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OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE MURAL, NORTH DENVER

(Photo: OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE MURAL, Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, North Denver)

“Today, we still see loss of the Holy, the literal banning of, covering over of the Holy. We see doing so narrows the view and deadens the imagination and dedication of an entire generation of the young. Banning the Holy harms the spirit of ingenuity and creativity of the young. It disheartens those who innately have the spark of longing for the Holy People…Even still today some move to lock the comfort of Holy Mother and her Child of Love away from her people, who are all of us….

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in North Denver has been for decades a strong village of Latinos whose ancestry most often derives from Mexico and Central America. They and those who came after are strong children of Our Lady off Guadalupe, for she is called amongst other names, La Conquista, Our Lady of the Conquest-She who conquered from her heart, those who were already conquered by mere men… the Mother of those who have suffered to cross deserts and the mountains, braved the cold of climate and culture, to try to live free… She is considered the great Liberation Mother, the one who brings freedom to her children to walk free, proud, and to fear no one….

However, in 2009, someone at the little oasis of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish decided, for remodeling sake that the thirty-five-year-old historic and sacred mural painted by noted mural artist Carlota EspinoZa, showing Our Lady of Guadalupe and Santo Juan Diego should be covered by a white sheetrock wall from floor to ceiling….

Our Lady of Guadalupe mural, North Denver Our Lady Of Guadalupe parish

(Photo: OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE MURAL, Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, North Denver)

This wall erased from sight the forty-seven foot long by twelve feet high mural of the Merciful Mother. A heating vent was punched through near the painted gown of Holy mother. The new white wall encapsulated her in the equivalent of a broom closet which stored buckets.

For a year or so after the wall was erected, respectful letters and phone calls form various people concerned about the covering of the mural were made to the parish and archbishop’s office. But inquiries about the erasure of Our Lady’s mural went unanswered.  In a community of minorities who are known for the creativity, vivid love of color, and especially their strong relational ties to one another, that this huge historic mural would be obliterated without consultation with the entire community who brought and cared for Our Lady’s mural over the years, was not the way of the familia.

A group of concerned parishioners and former parishioners, community leaders and nuns coalesced into over 1,400 signatures on the petition to restore Our Lady’s mural and bring down the wall covering her. Pleas to the prelates, who had the power to bring down the wall, were not heard.  This, the group held peaceful protests at the church. Present were the women in white, along with children dressed in white, all earnest, standing loyally for Our Lady and her sacred art.

Still there continued to be resistance to heartfelt requests for information about how the mural was covered over and walled up. No pastoral care was even offered to any who asked for restoration of Our Lady’s mural, that is, those who’d held their baptisms and funerals, wedding and celebratory masses within reach of Our Lady’s arms.

Our Lady of Guadalupe mural, North Denver Our Lady Of Guadalupe parish.

(Photo: OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE MURAL, Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, North Denver)

The women in white set aside a workday-not an easy thing to do for working-class members to gain time-off. But, they did and they marched ensemble to the archbishop’s residence to read a humble letter worked on for days by gentle-hearted people to choose the right words, asking that the mural be restored in keeping with the most holy teachings of the Church about not desecrating sacred art.  The petition was not granted.

In addition to jailing Holy Mother, the remodeling of the altar also required the purchase of a very large rock throne for the priests to sit in during mass. The order was also given to drywall over the cherubs the artist had lovingly painted, and cover over the beautifully rendered long flowing bowers of Our Lady’s red roses.

It was said all this came about because an angry male church member had complained…  “the only place for Mary is on her knees at the foot of the cross.”

Clarissa Pinokola Estes “Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul.”

THE WALLING OFF OF OUR LADY- Our Lady of Guadalupe mural, North Denver Our Lady Of Guadalupe parish

 (photo: The Walling off of Our Lady- OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE MURAL, Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, North Denver)

From The Denver Post, 2009: The mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 1209 W. 36th ave in Denver was covered up in 2009. It was painted in 1975 by respected mural artist Carlotta Espinoza and hung on the back wall behind the pulpit. The Archidioces built a wall to cover the large mural of vigin of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego. People protested but their protests went ignored, so people sent a letter to the archbishop which was signed by 435 community members. Their hope was to get the mural back out for all to see and be fully restored. Their efforts have, to date, failed.

