Guardian Angels Parish outgrows century-old frame church

New church a big event in history of tiny Mead parish

Roxanne King

At 11 a.m. on January 1, Guardian Angels Parish in Mead dedicated it’s new parish center, which includes a beautiful church. The event’s date and time honored the first Mass held in the original white frame church for 25 Catholic families over a century ago on Jan. 1, 1911.

Now boasting 270-families, the parish that serves Berthoud and Mead along the Interstate 25 corridor in northern Colorado experiencing a housing boom, simply outgrew its picturesque, steepled church.

“The little church only held 99 people, so we were holding four Masses on the weekend and they were still standing-room only,” Father Alan Hartway, CPPS, told the Denver Catholic.

An exterior shot of the new Guardian Angels Parish Center, which was dedicated Jan. 1 with a special Mass celebrated by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. (All photos by Jason Weinrich | Denver Catholic)

The handsome new 12,000-square-foot brick Romanesque facility, which is located on the same 7-and-a-quarter-acres site the tiny old church sits on at 109 S. Third St., also includes a dining hall that doubles as overflow seating for the new church, a kitchen, a meeting room and offices.

Parishioner Kerry Sewczak said that when she attended the first Mass in the new 250-seat church, which took place on Christmas Eve 2017, she was astonished.

“It’s amazing, especially the reredos (altarpiece),” she told the Denver Catholic. “It was always referred to as a parish center, so it didn’t occur to me that it was a church. I think a lot of people were surprised that it really does look like a church!”

“The architecture of the new church professes our faith life,” said Sewczak’s husband Jim, who was on the design committee. “Father put that vision in front of us.”

“Church architecture is supposed to tell the story of the Gospel,” explained Father Hartway, a Missionaries of the Precious Blood priest. “So when you come into our church, the story doesn’t end with the crucifix on the wall, there’s the Resurrection after that. Our architecture tells the whole story.”

The Knights of Colombus process into the new church as the dedication ceremony begins. The architecture of the church is meant to embody the Christian journey from baptism to Heaven. (All photos by Jason Weinrich | Denver Catholic)

Starting with a bent axis entry, which forces a worshiper to turn their whole body to enter the building, echoing the spiritual practice of conforming oneself to Christ and his will; to the baptismal font inside the church door, reminding one of their new life in Christ; to the crucifix hanging above the altar, depicting Christ’s sacrifice; to the marble altarpiece, representing the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem, located behind the altar for the Eucharistic banquet, and ending with the stained-glass window of the Lamb of God above the altarpiece, the church embodies the Christian journey from baptism to heaven.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila was the main celebrant of the dedication Mass, during which he blessed the church and its contents, including the altar, the cross and the Stations of the Cross.

“Bless this altar built in the house of the Church that it may ever be reserved for the sacrifice of Christ and stand forever as the Lord’s table where your people will find nourishment and strength,” the archbishop prayed as relics were deposited in the altar and before anointing and censing it.

Noting that the day was the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the archbishop exhorted the faithful to turn to her.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blesses the altar of the new parish center. (All photos by Jason Weinrich | Denver Catholic)

“Mary intercedes for us that we may come to know her Son,” the archbishop said. “Her last words in the Gospel are, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

The archbishop thanked all those responsible for the new facility and Father Hartway for his perseverance in guiding the project. In expressing his own gratitude, Father Hartway gave special thanks to the parishioners and parish staff as well as the architects, Bruce Larson and Peter Incitti, and the builder, Krische Construction.

The $4.5 million project is funded by a parish capital campaign, the pastor said.

“(It) came in on time … and pennies under budget,” Father Hartway said, drawing laughter.

The new church/parish center and related landscaping efforts—a Meditation Park open to the public featuring a new bronze Guardian Angel near an older bronze symbolizing Spring, which sit next to the original church located at the corner of the busiest intersection in Mead—aim to both serve the faithful and to aid evangelization, the pastor said.

“The Guardian Angel statue, because angels are so appealing to people, is a good entry to evangelization,” Father Hartway told the Denver Catholic. “That’s why we located it where we did. She’ll be able to invite people to come here to rest and to feel welcoming hospitality.

“Events can still be held in our old church,” he said, adding that the parish plans to restore and maintain the beloved, carpenter Gothic church. “Eventually, we may turn it into an adoration chapel.”

In the Christmas bulletin, Father Hartway expressed the joy the latest improvements mean for the life of the parish.

“Occupying our new parish center is arguably the second biggest event in the history of the parish, the first being the first little church,” he wrote. “Look how far we’ve come and imagine how far we’re going.”

GUARDIAN ANGELS PARISH FUN FACTS

  • In 1910 Catholic families bought the old Mount Zion United Brethren Church and dragged it a mile down Weld County Road to its present location, where it was renamed Guardian Angels Catholic Church.
  • Relics placed in the altar of the new church are from St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese-born former slave who became a Canossian religious sister in Italy, and St. Gaspar del Bufalo, an Italian priest and founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood order.
  • The face of the new Guardian Angel bronze was posed by a child of the parish.
  • The new Romanesque marble reredos is flanked by two 5-foot trumpeting angels. It dates to 1881 and is from the now-closed and demolished Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Philadelphia.
  • The Stations of the Cross, the statue of Mary in the center of the reredos, and the corpus on the crucifix, are hand-carved olive wood from Bethlehem and were created by artisans of Bethlehem Arts.

COMING UP: Build, and they will come

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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.