by Roxanne King
Jack and Judy Pottle met the Capuchin Franciscans in 1995 when Father Malachy McBride, O.F.M. Cap., arrived to Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora after spending 31 years on mission in Papua New Guinea.
The warmth, humor and lively stories of their new Parochial Vicar endeared him to the couple, both native Denverites, and their family, and drew them into his Capuchin family.
“Through him we got to know (then-Bishop) Stephen Reichert, who was in (Mendi,) Papua New Guinea but would come to Denver every now and then,” Jack said of the Capuchin who is now archbishop of Madang, PNG. Archbishop Reichert has family in Colorado Springs and is a friar of the St. Conrad Province.
Three years ago the Pottles visited Papua New Guinea, where the Capuchins have done missionary work since 1955, on a trip led by Capuchin Father Christopher Popravak.
“It was a very special trip for us to see the areas Father Malachy was in and where he ministered,” Jack said about their former friend who died in 2008.
“It doesn’t change much, so even after 20-some years the people still remembered him because they don’t move around much,” added Judy.
Papua New Guinea is among the most culturally diverse nations and is the most linguistically diverse, with more than 700 native tongues spoken there, according to BBC.com. It is also among the most rural, with 80 percent of the population living in areas lacking modern conveniences.
“Among the things that struck us was the culture there,” Judy said, describing being moved by attending Mass where some people wore traditional native dress. “We stayed where the friars stayed and that gave us insight into the simplicity and holiness of their life.”
“We’d eat with the friars and at the end of the meal everyone, including the bishop, cleared the table and did the dishes,” Jack said. “It’s that holiness and humbleness that is so inspiring to be around.”
The couple shared being deeply impressed with the dedicated ministry the friars and the religious sisters give to the people of Papua New Guinea, helping them to grow spiritually and to improve their lives.
“I was tremendously humbled to see what these men and women were doing,” Jack said.
“I felt like they were serving where no one else serves,” added Judy. “It’s remote and parts can be dangerous. It’s so hard to get around that in some places they might say Mass once a month. They really try to meet peoples’ needs: spirituality is really important but they also make sure they have shelter and schools and food, medical services, hospitals. Through meeting their needs they are able to preach the word of God.”
The friars are active and pioneering, the couple said.
“Father Malachy and Archbishop Reichert were Kansas boys,” Judy noted. “The archbishop grew up without electricity; they know how to take care of people in that situation and are very innovative with little funds.
“We met a Polish Capuchin priest on a rooftop there,” she added with a laugh. “He was putting solar panels on a roof. The friars work so hard, are diverse in their skills and are certainly dedicated to God.”
Affirmed Jack: “We saw men and women humble in their roles and as human beings but doing great things.”
The immersive nature of that experience into the friars’ work and lives impelled the Pottles to go on a trip to India the following year again led by Father Christopher along with Capuchin Father Sojan Parapilly, which was also enlightening.
They visited the Capuchin Franciscan friars’ community in Kerala as well as the tomb of Saint Mother Teresa and the hospice, orphanage and convent she established in Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta).
“It was really nice to be with Father Sojan in his native country and learn about it through his eyes,” Judy said. “Being at the Mother Teresa house was amazing.”
Jack, a businessman with experience in a variety of fields, and Judy, an educator with a passion for literacy, are also co-owners of The Family Jones distillery and restaurant in the Lower Highlands neighborhood. They recently sponsored a whiskey tasting benefit for the Capuchins honoring their beloved late friend Father Malachy, whose love of jokes was almost equaled by his pleasure in a good Scotch. Their relationship with the Capuchins holds a special place in their lives, the couple said.
“It’s a relationship we haven’t had in any other way in our life,” Judy said. "They make it easy to have a relationship.”
“It’s been an honor and a privilege,” added Jack.