ERASING THE HOLY-Our Lady of Guadalupe mural, North Denver Our Lady Of Guadalupe parish

(Photo: Erasing the Holy: OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE MURAL, Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, North Denver)

Reflection: Andrew Greeley “The Catholic Imagination.”

“The Marian symbol is surely one of the most powerful symbols in the Western tradition. Virtually every major painter from the fifth to the sixteenth century painted at least one Madonna.

It may be that our predecessors –not all of whom were howling savages-saw something in the Mary symbol that we have missed. What they saw might well be something we can ill afford to neglect. How poor an unbalanced a religion it is that does not find place for the Divine Mother.

Ignoring the place of the Blessed Virgin in the Incarnation and the whole process of salvation has given Christianity a harsh thoroughly masculine emphasis. The absence of tenderness and affection has led to an over-emphasis on a harsh prophetic picture of God with it attending preoccupation with judgment … The development of a mature Mariology could do much to temper the harsh portrayal of the God of judgment and provide it with a healthy (and I might add, scriptural) concept of a God of mercy.

I don’t think we should overlook the fact that in some of her manifestations Mary is not just a woman but a powerful, liberated woman.

Mary represents the human insight that the Ultimate is passionately tender, seductively attractive, irresistibly inspiring, and graciously healing.

The battle of the Reformation over Mary is one of the most unseemly and foolish conflicts in the entire history of Christianity. The antipathy of some of the reformers to Mary was a disastrous mistake, as were the Catholic superstitions which in part caused the antipathy and the triumphalism which followed.

Mary becomes a model that shatters our perceptions of ultimate reality and helps us to see it in a new light. She guides us to see ultimate reality not only as creating, organizing, ordering, directing, planning, bringing to completion but also tenderly caring, seductively attracting, passionately inspiring and gently healing.”

“The image of Mary the Mother Of Jesus distinguishes the Catholic religious sensibility from others. She pushes the envelope of the Catholic imagination as far as it can be pushed by hinting there is a maternal dimension in God as well as a paternal one and thus absorbs and purifies and transforms all the female deities who came before.

 In the art and the music and the poetry, Mary’s image clearly reflects the tenderness of God. The function of the Mary metaphor in the Catholic imagination represents the Mother Love of God, the generous and loving, life-giving power of God, the tenderness of God, the fertility of God, the nurturing of God.”

This is the facade of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 1209 W. 36th ave in Denver, The mural that has been covered up was painted by Carlotta Espinoza and hung on the back wall behind the pulpit. The Archidioces built a wall to cover the large mural of vigin of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego. People protested but their protests went much ignored so people have sent a letter to the archobishop which has been signed by 435 community members. Their hope is to get the mural back out for all to see and is fully restored. Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post

(Photo: Our Lady Of Guadalupe Parish, North Denver)

Reflection:

Thomas Merton From A Search For Solitude, journals 1952-1960)
Maybe what is wrong with American Catholicism is that it is in large measure, not Catholic.

Protestant features of our life-and Catholic life as a whole:
1. Distrust and rejection of emotional symbolism of art, of poetry, of contemplation.
2. Distrust of what is interior, distrust of joy, of happiness. (At the same time an all-American cult of good humor, as a ‘sign that one is among the elect’ –as a defense against anxiety, rather than true inner joy. Pragmatic joy, for efficiency’s sake. A good humorous Christian fits in and accomplishes more. He belongs)
3. Cult of energy, of efficiency, productivity, prosperity-again as ‘signs of election.’
4. Stern, practical legalism. Man face to face with demands of the divine will.
5. Harshness, aggressivity.

Fran Aguirre, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 1209 W. 36th ave in Denver, joined in with other parishioners and neighbors in protesting the covering up of a mural inside the church. The mural was painted by Carlotta Espinoza and hung on the back wall behind the pulpit. The Archidioces built a wall to cover the large mural of vigin of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego. People protested but their protests went much ignored so people have sent a letter to the archobishop which has been signed by 435 community members. Their hope is to get the mural back out for all to see and is fully restored. Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post Fran Aguirre, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 1209 W. 36th ave in Denver, joined in with other parishioners and neighbors in protesting the covering up of a mural inside the church. The mural was painted by Carlotta Espinoza and hung on the back wall behind the pulpit. The Archidioces built a wall to cover the large mural of vigin of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego. People protested but their protests went much ignored so people have sent a letter to the archobishop which has been signed by 435 community members. Their hope is to get the mural back out for all to see and is fully restored. Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

( Photo : Helen Richardson, Denver Post. Fran Aguirre, parishoner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Denver, joining with fellow parishoners to protest the walling off the parish mural of Our Lady.) 

