St. Jude marks 50 years of vibrant community

Therese Bussen

As a young Lakewood parish in August 1967 without a church building, Father William “Bill” Sievers knew that he had to get creative with the young families in his care. So he set up what he called “little parishes.”

Bill Campbell, one of the original parishioners of St. Jude, now a charter member, recalled that Father Sievers designated 27 of those little parishes, each with one couple as a leader, and a few even remain today.

“They would meet monthly as a group [in each of the areas] and have home Masses with the group,” Campbell said. “This went on for four or five years, and it brought the parish together and you really knew who your neighbors were. There are three groups still going today who meet monthly.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila presides over the 50th Anniversary Mass at Saint Jude Catholic Church on August 27, 2017, in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

This special attention to lay participation in parish life was what set up the parish as it is today for a rich community life, according to pastor Father Robert Kinkel, who was pastor for 12 years before being transferred out, only to be reassigned to the parish again in 2015.

“St. Jude was founded in August 1967 and was one of four that Archbishop Casey began when he came. It was a very creative and dynamic parish and was very interested in lay participation, so there was a lot of lay involvement,” Father Kinkel said.

The church building was built in Christmas of 1969 and dedicated in April 1970, meeting in the auditorium of Alameda High School until then — affectionately referred to as “St. Alameda’s,” Campbell said.

Deacon Alan Spears reads the second reading during the 50th Anniversary Mass at Saint Jude Catholic Church. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

As parish life flourished following its dedication, it marked the first in the Archdiocese for several things: Having female altar servers, involving the laity in a liturgical commission to select Mass readings and music (before the A, B and C cycles were instituted) and establishing a youth center.

As the parish marks the 50th anniversary of its founding this year, the community life remains vibrant and lay-inclusive, with 26 different groups including special education, adult education, RCIA and religious education, as well as Bible studies and prayer groups.

To celebrate its anniversary, the parish got a pictorial directory organized with the history of the church, had a 50’s-themed dance, and hosted a picnic and Mass with Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila on Aug. 27, where Father Kinkel recognized charter members and invited all former priests and deacons.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila receives the gifts for consecration from St. Jude Parishioners during the parish’s 50th anniversary Mass. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

“I’ve never seen so many people there. There were hundreds and it was beautiful,” Campbell commented. “It was special seeing people at the start of the parish come back and celebrate the 50th with us. I’m guessing there were [around] 1,000. I know it was almost double what was anticipated.”

Mur Hillenbrand, a parishioner who organized the 50th anniversary events, said that this vibrant community that welcomes everyone is still a mark of the parish today.

“It remains a very inclusive parish with all walks of life. It’s very welcoming. It’s also a tithing parish, every month, they give money to different organizations,” Hillenbrand said. “I feel so blessed to be here at St. Jude. It’s an example of what Vatican II was all about, the enthusiasm and outreach. Father Sievers, the founding priest, was so loving and kind and really set the tone for the parish. He had a vision of community working together in faith and in our everyday lives, too.”

Jennifer Kraska, executive director of Catholic Colorado Conference, joined the parish 10 years ago and found that the welcoming environment and joyful community left an impression.

“It was one of the parishes I visited when I moved that I went to, and the community was really welcoming and made me feel at home,” Kraska said. “Mainly the people [attracted me], a priest there…he always had a smile and made a point of greeting people, which stood out to me. He was always very present.”

“For someone who didn’t know anybody when I moved, I felt very welcome there.”

Parish Trivia

St. Jude has 1765 registered families and 135 charter members

The first Mass celebrated in the new church was December 20, 1969

The statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph were hand carved in Oberammergau, Germany

The youth center first opened on  August 17, 1974

St. Jude has sponsored refugees from Vietnam and Poland

COMING UP: Risen Christ Parish honors past 50 years, looks to future

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Risen Christ Parish honors past 50 years, looks to future

God’s grace showered via thousands of sacraments made at 'ski-jump' church

Roxanne King

Its unique architecture has led some people to call it “the ski jump” church. The pastor, however, prefers to call it “the launching pad to heaven.”

Officially named Risen Christ Catholic Church in Denver by Archbishop James Casey, the parish turned 50 on Aug. 22.

The golden jubilee was observed with a Mass celebrated Aug. 20 by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and concelebrated by the pastor, Monsignor J. Anthony McDaid, and former pastor, Monsignor Kenneth Leone.

Other concelebrants who had once served at the parish included Father Felix Medina, Father John Krenzke, Father James Kleiner, and Father J. Daniel Schaffer. Deacon Tim Unger and Deacon Mark Salvato assisted.

“It is a great joy to be able to celebrate this Eucharist with you to give glory and praise to the Father for the gift of faith that has been present through the 50 years of the family of this parish,” Archbishop Aquila told the congregation.

