Church revamp a ‘breathtaking’ gift for parishioners

Faith and beauty go hand-in-hand at St. Francis de Sales in Denver

Moira Cullings

Drivers who pass by St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Denver at night are in for a treat, according to Tony Johnson, Office Manager at the parish.

“When the interior lights are on, you are now able to see the stunning stained-glass windows as if you were inside the church,” he said. “It’s just breathtaking.”

The parish’s stained-glass windows are a staple of the church building, where thousands of parishioners have come to worship since it was built in 1911. Since the parish itself was founded in 1892, it has served Denver through its church, current STEM school and community outreach.

The stained-glass windows are a staple of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Denver. Photo by Moira Cullings

“These have shaped us to be a parish that has a far-reaching community that sees the church as their home — where they belong and reach out to one another,” said Father Ken Liuzzi, pastor of the parish.

St. Francis has high involvement in several ministries, especially ones involving the liturgy, said Father Liuzzi.

“There is a good sense of reverence to these ministries,” he said. “They indeed see them as ministry to the Body of Christ.”

Parishioners Karen and Leon Glassman are a testament to the hospitality and joy at St. Francis. They joined the parish around 20 years ago after just one chance experience they had.

It’s just a warm, wonderful community of people.”

The Glassmans didn’t have time to make the Sunday evening Mass at their home parish, so they ventured to St. Francis since it offered one at a later time.

They never expected the outcome that one decision would bring.

“It seemed like from that very first Mass, it felt so warm, so welcoming and so good,” said Karen.

St. Francis de Sales parishioners hope to be able to renovate both the outside and inside of the church they love. Photo by Moira Cullings

As soon as the Glassmans got home, they took steps to join the parish.

Explaining there was nothing wrong with the parish they belonged to at the time, Karen and Leon say they simply felt drawn to the St. Francis community and couldn’t shake the feeling that’s where they were meant to be.

“I feel like all the parishioners are very warm and very happy to return a smile,” said Karen. “It’s an interesting parish in that before Mass, things are very quiet and people go in and sit down and pray. But as people come in, they look at each other and wave and smile.

“And then after Mass, poor Father sometimes has to almost turn out the lights to get many of us to leave because we are all conversing with each other,” she said.

“It’s just a warm, wonderful community of people.”

Leon agreed.

“We’re glad to be there with others that feel the same way about the Mass and worship,” he said.

For many of the parishioners, that atmosphere and the church building  itself has a major impact on their faith experience. But to keep the building up and running for both current and future generations, it is now undergoing several renovations — the most notable being the stained-glass window repairs.

“The plexiglass that they put on the windows years and years ago has clouded so much that it stops the light from going through the windows,” said Johnson.

The renovations at St. Francis will enhance its colorful windows. Photo by Tony Johnson

The wood surrounding the windows is also deteriorating, and Johnson explained they were nervous the windows would fall down. Half of the windows have been repaired — and the difference is clear.

“As the refurbished windows made their appearance, people were astounded at the details in the windows that were previously out of sight, the intensity of the colors and the light that came through,” said Father Liuzzi.

“More and more [parishioners] are standing in front of them and expressing their absolute wonder at the transformed beauty of the windows,” he added. “The brilliance that these windows are now adding to our worship space is truly divine.”

The parish now hopes to fix the rest of the windows, as well as a few parts of the church’s interior that are falling apart.

This church is the crown jewel of the parish.”

“You can feel the Holy Spirit when you enter our church,” said Johnson. “Our congregation feels a sense of pride and we all have a shared vision and a common goal that God has called us to sustain our church.”

The Glassmans have been inspired by the parish’s efforts to fix the church.

“They really believe in keeping the church going,” said Leon. “It needs to be done for future generations.”

An image of the Holy Family is one of several stained-glass depictions that inspire the parishioners at St. Francis de Sales. Photo by Moira Cullings

For Johnson, all the efforts are well worth it.

“This church is the crown jewel of the parish,” he said. “It should be impeccable. This is God’s home. This is where we come to worship him, so it’s a place that should be spirit-filled. You should feel that presence the minute you walk in the door.”

Father Liuzzi is grateful for his parishioners’ eagerness to keep their church building up and running. He sees the worship space and the parish’s passion for its community as the perfect concoction for the mission of St. Francis.

“With these elements working together,” he said, “we will be what all parishes are called to be — a beacon of Christ to the neighbor and farther.”

For more information on the St. Francis de Sales renovation, or if you are interested in donating, visit sfdsparishdenver.com or call the parish office at (303) 744-7211.

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic bishops remember Columbine on 20th anniversary

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Colorado’s bishops have issued a joint statement recognizing the 20th anniversary of the April 20, 1999 shooting at Columbine High School that claimed the lives of 12 students and one teacher. The full statement can be read below.

This week we remember the horrific tragedy that occurred at Columbine High School 20 years ago. In life there are days that will never be forgotten; seared in our minds and
on our hearts forever – for many of us in Colorado that day was April 20, 1999.

As we mark this solemn anniversary with prayer, remembrance and service let us not forget that there is still much work to be done. Violence in our homes, schools and cities is destroying the lives, dignity and hope of our brothers and sisters every day. Together, as people of good
will, we must confront this culture of violence with love, working to rebuild and support family life. We must commit ourselves to working together to encourage a culture of life and peace.

Nothing we do or say will bring back the lives and innocence that were lost 20 years ago. Let us take this moment to remember the gift of the lives of those we lost, and let us, as men and women of faith, take back our communities from the fear and evil that come from violence like we witnessed at Columbine. Our faith in Jesus Christ provides us with the hope and values that
can bring peace, respect and dignity to our homes, hearts and communities.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Columbine community and all those affected by violence
in our communities.