Growing numbers spark expansion at Our Lady of the Valley

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: Searching for wisdom in a confused world

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Jordan Peterson became an overnight celebrity with the success of his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House, 2018). A viral interview from January of this year with Kathy Newman of England’s Channel 4 News brought immediate attention to Peterson’s newly released book, which has sold over two million copies since its release. The interview proved emblematic of Peterson’s popularity for attempting to retrieve common sense and to push back against the ideology overtaking our society.

Why has Peterson proved to be so popular?  A clinical psychologist, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto, Peterson addresses issues that people care about: finding meaning, relationships, parenting, and gender, to name a few. People are looking for a guide, they desire wisdom — knowing how to order and make sense of reality — and Peterson has offered some needed insights. He tells his readers, “Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being” (63).

This quote illuminates both the allure of Peterson’s writing, helping people to seek definition for their lives, but also its limits, as the definition of self he recommends lacks mooring. Writing from the viewpoint of secular psychology, Peterson can help us to reflect, but his 12 Rules for Life can come across as sophisticated self-help devoid of deeper wisdom. He engages the Western tradition, including the Bible, and offers a fresh, but ultimately unsatisfying, reflection of the stories that define our tradition. He does bring needed common sense, such as “stop doing what you know to be wrong,” (which should not even need to be said) but fails to provide answers to the ultimate questions that define meaning and identity (157).

Greater depth and wisdom can be found in Leon Kass’ Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times (Encounter, 2017). Kass, a Jewish medical doctor and bioethicist, draws from his lengthy experience in science and teaching the Great Books at the University of Chicago to take us deeper into the human condition and point us toward a richer understanding of the human person — body, mind and soul. Kass, like Peterson, does not write from a religious perspective, but engages the same general themes and classic works, such as the Bible, though with a more convincing explanation of their meaning.

Kass’ book has four major sections, treating themes of love, human dignity, education and our higher aspirations. Kass guides us to reconsider the importance of the foundational goods of life — finding meaning in work and married life — as well as calling us to “the cultivation in each of us of the disposition actively to seek the truth and to make the truth our own” (256). We pursue this liberation by entering into the great tradition of Western thought, which provides an “education in and for thoughtfulness. It awakens, encourages, and renders habitual thoughtful reflection about weighty human concerns, in quest of what is simply true and good” (ibid.).

The thoughtfulness encouraged by Kass is needed more than ever to address the key concerns he raises: a collapse of courtship and marriage, biomedical challenges to the integrity of human nature, and a decline of citizenship. The first two themes share a common source in the “the rejection of a teleological view of nature,” which finds no intrinsic purpose in the human body or even life itself (54). Speaking of the threat of biotechnology and transhumanism, but in a way applicable to gender as well, he relates that “only if there is a human givenness that is also good and worth respecting — either as we find it or as it could be perfected without ceasing to be itself — does the given serve as a positive guide for choosing what to alter and what to leave alone” (149). We must learn to appreciate and cultivate the good of our nature, rather than manipulating and controlling it to our own demise. The same is true of our nation, as Kass, drawing on Abraham Lincoln, points to the need for “enhancing reverence for the Constitution and its laws” (377), as we appreciate, preserve and advance the heritage of our country.

Kass, drawing on his unique background, guides us through an integrated discovery of the good and points us toward the wisdom we need to live a worthy life.