When the Capuchin Franciscans arrived to Denver in 1970 to oversee Annunciation Parish, then 15-year-old Sue Roth, along with her parents and siblings, attended the first Mass the friars celebrated at the church.
“My grandparents and some aunts and uncles from Victoria, Kan., were present as well,” the Denverite recalled of the order that is dear to the Roth family.
Her father, Jerry Roth, an affiliate of the Capuchins and founder of the Chevrolet dealership that bore his name for more than 30 years on West Colfax, had been educated by the friars in his hometown of Victoria and helped bring them to the Denver Archdiocese when an order was sought to care for the inner-city parish.
Known as Sue Roth-Allen the last 25 years as a result of her marriage to creative consultant and former Emmy-winning marketing and sales broadcast professional John Allen, the nonprofit volunteer and retired dental hygienist’s relationship with the friars precedes the order’s arrival in Denver—she recalls meeting Fr. John Lager when he was a junior seminarian in Victoria and she would visit her grandparents.
“He used to bring his laundry to my grandmother’s house,” she said, “and grandma would do his laundry.”
After Sue and John met and soon married, her husband also became a fan of the friars.
“I started to understand what they were about and was drawn to what they do and their humble lifestyle,” John said. “We watched [then fellow parishioner and altar server] now-Brother Jude Quinto grow up at Christ the King Church. I remember sitting in Mass and telling Sue, He’s going to be a priest someday. I could see the reverence. They are real important to us.”
The couple aids the friars with their time, talent and treasure.
They have attended every Brown Robe event—John has produced videos for the galas—and they support the Friary Garden summer barbecues—Sue helped coordinate one of the first ones. Sue has also assisted Fr. Blaine Burkey with distributing his book about Servant of God Julia Greeley, In Secret Service of the Sacred Heart.
“That helps with the cause for getting her declared a saint,” Sue said.
The couple has gone on pilgrimages led by Fr. Lager, including to Israel, Rome, Greece and Turkey—and twice to Assisi, Italy, birthplace of Franciscan founder St. Francis.
“Those were very moving,” John said.
“The pilgrimages have impacted us greatly,” affirmed Sue, adding that they have deepened the couple’s faith life, their desire to help the poor and their marriage.
While growing up the Capuchins were just part of Sue’s life as her family enjoyed friendship with them, particularly Fr. Lager and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, former archbishop of Denver.
“We knew him when he was just a humble Capuchin priest,” Sue said.
John, who was born and reared in New Castle, Pa., to a Methodist mother and a Muslim father, entered the Catholic Church in 1989, a few years before meeting Sue. Instrumental in his conversion to Christianity was an Air Force chaplain, who told him, “There are many roads to heaven, pick one.”
“Faith is a gift and a constant journey of growth,” John said. “I’m very fortunate to have had the influences in my life that I’ve had. The Capuchins are a big one—they are friends and family.”
“We wouldn’t be who we are or where we are today without their support, guidance and counsel,” added Sue.
St. Francis established the Franciscans as a result of hearing Christ implore him to “Rebuild my Church,” which was in disarray, noted Sue.
“When has the Church not been in disarray?” she said. “Yet I see today what the Capuchins do and the impact they have on not just the Denver and the US community, but the world community, be it Papua New Guinea or wherever they are. They are rebuilding the Church.
“Carry on the legacy,” she said expressing encouragement for the friars. “Continue your ministry.”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” affirmed John. “Keep taking care of people. We’ll pray for you, you pray for us and as a community we’ll see each other as we cross the finish line.”