Reflection:

Thomas Merton “Run To The Mountains. Journals 1939-1941.”

“It is one of the singular disgraces attached to Catholics as a social group that they, who once nourished with their Faith and their Love of God the finest culture the world ever saw, are now content with absolutely the worst art, the worst writing, the worst music, the worst everything that has ever made anybody throw up. All this, far from being caused by their Faith, only weakens and ruins their Faith. It is something of a Middle Class culture which is poisoning the Faith instead of slaking our thirst to honor God. And those who cannot distinguish what is bourgeoisie, in what they believe, from what is Christian are crucifying God all over again with their trivial, complacent ignorance and bad taste and materialism and injustice.”

Margie Domingo wears a Lady of Guadalupe necklace and two pins to protest what has happened at her church. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 1209 W. 36th ave in Denver, had a mural covered by the pastor that the community wants uncovered. The mural was painted by Carlotta Espinoza and hung on the back wall behind the pulpit. The Archidioces built a wall to cover the large mural of vigin of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego. People protested but their protests went much ignored so people have sent a letter to the archobishop which has been signed by 435 community members. Their hope is to get the mural back out for all to see and is fully restored. Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

(Photo: Helen Richardson, Denver Post, 2010. Tear down that wall, protesting the walling off of Our Lady of Guadalupe mural) 

Reflection: “Our Lady: Catholicism’s diaphanous adagio”

A Post-Vatican II Catholicism, in a strained effort to be “protestant friendly,”has taken the easiest, superficial, surface reforms by downplaying Mary’s presence, along with caving into an iconoclastic, protestant spirit. Rosary services are set aside in most parishes, usually after scantly attended early morning weekday masses. Predictably, we have still failed to grasp the deeper, mystical reforms of John the XXIII. Even more predictably, when the mystical quality fails to be attained, that most pronounced of mystical figures, Our Lady, is the first to go.

In place of a sea of rosaries amidst a parish of divinely inspired art, the post-modern American Catholic Church, more often than not, projects the atmosphere of a dull, artless, masculine basketball court, rather than a temple. Naturally, rosaries and Mary have no place on the court.

When protestant churches jettisoned the sacramental, mysterious qualities of Catholicism, they universally rejected the Marian symbology, and proved themselves even more unimaginatively patriarchal than the original role model. Much in protestantism densely attaches itself to an alarmingly limited perception of hyper realism, in which the Marian image becomes the equivalent of a round peg in a square hole. Of all the protestant tenants to avoid, this should have been the Church’s last route. Instead, the Church has emulated the worst in its competition.

Of course, sophomoric attempts to appease protestantism hardly stops two millennium of Marian devotion among the laity, particularly European, Scandinavian, and Hispanic laity. Marian apparitions and pilgrimages to attributed sights of these apparitions are still vigorous forces of mystical inspiration to be reckoned with.  The Church, understandably- from its public point of view, looks at each sighting with skepticism. That is the face the Church is forced to put on for the world. The authenticity of each sighting is reviewed, but the authenticity lies in that translucent wave of inspiration. Marian devotion has never been preoccupied with historicity or vacuous realism.

Christ himself rarely acquires that level of frenzied sightings. That possibly is because the Marian image, while certainly ethereal in the end state of being, traverses that bridge between the human condition and the goal of inclusion in the divine family.

Being a woman in first century, patriarchal-ruled Judea, Mary is a symbolic outcast, a secondary citizen. It is written that a sword pierced her girl’s heart, the traditional “Mary’s Way of the Cross” depicts a mother closely following in the bloodied footsteps of her dying son, and the various Pietas capture the mystical and emotional anguish of a parent losing her child.

