New mountain church offers ‘spiritual recreation’

Julie Filby

(UPDATED Oct. 2, 2014 with photos from Sept. 14 dedication, photos by Shannon Lukens)

Every summer thousands of Colorado families head over Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs to mountain bike, fly fish, hike Fish Creek Falls, and soak in the hot springs. During the winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to the mountain resort on the western ridge of the Continental Divide for fun in the snow.

“We’re a destination town,” said Father Ernest Bayer, pastor of Holy Name Parish since 2005. “My vision is to give visitors two reasons to come: physical recreation and spiritual recreation.”

To accommodate the spiritual recreation of a congregation that doubles in size during the peak seasons, the parish recently completed a 15,382-square-foot expansion. The new church increased capacity from 300 to 600.

“During peak season we had standing room only,” Father Bayer said.

Work began on the small existing church at 524 Oak St. in July 2012 with contractor services provided by Fox Construction, owned by parishioner Tom Fox. Mountain-inspired architectural services were provided by Greenwood Village-based Eidos Architects.

“(A mountain architecture style) was accomplished through various geometries,” according to Mae Ann Saas of Eidos, “and heavy utilization of wood and stone in the design.”

“It’s meant to look like God’s holy mountain,” Father Bayer said. “Mount Zion.”

Features include an altar of Colorado red granite, a tabernacle of a bronze burning bush, a baptismal font with a lower pool for immersion, and a bell tower with four bells.

The capital campaign to fund construction launched in 2008.

“It took about six years to raise the money,” Father Bayer said of the $9.1 million project. “It’s a huge miracle, an example of how the body of Christ pulls together. God sent some very generous people our way, locals and out-of-towners.”

Fundraising efforts were energized when plans for stained glass windows were announced. Local artist and parishioner Greg Effinger was commissioned to design sets of windows, totaling about 166 sections overall.

“The windows are amazing,” Father Bayer said. “Everything’s original.”

Themes range from creation through Church history to the second coming of Christ, with an emphasis on the institution of the Eucharist in the Last Supper windows. Effinger worked with a team from the wider community to produce the windows, headed up by local stained glass craftsman and parishioner Georgian Kalow.

God put a “dream team” together to make the entire project possible, Father Bayer said of the parishioners, donors and workers.

“Lots of people worked very hard on it,” he said. “God’s doing wonderful things in Routt County … it’s an oasis in the midst of our crazy world.

“Come and see us,” he added. “We made room for you!”

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Archbishop Samuel Aquila will dedicate the new church at 4:30 p.m. Mass Sept. 14. For photos of the construction process, visit catholicsteamboat.com/church-expansion.

COMING UP: A caveat on the great Tom Wolfe

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When the great Tom Wolfe died on May 14 — he of the white suits, the spats, and the prose style as exuberant as his wardrobe — I, like millions of others, remembered the many moments of pleasure I had gotten from his work.

My Wolfe-addiction began on a cross-country flight in 1979, shortly after The Right Stuff was published. Always an airplane and space nut, I was fascinated by Wolfe’s re-creation of the culture of America’s test pilots and astronauts at the height of the Cold War. And there was that extraordinarily vivid writing. At one point I burst out laughing, scaring the daylights of the elderly lady sitting next to me but not daring to show her the passage — it must have involved Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club, a saloon outside Edwards Air Force Base — that set me off.

After The Right Stuff got me going on Tom Wolfe, it was impossible to stop. The first half of Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers — Wolfe’s scathing account of a reception thrown for the Black Panthers by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein — remains the quintessential smack-down of political correctness among the 1% cultural elites. From Bauhaus to Our House explains why anyone with an aesthetic sense thinks something is seriously wrong with modernist architecture, and does so in a way that makes you laugh rather than cry.

Then there was Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. One of its chapters, “The Masque of the Red Death,” takes its title from Edgar Allan Poe and with mordant humor dissects the vacuity of Manhattanites consumed (and in some cases destroyed) by their grotesque, over-the-top consumerism. I recently re-read that stunning set-piece and the thought occurred, as it had before, that it was a far more effective polemic against materialism than anything ever issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Bonfire was also brilliant in skewering the destructiveness of New York’s race hustlers, the obtuseness of a values-free media, and the fecklessness of too many politicians.

Asked once by monks who run a prestigious prep school what they might do to disabuse parents of the notion that their sons were doomed if they didn’t get into Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and the like, I suggested giving a copy of I Am Charlotte Simmons to the parents of every incoming senior. Wolfe’s fictional tale of life on elite American university campuses in the 21st century is a sometimes-jarring exercise in the social realism practiced (a bit less brutally) by Dickens and Balzac. But Charlotte Simmons, like Wolfe’s other fiction, has a serious moral core and an important cultural message. The young innocent, the brightest girl in town who makes it to an elite university, gets corrupted by stages: and her moral corruption is preceded by intellectual corruption — the class in which she’s taught that there’s really nothing properly called “the truth.”

I do have one post-mortem caveat to register about Tom Wolfe’s oeuvre, which takes me back to The Right Stuff (and while we’re on that subject again, forget the inane movie). The central figure in Wolfe’s tale of aeronautical daring-do is Chuck Yeager, the man who first broke the “sound barrier” in the Bell X-1, and did so with a couple of broken ribs, which he managed in flight with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle. Yeager was an extraordinary figure who never became a national celebrity because of the (absurd) news blackout surrounding the X-1 project, and Wolfe clearly wanted to pay tribute to him as an unsung American hero.

To do so, however, Tom Wolfe seemed to think he needed a foil, and he cast astronaut Gus Grissom in that role: “L’il Gus,” the Hoosier grit lampooned as a bumbler to make Yeager look even better. And that was a grave disservice to the memory of Virgil I. Grissom, who did not mess up the second Mercury space flight (Wolfe’s account notwithstanding), and who gave his life for his country in the launch pad fire that consumed Apollo 1 — which Grissom knew to be a deeply flawed spacecraft and had urged NASA to improve.

So now that Tom Wolfe and Gus Grissom have both crossed what Wolfe once called the Halusian Gulp, I hope these two American patriots are reconciled. Both had the right stuff.