Risen Christ Catholic Parish celebrated its 50th anniversary at Risen Christ Catholic Parish Aug. 20. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

In his homily, Monsignor McDaid estimated that during it’s half-century the parish has offered 40,000 Masses, conferred nearly 7,000 baptisms and about the same number of confirmations, witnessed 2,000 marriages and has held slightly more funerals.

“When we think of how many people have been touched through this house of prayer, through the grace of God coming to them as they bring their lives—their sorrows, joys, love … their weaknesses and receive the forgiveness of sins—it’s a fabulous thing that you people of God have worked with Christ,” he said. “God’s grace has been poured out to the people through your generosity.”

Archbishop Casey founded the church on 5.15 acres at 3060 S. Monaco Parkway in 1967, appointing Father Joseph O’Malley as its first pastor. Prior to the church being built, parishioners attended Mass in the gym at Cherry Creek High School, and later at the Continental Theater.

“Going from the bleachers at Cherry Creek to the plush seats of the theater was really something,” recalled Tom Boucher, who along with his wife Sue was among the founding parishioners who were collectively recognized at the end of the anniversary Mass. Chuckling, Boucher added, “Father Joe O’Malley used to hear confessions in the popcorn stand!”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila presided over the 50th Anniversary Mass, which was concelebrated with Risen Christ Pastor Monsignor J. Anthony McDaid and former pastor Monsignor Kenneth Leone. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Ground was broken for the 1,250-seat church, which is shaped like a triangle surrounded by a circle to represent the Trinity and Christian unity, on Dec. 29, 1968. The first Mass in the completed church was held on Jan. 25, 1970.
Designed by local architect James Sudler, the peak of the triangular building soars 76 feet above the altar and features stained glass windows that were originally abstract but today depict the central mysteries of the Catholic faith.

After the Mass, the archbishop blessed five new works by artist Gerry Mulowayi, a Risen Christ parishioner, in the parish’s Holy Family Chapel. The colorful lithographs depict the Holy Family and four other saints.

Following the blessing, parishioners gathered in the parish center for refreshments and to view exhibits showing the parish’s history as well as images of a possible future sanctuary remodel.

“There’s no immediate [remodel] plan or project,” Monsignor McDaid told the Denver Catholic. “Just imaginings on the 50th anniversary to begin a discussion.”

A remodel was done in 2005, but additional improvements are needed to better serve the congregation, the pastor said. Looking to the future, he noted the parish’s demographics are changing as it welcomes immigrants hailing primarily from the Pacific Rim, Africa and Pakistan.

“I’m an immigrant myself,” noted Monsignor McDaid, whose Irish brogue and surname reveal his roots. “The newer immigrants are coming from a different demographic, which is reflected in the new artwork we have in the Holy Family Chapel. [The artist] and his family came to the United States … from the Congo.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blesses new artwork painted by Risen Christ parishioner Gerry Mulowayi to commemorate the parish’s 50th anniversary. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Mulowayi’s works reflect the ethnicities of the saints portrayed: Middle Eastern, Portuguese, French and Mexican.

“God is for everyone and the saints portrayed represent a cultural spectrum,” Mulowayi told the Denver Catholic.
Risen Christ’s congregation of 2,150-plus families is faith-filled and generous, the pastor said.

“The parishioners are not only inward looking, but they have been among the leaders of sharing their patrimony with other archdiocesan projects,” he said.

“Let us give thanks to God for all he has worked through this parish,” Monsignor McDaid told his congregation. “Ad majorem Dei gloriam—‘for the greater glory of God’ and for the salvation of souls. That’s what this is all about and what we participate in.”

Risen Christ Parish Trivia
  • Archbishop Casey named the church Risen Christ Catholic Parish in Denver because his former cathedral in Lincoln, Neb., was also called Risen Christ.
  • The design of the church was modeled after the work of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (called “Le Corbusier”) a pioneer of modern architecture, specifically his Notre Dame du Haut chapel in France.
  • Church artworks include stained glass windows in the “ski jump” spire, a life-size bronze of the Risen Christ by Lynn Kircher, one-of-kind Stations of the Cross and a bronze of the Holy Family by Brian Hanlon, a bronze relief of 30 saints, icons of the Holy Family and the Risen Christ by Father William McNichols, and a 6.5-ton, 12-foot tall marble statue of the Risen Christ by Mario Benassi.
  • The five new lithographs by Gerry Mulowayi depict the Holy Family, St. Anne, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Anthony of Padua and Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro.
  • The parish has had six pastors: founding pastor Father Joseph O’Malley, Msgr. William Jones, Msgr. Lawrence St. Peter, Msgr. Edward Hoffmann, Msgr. Kenneth Leone, and current pastor, Msgr. J. Anthony McDaid.