In his writings of “Total Concentration to Mary”, that Franciscan martyr Maximilan Kolbe wrote,  ” Anyone incapable of bending his knee and of imploring from Her in humble prayer the grace to know who She really is, cannot hope to learn anything more about Her.

From the divine Maternity flow all the graces granted to the All Holy Virgin Mary, and the first of these graces is the Immaculate Conception. This privilege must be particularly dear to Her heart, if at Lourdes She herself wished to define Herself thus: I am the Immaculate Conception. With this name, so pleasing to Her heart, we also wish to call upon Her.

To draw close to Her, to make ourselves like Her, to allow Her to take possession of our heart and of all our being, that She might live and work in us and through us, that She Herself love God with our heart, that we belong to Her without any reserve: behold our ideal.

To shine in our environment, to conquer souls for Her, in such wise that in Her presence the hearts of our neighbors also open, so that She might extend Her reign in the hearts of all who live in any corner of the earth, without regard to difference of race, of nationality, of language, and likewise in the hearts of all who will live in any moment of history, until the end of the world: behold, our ideal.

Further, that Her life be ever more deeply rooted in us, from day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment, and this without any limitation: behold our ideal.

And still, that this Her life develop in the same way in every soul which exists or will exist in any time: behold our precious ideal.”

Despite some, admittedly, dated terminology (i.e; ‘conquering souls’) Kolbe’s ideal, inspired by his devotion, was put into action when he voluntarily laid down his life for a stranger in the Auschwitz concentration camp in August, 1941. “Greater love hath no man than this.”

Instead of eradicating her image and spiritual presence from our Churches, or applying a reductionist approach to her, the Marian image and presence can be embraced for what it is; the faith’s sublime, mysterious Tahitian pearl, a diaphanous adagio for our contemplation and inspiration, a startlingly sensuous rose which can, quite astonishingly, burst through the practicality of our senses. The Church and the faith are desperate for a veracious, mystical revival and movement. This will not be found in the hollow, pedestrian, futile,  and predictable attempts that have been made time and again. No, the first steps of this can be attained by an image we have always had before us. As usual, she is forced to wait on our “coming round” to her embrace.

https://alfredeaker.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/our-lady-catholicisms-diaphanous-adagio/

Additional Articles:

“Fr. Benito Hernandez, pastor of Denver’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, founded to serve the Hispanic community of Denver and known for its decades of community and social activism, did what many of his parishioners consider an unthinkable, sacrilegious act.

He built a wall in front of a mural depicting La Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe — the parish’s patron — that had adorned the church sanctuary wall for three decades. Parts of the mural not covered by the wall, he had painted over.

“We decided that the sanctuary’s original background detracted from the central focus of the Holy Presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the altar,” Hernandez said in a statement.

For nearly a year parishioners tried to persuade Hernandez to tear down the wall and restore the mural, but the priest rejected all such suggestions…

Meanwhile, folding chairs and ladders were stacked behind the wall. Our lady’s mural was now effectively in a closet.

Instead of giving up, the parishioners got organized.With the help of Mike Wilzoch, a veteran community organizer and former parishioner, the parishioners formed a group, called Faithful United, printed leaflets, launched a Web site (wouldjesushidehismother.com), began circulating a petition, and scheduled a press conference.

The artist who painted the mural in 1977, Carlota Espinoza, has volunteered to restore it

Ignored and disparaged by their pastor, Faithful United decided to take their fight to Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Denver archdiocese.

In a letter dated Sept. 24, the group told Chaput:

“The Creator, the Mother of Jesus and namesake of the Church, and her Angels in attendance [have been] completely removed from view. The face of God and the Angels were literally painted over — whitewashed — while Our Lady of Guadalupe was crudely hidden behind a white wall, where what remains has been defaced by construction work directly on Her image.

“The mural stood for over 30 years as an inspiring source of devotion, pride and faith for thousands of parishioners, visitors from across the globe, and the Latino community which has struggled for decades for true acceptance and respect by the institutional church.”

With the letter, Faithful United sent a petition that made three demands of Chaput:

 

    • The mural is to be fully restored to its original glory.

 

    • Corrective action is taken towards those who mistreated mural advocates.

