situations – and that women with children – were regularly getting. He came up with a plan to set up houses in which women could come in, find a real home, get vocational training, and go through a re-integration into the dignity of productive living, ultimately leading to independence. Realizing that many, even most of these women had no functional family at all, Fr. Regis thought the best situation would be to set it up so that these houses became real family homes to the women, that after they had moved on into independence, they could still come back to visit, to share holidays with their old family and new residents. This would give all who came through the doors a real family support structure – and the visiting women would be a very definite sign of hope to new residents just getting started on the road to recovery.

Fr. Regis turned to Julia Greeley as inspiration for what he envisioned. Greeley was born a slave in Missouri in the 1840s. After the Civil War she eventually ended up in Denver, working for the family of William Gilpin, the first territorial governor of Colorado. She converted to Catholicism at some point and devoted herself to caring for the poor – at night after spending the day working as housekeeper, cook and nanny for the Gilpin family.

She would go around collecting food and clothing from well-to-do families and then, pulling her little red wagon behind her, spend her evenings delivering hope, both the spiritual and concrete kind, to families in need throughout the city. She kept at it until shortly before her death in 1918. Fr. Regis advocates for her canonization and has dedicated his project to her.

He took his idea to Denver’s then Archbishop, Charles Chaput, who encouraged him to carry it out. Chaput has since been appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia. The Archdiocese continues to support the initiative, while Fr. Regis remains enthusiastic – and as the folks in the hospice, the prisons, EWTN, among Mother Teresa’s nuns, and in his own Capuchin order could testify, Fr. Regis’ enthusiasm is a force of nature.

In late summer of 2013 he opened up a pilot house in a Denver suburb which can house five women. He hired a house mother who directs things and shares staff with another project to help give education on basic adult skills, such as time management and goal-oriented planning. He is working to set up vocational partnerships, not only to train the women in useful skills, but to help them get a job as they are ready for it.

The biggest project is a majestic old facility in another Denver suburb which could house up to 40 women. It is not drably institutional. but looks from the street like a stately manor, with several outbuildings and guest houses. It has a distinctly homey feel, but inside has space for classrooms, recreation facilities, and even a chapel. It will ultimately cost over $2 million and still has some zoning hurdles to get through. Fr. Regis has spent time working to raise money and find grants, all through private sources. He will neither solicit nor accept governmental money, because of the inevitable strings attached, strings that often sap the effectiveness of such transformational programs. In any case, he envisions this as a form of family, not a bureaucratic regimen.

“Mother Teresa was opposed to using recruiters, (formally) raising money, or using insurance. She believed we should trust in God for everything. She often said that God has plenty of money – and gives it when we need it to do his work,” Fr. Regis says. But he would be unable to have opened anything in America without insurance. And certainly, if all money comes from God for good works, one of a priest’s prime duties is to encourage people to trust in God for producing good work. So the website for the Julia Greeley Home has a spot where donations can be made through PayPal. He hopes, he prays that with success in Denver, the program of rebuilding lives through building support structures modeled on the family will take root and blossom around the state, then the country, then the world. His ambition is based on instructions he received from above some 50 years ago: “Love them all.”

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