Growing numbers spark expansion at Our Lady of the Valley

Moira Cullings

In the 1970s, Windsor’s small community of Catholic believers gathered in an unlikely setting.

“We used to meet over a laundromat downtown,” said Father Gregg Pederson.

The community, which had been a mission of nearby parishes for several years, eventually grew large enough to build its own church.

Now, the numbers at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Parish in Windsor continue to flourish.

“We’ve had an explosion of growth,” said Father Pederson, the parish’s pastor.

Five years ago, Our Lady of the Valley had around 1,000 families. Now, it has over 1,600.

Parishioners gathered at Our Lady of the Valley in Windsor for Mass and an open house to celebrate the parish’s new additions. Photo by Jason Weinrich

Not only has Father Pederson witnessed a spike in new parishioners since he joined the parish, but he’s also noticed a greater parishioner involvement in adult small group ministries and children’s religious education.

It gives the pastor hope for his parish, but also for the entire Church.

“This past month, there’s been a lot of dark news about the Church,” said Father Pederson. “But our people are still faithful here and very vibrant.

“This is a sign of God’s faithfulness to us and our faithfulness to him,” he continued. “It’s all for the glory of Christ and for the sake of saving souls.”

To embrace the growth and accommodate current and future parishioners, Our Lady of the Valley added an adoration chapel, two nurseries, a youth room, a parish hall with a new kitchen, 18 meeting room or classroom spaces, and new offices.

This is a sign of God’s faithfulness to us and our faithfulness to him.”

The construction process began in 2014 when a group of parish staff met with Integration Design Group (IDG) and Adam Hermanson, principal of IDG who served as the architect for the project.

In 2015, committee members met with the town of Windsor and eventually the Archdiocese of Denver to get approval for the project. In August that year, the parish kicked off a capital campaign.

Fransen Pittman, the chosen construction team, began their work after the groundbreaking ceremony in August of 2017. The entire expansion was completed in 11 months.

“It was a pretty monumental effort,” said Mike Myshatyn, Director of Maintenance and IT at Our Lady of the Valley, who also served on the design committee and eventually took on the role of project manager for the expansion.

Archbishop Aquila celebrated Mass with Our Lady of Windsor pastor Father Gregg Pederson and other archdiocesan priests. Photo by Jason Weinrich

The team created three separate buildings or wings tied to one campus building, said Myshatyn. Now, there is a wing for the parish hall and nurseries, a wing for the classrooms and a wing for the offices.

“Each building has its own nuance,” said Myshatyn.

The updates are designed to accommodate on the needs of parishioners who will utilize them. Several of those parishioners were invited to be part of smaller subcommittees, which allowed them to be involved in decisions along the way.

“We wanted to consciously make sure that we reached out to all of the people that had a vested interest and had some insight and personal knowledge of what worked,” said Myshatyn.

“We were talking with the people that were going to end up using this stuff,” he said.

But with a steadily growing parish, the additions are not simply designed for today.

“We designed it with the future in mind,” said Myshatyn. “We really were trying to be forward looking.”

Archbishop Aquila blesses the new chapel at Our Lady of the Valley. Photo by Jason Weinrich

An example of that, he said, is that although the parish might not need 18 classrooms now, the rate of growth over the past few years suggests it will in the future — and possibly even more, which is why the classroom wing is designed with additional strength to hold a second story if it needs one.

Father Pederson attributes the parish’s development to an increased population in Windsor and surrounding towns, the parish’s worship experience and its small group ministries.

We designed it with the future in mind.”

Its bustling community can now enjoy the expansion, which they came together to see during an open house on Aug. 26 following Mass and a blessing by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.

“Everyone was blown away,” said Father Pederson. “They said it’s so much more beautiful than they expected, and it’s so much bigger than they were envisioning.”

Father Pederson was grateful to be part of such a historic milestone for the parish.

“It’s a very exciting, energetic place to be,” he said.

COMING UP: Nothing about us without us

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The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October.

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods were called to consider the crisis of marriage and the family throughout the world. Yet they became the occasion for powerful churchmen to try to deconstruct Catholic moral theology and sacramental discipline, according to the tried-and-failed theologies and pastoral practices of the 1970s. The 2018 Synod, summoned to discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment, began with an effort by the Synod general secretariat to enshrine the world’s language of sexual plasticity (and the lame understandings of happiness that underwrite that language) into an official Church document. When that failed, Synod-2018 became the occasion for the Synod general secretariat to promote an ill-defined notion of “synodality” that struck more than a few bishops present as a prescription for local-option, choose-your-own-doctrine Catholicism on the model of the (imploding) Anglican Communion.

This pattern seems likely to continue at the Amazonian Synod. There, the deeper agenda will be the ordination of mature married men — viri probati — to the priesthood. Proponents will argue that this dramatic change in the Church’s longstanding tradition of a celibate priesthood (which, contrary to much misinformation, antedates the early Middle Ages by hundreds of years) is necessary because Amazonia is a Catholic area deprived of the Eucharist by a lack of priests. One hopes that the counterclaims — that Amazonia is mission territory requiring wholesale evangelization, and that Amazonia’s lack of priests reflects racial and class divisions in Latin American Catholicism that discourage priests of European pedigree from working with indigenous peoples — get a serious hearing.

Proponents of ordaining viri probati in Amazonia, including retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, have insisted that any such concession there would have no implications for the universal Church. That cannot be, however. Should the Amazonian Synod request the Pope to grant a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy for that region, and should he grant it, it will be just a matter of time before bishops conferences elsewhere — Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria come immediately to mind — make similar requests, citing pressing pastoral needs. On what ground would those requests be denied?

In a year-end interview with Vatican News, the Synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, insisted that the Amazonian Synod would not discuss environmental issues only, but would also confront “ecclesial themes” — and would do so in a way that Amazonia could be “a model for the whole world.”

We can be grateful to the cardinal for his candor in, however unintentionally, letting the celibacy cat out of the synodal bag. Any decision to ordain viri probati in Amazonia would inevitably have major consequences for the entire Church. A decision of this magnitude cannot be taken by an unrepresentative segment of the Church and then turned into a “model” for everyone else.

That is why the principle of “Nothing about us without us” must apply here. Whatever else “synodality” may mean, it surely must mean that decisions bearing on everyone should involve as broad a consultation and as global a reflection as possible. Bishops who agree should make their concerns known now, not after the Amazonian synod meets.

Featured image by Vatican Media | CNA