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: Should the Church talk about money? If we follow Christ’s teaching, yes.

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In Luke Chapter 3, three different groups asked John the Baptist what they should do to bear the fruit of repentance. John gives three answers: 1) Everyone should share clothes and food with the poor; 2) Tax collectors shouldn’t pocket extra money; and 3) Soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort money. Each answer John gives is related to money and possessions, but no one asked him about that! They only ask how to demonstrate the fruit of spiritual transformation. They don’t grasp John the Baptist’s perspective, that he could not talk about spirituality without talking about how to handle money and possessions.

Jesus puts some harsh words in God’s mouth in the “Parable of the Rich Fool.” In Luke 12:20, we hear: “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Alternatively, Jesus provides some great promises on both sides of that parable. In Luke 11:41: “…give alms and behold, everything will be clean for you.” And in Luke 12:33: “…give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven.”

When my wife Cathy and I were experiencing our conversion to the Lord in the early 1990s, we decided we were going to try to live out our Catholic faith to the full: in our attending Mass every Sunday, in our family and in our checkbook.

So, despite four young kids and no way of knowing if we could afford to send them to Catholic school or college, we started tithing. One thing it dramatically did was contribute to our growth in faith and trust in God. We truly believed in God’s promise that He never will be outdone in generosity. And now, 25 years later, we can only rejoice that we still are doing fine despite paying for Catholic schools, colleges and three daughters’ weddings! So what, that we are driving two cars that have 365,000 miles between them!

When we created our will back then, we decided to leave 10% of our assets to the Church. After I became President of The Catholic Foundation in 2012, we became aware of the concept to “treat the Church like one of your children.” We thought that made a lot of sense, so we changed our will to do just that … such that our four children and The Catholic Foundation will each receive 20% of our estate.

Today, we are not sure how our kids will be able to do what we did; with Denver’s crazy housing market, how will they be able to afford Catholic school for their kids, future colleges and, someday, weddings? It looks daunting for them. Shouldn’t we leave them 100% instead of just 80%? For us, it was an easy decision—better to give them a portion with God’s blessing than to think they’d be better off with it all. Besides, they are helping themselves have the best chance possible.

How? By doing their own tithing! I remember years ago, when the business manager at our parish called me to ensure that it was okay that our daughter had made a large contribution to the parish. Cathy and I were unaware she had done so. What had she done? She had tithed her high school graduation gift money. You can imagine how proud we felt.

A “planned gift” through a will or another avenue is the easiest gift to make because it only gets made when we can’t use it anymore – at least, not in this world. Maybe it can be better used by God and his Church. Listen to Revelation 14:13: “I heard a voice from Heaven say, ‘write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, said the Spirit, let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’ ”

Cathy and I want our works to accompany us, as we are sure you do, too. We have been saved by Jesus for eternal life – let us make sure our faith in that is manifested in our living and in our giving.

Would you prayerfully discern how God is calling you to steward the assets He has entrusted to you? We hope we and you hear these words someday from Jesus (Matthew 25:34): “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Deacon Steve Stemper is CEO & President of The Catholic Foundation. Please contact him at (303) 468-9885 if you would like a meeting to discuss how your planned giving can be used for God’s Kingdom.