 

    • Reconciliation is made with both current and former parishioners, with open and honest dialogue about the issues, with harmony and unity replacing the divisiveness being promoted by church officials today.

 

Chaput responded Oct. 5 with a letter that read:

“I have full confidence in Father Benito’s leadership of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. As pastor, his decision to remodel the sanctuary was appropriate. I must also frankly share with you that recourse to the Denver Post has weakened rather than strengthened the credibility of your petition.”

When Faithful United sent Chaput the letter, they had also held a news conference that drew the attention of local print media, as well as Spanish language broadcasters Univision and Telemundo.

Responding to Chaput’s criticism of the group’s outreach to media, Frances Frain-Aguirre, one of the leaders of Faithful United, told NCR: “When you can’t get a voice any place, how do you get a voice other than to rise up and say, we have to publicize what is going on.”

Frain-Aguirre began attending Guadalupe parish more than 30 years ago.

The parish was founded in 1936 to serve Spanish speaking Catholics in Denver, and until recently was known for its activism, as noted in the history of the archdiocese by Thomas J. Noel.

Noel wrote:

“When the Reverend Jesse Jackson brought his presidential campaign to Colorado in 1988, he chose the humble church of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a Sunday stop. Two years earlier, Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, likewise had selected it as the place to meet with area religious leaders regarding his country’s efforts to rebuild following decades of repressive dictatorship.

“Few were surprised, as Our Lady of Guadalupe Church has been a center of both social and religious activism for years … Our Lady of Guadalupe has been a refuge and a center of hope since its founding.”

 

According to Noel, a parish bus and the basketball backboards on the parish playground were painted with the logo of the United Farm Workers.

Noel also records the significance of the mural.

Chaput said that he would review the situation and appointed a senior deacon, Alfonso Sandoval, to convene a meeting with leaders of Faithful United, the archdiocese and the parish.

Wilzoch told NCR the group doesn’t have high expectations for this meeting.

“We are willing to meet and we won’t turn down any opportunity to dialogue; however, even in his invitation, [Chaput] is closing the door,” Wilzoch said.

The archbishop has already made clear that he sides with Hernandez, Wilzoch said. No one in the group Chaput appointed to meet with Faithful United “has the power to reverse the pastor’s decision. Only the archbishop has that power and he won’t meet with us.”

“This demonstrates to us that he is not open to having true negotiations,” Wilzoch said.

What is the next step for Faithful United? Wilzoch said the organization is just getting started.

NCR contact the Denver archdiocese about this issue. Chaput repsonded in an e-mail: “I’m sure you’ll understand that this is a parish matter. Mediating it in the press would be quite strange; and the fact that this group seeks to do so unfortunately only weakens the integrity of their case.”

Dennis Coday National Catholic Reporter , 2010

Archbishop Charles Chaput

(photo: Archbishop Charles Chaput)

Parishioners sang and marched onto the Archdiocese property on Tuesday, November 23 trying to persuade Catholic church leaders to help them in their quest to restore a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe that had been covered up by a wall approximately two years ago.

The role of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image in the church has been causing controversy within the Catholic church since the mid 1500’s. According to legend, in 1531 Mexican peasant Juan Diego encountered a vision of a beautiful young woman in the hills of Tepeyac. He identified her as the Virgin Mary and to prove to others that she existed, she told him to gather flowers from the hillside and when she laid down in them, her image miraculously transferred to his cloak. A church was built to honor her and it became very popular with the indigenous people. This disturbed the hierarchy of the church at the time as they wanted to ensure that the church did not continue to honor the mother goddess Tonantzin who had been worshiped at this location until the Spanish conquest prevailed in 1521. Throughout the centuries popes and Jesuits have studied the legend and by 2002 Pope John Paul included in the General Calendar of the Roman Rite, as optional memorials, the liturgical celebrations of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on December 9 and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12.

The mural at Our Lady of Guadalupe in North Denver was painted by Carlota Espinoza.

The decision to paint over a portion of the mural and to hide the rest behind a new wall was made without parishioner input. According to a report in the Denver Post, the parish pastor Benito Hernandez wanted to restore Jesus to the center of the wall. And indeed a depiction of Jesus on the crucifix is directly behind the altar with the Virgin Mary off to the side.

