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

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: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash