Active parish requires larger church in Littleton

Church construction is a sign of growth and hope for the future of the Church and those she serves. The latest project in the Denver Archdiocese—a new church at Light of the World Parish in Littleton, that broke ground Jan. 19—is a shining example of that hope and service.

“There’s been a real resurgence in our Catholic identity at the parish,” explained Father Michael Pavlakovich, in his eighth year as pastor of the church at 10316 W. Bowles Ave. “A real desire to put that faith into action.”

Last year, the parish of 3,000 households tithed more than $100,000 to the poor, donated a substantial amount of food, prepared more than 700 food baskets for families at Thanksgiving, and provided about 1,000 gifts at Christmas, among other service projects.

“To do that stuff, you need space,” Father Pavlakovich affirmed.

The construction and remodel will create a space dedicated for Mass, as well as free up other space for pastoral, ministerial and social needs. Since established in 1979, the parish has worshipped in a multi-purpose space for 35 years.

“It’s a space for both worship and ‘partying,’” said Father Pavlakovich. “We’ve had to find creative ways to maneuver, which has limited us incredibly.”

Once they were debt-free in early 2010, leadership began looking towards the original plan to build a permanent structure for Mass and sacraments.

“We are starting debt-free which makes it easier,” the pastor said, adding that they raised the funds needed to begin in two years, ahead of the projected three years. They have $3.2 million of the budgeted $6.4 million in hand.

“The parishioners have sacrificed a great deal,” he said. “This endeavor has really been a parish event.”

At the groundbreaking, Father Pavlakovich and members of parish were joined by representatives from the archdiocese, Greenwood Village architect Eidos Architects and general contractor Centennial’s Haselden Construction.

Eidos’ design carefully blends the existing contemporary architecture with a traditional octagonal sanctuary, surrounded by four stained glass windows depicting angels.

“The angelic windows,” as Father Pavlakovich calls them, were rescued and revitalized from a church back East. A traditional crucifix, also rescued from a church, will be suspended in the sanctuary.

With curved pews and kneelers—a first for the parish—the new church will accommodate about 1,300 congregants; up from the previous capacity of 700. There will be space for a traditional and contemporary choir, a cry room, extended narthex, and in the north and south corners: private devotional coves.

“These are two elements I’m very proud of,” Father Pavlakovich said. One will contain statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa; the other: St. Anthony, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Katharine Drexel.

“More contemporary saints were selected,” he said. “(As well as) those representing the value of life and charity.”

The rock used for baptisms will be used in the new church and a pool created around it. There will be a skylight above the font, flooding the space with natural light. The existing perpetual adoration chapel will remain the same. The pastor attributes the resurgence in faith and service to eucharistic adoration.

“When I got here we started perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; spaces filled up pretty quickly,” he said. From there came a real desire to care for the poor in the area.

“(Our) parishioners are saying that their faith and where they worship is a priority,” he continued. “The vision and sacrifice is a profound sign of the continued growth of the faith, and of our archdiocese.”

Construction is expected to begin this week, and they hope to celebrate in the new church on the parish feast day next year: Jan. 6, the solemnity of the Epiphany.

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.