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: 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.”