Protestors have attempted to restore the mural by presenting over 400 signatures to Archbishop Chaput, according to Mike Wilzoch, a spokesperson for the protesting parishioners.

In a letter to Chaput, the parishioners wrote, “In November of last year, Pope Benedict convened and addressed a meeting of artists in the Sistine Chapel. As reported by the Catholic News Service, “for decades the church has expressed a need for beautiful, inspiring modern art for places of worship.” In his address, the Pope, surrounded by Michelangelo’s stunning frescoes, said “Thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement.”

“At the same time, the Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Rev. Benito Hernandez, made a decision directly at odds with the Pope’s statements. He directed that a mural which depicted the Creator, the Mother of Jesus and namesake of the Church, and her Angels in attendance be completely removed from view. The face of God and the Angels were literally painted over—whitewashed—while Our Lady of Guadalupe was crudely hidden behind a white wall, where what remains has been defaced by construction work directly on Her image.”

“The mural stood for over 30 years as an inspiring source of devotion, pride and faith for thousands of parishioners, visitors from across the globe, and the Latino community which has struggled for decades for true acceptance and respect by the institutional church.”

Wilzoch said at the protest held on November 23, 2010 that the letter and the petitions have gone unanswered.

Wilzoch says the destruction of the art represents a breach in church laws established for centuries.

In the website http://www.wouldjesushidehismother.com parishioners can be heard expressing their feelings about the mural and its removal.

“It’s a disregard for those of us who have supported this pillar of our community,” said Debbie Ortega, former City Councilwoman. The removal of the mural she added, “leaves me with an incredible sadness.”

The Catholic Church used to set up boundaries within which anyone who lived must attend the church within the boundary. But like public schools, church members now have choices about where they choose to attend.

Margie Domingo wrote in a letter linked from the website that, “I no longer feel comfortable attending mass at this church.” She wrote in this letter how she needed to wait a long time to receive communion to which she attributed the priest’s actions to her protesting the removal and covering of the mural.” Elisa Cohen, North Denver Tribune, 2010

Artist Carlota EspinoZa holds a photo of her work in April in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Denver. Church parishioners have started a grassroots effort to protest a wall that has replaced EspinoZa's long-standing mural in the building.

(Photo: Artist Carlota EspinoZa holds a photo of her work in April in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Denver. Church parishioners have started a grassroots effort to protest a wall that has replaced EspinoZa’s long-standing mural in the building)

Faithful Uprising For Virgin Of Guadalupe Mural

Since the mural was covered by a white wall, and painted over in other areas, parishioners and activists continue to push to bring the mural back.

“We have tried to talk to the priests, and up until now, they’ve ignored us, so we are ready for action until they bring the wall down,” said organizer and former parishioner Mike Wilzoch.

Wilzoch, who no longer belongs to a parish church, leads Faithful United, a group of past and present parishioners who said they are ready to do anything respectful to bring the wall down.

Jeanette DeMelo, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the archbishop is aware of the controversy but has not had time to read the letter in detail and make a decision on how to react. He and other priests have been in a retreat for the past week.

DeMelo said typically, the archdiocese does not intervene in a parish conflict but will work with church priests and parishioners to solve the problem. She said there have already been meetings between the archdiocese and the parish leaders.

“We want them to accept this was a mistake against the community,” Wilzoch said.

If the wall blocking the mural comes down, parts of the painting will have to be restored. Original artist Carlota Espinoza, who lives in Denver, has said she would be willing to do the work.

For some members of Faithful United, including Wilzoch, the mural is symbolic of the culture of the north Denver Catholic community. For others, it’s about the art or the religious meaning of the work.

For all Faithful United members, it is emotional.

“It’s not so much religion, it’s art,” Cruz said. “If someone comes to your home and tears up pictures of your mom, that would be disrespectful. It’s the same thing.”

Some members also feel the covered mural is only part of the change of atmosphere in the parish.

“The church is being run like a business, strictly nine to five,” said Fran Frain Aguirre. She said she could not reach a priest to give her mother last rites.

“The previous, Father Lara, used to take calls all night,” Wilzoch said. “This was the place where people could come to. We just want to come back home.”

Denver Post May,  2016, Yesenia Robles