Community-rooted St. Theresa’s breaks ground for long-awaited new church

Aaron Lambert

Carmine DeSantis was six years old when St. Theresa’s Parish in Frederick was being constructed.

Having just immigrated from Italy with his family, he didn’t speak a lick of English. This was in 1936, just after World War II had broken out in Europe. He’s been in Frederick ever since, and St. Theresa’s has been an instrumental part of his life.

Founded in 1923, construction for the church was completed in 1938, and still stands today. However, with an ever-growing population and as the main parish for residents of Frederick, Firestone, Dacono and the surrounding areas, they’ve long needed a bigger church.

This dream became a reality Sept. 6, when after nearly 10 years, the St. Theresa’s Parish community broke ground for a new church building. The nine-and-a-half-acre plot of land at the corner of Bobcat and Bella Rosa Parkway in Frederick was donated by a local resident of the area in 2009.

“We have been waiting for this moment,” Father Hernan Florez, pastor of St. Theresa’s for 11 years, told the Denver Catholic.

With a modest population of about 13,000, Frederick is not a big town. However, it is a community that has been around for many years, and St. Theresa’s has deep roots in it. The original building was built by the coal miners who populated the Frederick area in the 1930s, made up mostly of Italian immigrants.

Carmine DeSantis (pictured, center), has been a part of St. Theresa’s Parish since 1936. He says the church has deep roots in the community of Frederick. (Photos by Aaron Lambert)

“They’ve done a good job at building the building,” DeSantis said. “Of course, each person did what they could do. There was no specified electrician or anything, but if you could do a little bit of electrical work, you did the job. We had a lot of good hustlers.”

Today, DeSantis remains one of the original founding members of the parish, along with two others.

“They call us the ‘Three Musketeers,’” DeSantis joked.

After serving in the army during the Korean War, DeSantis became a teacher at a local school near the church. He taught there for 32 years, where, among several roles, he served as a hall monitor and taught driver’s ed. He looks back on those years fondly.

“It was wonderful,” he said. “It was just like a big family. We got lucky.”

Blanca Rodriguez has been a part of the parish for 40 years, and she taught alongside DeSantis in the local school for part of that time. She is also an integral part of the Hispanic ministry efforts of the parish. As with many parts of Colorado, the Hispanic population in Frederick has steadily grown over the past 15 years, and today, over half of St. Theresa’s parishioners are Hispanic.

However, the parish has very active ministry groups for both the English and Spanish speakers. In addition to offering six Masses each weekend, there are Bible studies, two Neocatechumenal Way communities, a Charismatic ministry, the Knights of Columbus and Trinity Ladies Auxiliary group, and others.

The current St. Theresa’s church was sold to a funeral home based out of Boulder. It was built by coal minders in the 1930s.

“There are always people here meeting during the week,” Father Florez said.

In May, a fire broke out inside the church that damaged much of the interior and has rendered the building unsafe for celebrating Masses. The community has been meeting in the parish hall and the nearby gym at Thunder Valley School for Masses.

But that hasn’t slowed them down. St. Theresa’s is a parish marked by its diversity and activity. Even Father Tomislav Tomic, parochial vicar, who originally hails from Bosnia, has been welcomed warmly by the people of St. Theresa’s, which is his first assignment as a priest.

“The parish is great in the sense of accepting me,” Father Tomic said.

The original St. Theresa’s was sold to a funeral home based in Boulder. Soon, the people of St. Theresa’s will have a new church building to call home – a day that Father Florez, DeSantis and the rest of the community has been awaiting eagerly.

“I’ve seen this parish go,” DeSantis said. “We’ve done a lot of good things.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that DeSantis and Rodriguez taught at a school attached to St. Theresa’s. St. Theresa’s has never had a school attached to it; they taught at a local school that is part of the St. Vrain Valley School District. We apologize for the error.

COMING UP: Archbishop: In this time of need, join me for a Rosary Crusade

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When God chose to enter the world to save us, he chose Mary, whose deep faith provided the way for Jesus to come among us. She believed in the words of the angel, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1: 37). As she expressed her deep confidence in the promises of God, the Word became flesh. In our current time of crisis, our Church, world and our country need faith in God and the protection and intercession of Mary. And so, beginning on August 15, I am launching a Rosary Crusade to ask Mary to urgently bring our needs to Jesus.

The last several months of the coronavirus epidemic, the civil unrest that has broken out in different parts of the archdiocese and our nation, and the challenges the Church is facing have made the need for Mary’s intercession abundantly clear. Mary is our Mother and desires only our good like the Father.

In her appearance to Juan Diego, Our Lady reminded him and reminds us today, “Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.  Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

Saint Padre Pio, who was known for his devotion to the Rosary offers us this advice: “In times of darkness, holding the Rosary is like holding our Blessed Mother’s hand.”

We turn to Mary in our difficulty because she is our spiritual mother, who with her “yes” to the Lord embraced the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. She is “the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God,’ and was able to magnify the Lord: ‘For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #273).

We know, too, from history that Mary has answered prayers brought to her through the Rosary and that she has personally asked people to pray it for the most serious needs, especially for the conversion of souls.

Pope Pius V famously asked all Christians to pray the Rosary in 1571 to prevent Christianity from being overrun by the invading Ottoman Turks, and the Christian naval forces were subsequently victorious in the Battle of Lepanto. In the apparitions at Fatima, Mary identified herself as “The Lady of the Rosary” and asked the shepherd children to whom she appeared to pray a daily Rosary for world peace and the end of World War I.

During his pontificate, Saint John Paul II spoke of the Rosary as his favorite prayer. In his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, he added, “The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort” (RVM, 2).

This past May, Pope Francis encouraged praying the Rosary, saying, “Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial.”

During this time of trial, we need to hear the words of Jesus spoken often in the Gospel, words spoken to Mary by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, “Be not afraid.” We need to pray especially for a deeper trust and hear the words of Elizabeth spoken to Mary in our own hearts. “…blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). The Lord is with us in this time as he has promised! Praying the rosary helps us, with the aid of our Mother, to relive in our own lives the mysteries of Christ’s life.

I personally invite all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Denver to pray the Rosary every day between the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, through the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15. I would be remiss if I did not thank Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita for inspiring this Rosary Crusade by launching one in his diocese at the beginning of August.

As we unite in asking Mary for her intercession and protection, please pray for the following intentions:

* For a growth in faith, hope and charity in the heart and soul of every human being, and most especially in our own that we may seek only the will of the Father

* For a recognition of the dignity of life from the moment of conception until natural death and that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God

* A quick end to the coronavirus pandemic

* For all who are suffering from COVID-19, for their caregivers, and for those who have died from the virus

* In reparation for the sins of abortion, euthanasia, and racism

* In reparation for the sins and failings of our spiritual leaders and for our personal sins

* For healing and justice for all those who have been discriminated against because of their race

* For the conversion of the world and the salvation of souls

* For all those who are persecuted throughout the world for the Faith

* For the conversion of those who carry out acts of desecration against our churches, statues and religious symbols

* In reparation for these acts of desecration, especially against Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

* For our civic leaders and those who keep us safe to experience a deeper conversion, to govern justly, and to seek the common good

* That we may learn how to love and forgive from the example of Jesus

* For all marriages and families, neighborhoods, churches and cities to be strengthened

* For an increase in vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life

Thank you for joining me in this prayer on behalf of our world, country and our Church. I am confident that many of the faithful will respond in turning to the Blessed Mother who “shine[s] on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope” (Pope Francis’ Letter to the Faithful for the Month of May 2020). May you always know the protection of Mary as she leads you to her Son!