Build, and they will come

Guardian Angels Parish in Mead raising funds to build a bigger church

Aaron Lambert

Having a small church can lead to big problems, especially in a booming area.

Father Alan Hartway and Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Mead are in desperate need of a bigger church. The parish launched a capitol campaign in April to raise funds for the construction of a new church building. The project is split into three phases, and they need to raise $3.6 million to begin the first phase of construction.

The campaign was launched in an effort to keep with the rapid growth of Mead and the surrounding Northern Colorado areas. Their parishioners come from Mead and all the nearby towns, including Longmont, Loveland, Berthoud and Johnstown. They have a total of 230 families currently registered, and that number keeps increasing.

The tiny church building they have has been there since the early 1900s, and as charming as it is, it’s just not cutting it anymore. Guardian Angels has gone from having one Mass per weekend in 2007 to having four Masses every weekend, each of which fills their 99-person capacity building to the brim with parishioners.

Guardian Angels pastor Father Alan Hartway, left, and parishioner Doug Staver, right, enjoy a conversation in the current Guardian Angels church building, which is far too small for their rapidly growing parish. They are currently raising money to build a bigger church. (Photo by Aaron Lambert | Denver Catholic)

“It’s packed. People drive away,” Father Hartway said.

It’s not just the masses that are full, either.

“If we have a wedding or a funeral, we have to go to St. John’s in Longmont or somewhere larger to accommodate all the families,” said Donna Staver, a Guardian Angels parishioner. She and her husband Doug are on the committee for the capitol campaign.

The parish also boasts a hall in its office building that’s one of the bigger spaces available for public gatherings in Mead. In addition to bible studies and youth groups, the hall serves as the meeting place for local non-Catholic services as well, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and a food bank. Father Hartway said the hall was used 315 days in 2014.

Guardian Angel’s active involvement in the local community is a part of a bigger spiritual philosophy Father Hartway has. He doesn’t see himself as just the priest at Guardian Angels; he strives to be a spiritual leader for Mead and the surrounding areas.

“I really believe we have to be a part of the whole community. We can’t just do our own little thing,” Father Hartway said. “People like when there’s outreach and there’s focus. It builds pride. Our presence here is valuable to people, and we want to grow that because we can.”

When they began soliciting funds from their parishioners to build the new church, people were very receptive, Donna said. They’ve had an 87% support rate.

“They were all thrilled with the idea of building a new church,” she said.

They’ve also received funds from people who aren’t Catholic, which shows that Guardian Angel’s presence in the community reaches more than just the Catholics, Father Hartway said.

They own seven and a quarter acres of land, located on their property, and the new building will be built there. It will seat 350 people initially, but will be expandable for the future.

Once the new church is built, the old church building will remain where it is and serve as a prayer chapel, as well as a place to have weddings and funerals.

The initial plans for the new church were designed for easy expansion, and could take up to 10 or 20 years for all three phases to be fully completed, Father Hartway said.

“If we really were to think about it, we’d need something even bigger because in 20 years, there’s going to be far more growth here,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer why we have to build.”

For more information or to donate money towards the construction of the new church, contact Guardian Angel’s parish office at 970-535-0721.

COMING UP: Father Jan Mucha remembered for his ‘joy and simplicity’

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When Father Marek Ciesla was 11 years old, he encountered a priest in his hometown in northern Poland who was visiting his parish on mission.

“I was impressed,” said Father Ciesla. “A couple of my friends and I were talking about how energetic, how wonderful this priest was. I think in this way he inspired us a little bit to follow the call to the priesthood.”

The priest was Father Jan Mucha, and little did Father Ciesla know that decades later and an ocean away, he would reunite with the man that inspired him and his friend to pursue the priesthood.

In 2010 when Father Mucha was retiring from his role as pastor of St. Joseph Polish Catholic Church in Denver, Father Ciesla was sent from Poland to the Archdiocese of Denver to take his place.

The priests spent two days together, and Father Ciesla was struck by the familiarity of Father Mucha.

“For some reason, the way he was talking and the words he was using, something rang a bell,” he said. “I asked him if he remembers visiting my parish. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I had it on my list. I remember.’”

Father Ciesla was amazed that the man he was there to replace was the same one who had impacted his life all those years ago.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Father Ciesla. “I never thought I would meet him again.”

Father Mucha passed away March 21 after serving the archdiocese for 40 years. He was 88 years old.

Father Mucha was born March 16, 1930 in Gron, Poland to parents Kazimierz and Aniela Mucha. He was one of five children. Father Mucha attended high school in Kraków and went on to study philosophy and theology at a seminary in Tarnów.

Father Mucha was ordained December 19, 1954 in Tarnów by Auxiliary Bishop Karol Pękala. He served at St. Theresa Parish in Lublin, Sacred Heart Parish in Florynka and as a Latin teacher at Sacred Heart Novice House in Mszana Dolna.

He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Denver on April 20, 1978. Before he was granted retirement status in August of 2010, he served at St. Joseph Polish for nearly 40 years.

“Father Mucha was dedicated to his people and there was a joy about him,” said Msgr. Bernard Schmitz, who had known Father Mucha since his own ordination in 1974 and more recently within his former role as Vicar for Clergy.

“I admired his joy and simplicity,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He seemed to have no guile and what you saw is what you got. He was very proud of his Polish heritage and was unafraid to be Polish.”

Father Mucha’s move to the United States came about after he visited St. Joseph Polish while on vacation. The pastor at the time was sick, and parishioners asked Father Mucha to stay.

After receiving approval from his superiors in Poland and the archbishop in Denver, Father Mucha did stay, and ended up serving the parish for nearly four decades.

“He was happy to serve here,” said Father Ciesla. “All the time, he was a man of faith. He kept his eye on Jesus.”

Msgr. Schmitz believes Father Mucha’s faithfulness and tenacity as a priest will leave a lasting impression on those he served.

“He was dedicated to the priesthood and didn’t want to retire until he was sure his people would be well taken care of,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He could come across as tough, but really he was a compassionate person [with] a heart open to the Lord’s work.”