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Growing pains in Johnstown eased, but not gone

In a town where the population has nearly tripled since 2000, growth is both a blessing and a challenge, according to Father Emilio Franchomme, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Johnstown.

The Catholic community of 300-plus families moved from their church home of 40 years at 809 Charlotte Street in August, to a church building they purchased at 1000 Country Acres Drive, the former home of Abundant Life Tabernacle Church.

“The old building was insufficient,” Father Franchomme, 43, told the Denver Catholic Register from his new office. “It prevented people from coming so they would go to other churches. It was frustrating not to be able to accommodate them.”

The move increased seating capacity from 140 to 250, as well as added space for offices, meeting rooms and classrooms. Latest counts estimate weekend Mass attendance has almost doubled to about 500 people.

“We have seen new people right away,” said Father Franchomme. “None of us would have imagined this a year ago.”

The population of Johnstown grew from 4,305 residents in 2000, to 12,093 in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It’s a good place to raise a family,” Father Franchomme said, due to the availability of affordable homes and not being “too far from civilization.” Johnstown sits 20 miles or less from Loveland, Greely and Longmont; and about 50 miles north of Denver.

The parish closed on the church deal July 9, and by the weekend of Aug. 2-3, Masses were celebrated there.

“We worked like crazy,” he said. “We painted everything and remodeled the church. It was crazy but it happened.”

The majority of labor was provided by parish volunteers, including pouring concrete, painting, laying tile, installing crosses on the roof, and installing the kneelers that were donated by St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Aurora. Renovations were completed for less than $25,000.

“I’m just amazed,” he continued. “It was a miracle; it was the work of God.”

The parish brought the altar, tabernacle, crucifix, statues and stained glass windows from their former church building.

“It’s comforting looking at these things that we recognize,” Father said. “It feels more like home.”

Despite all the additional space, however, it’s still not enough.

“We need a new church already,” Father Franchomme said.

A new, spacious church building is a long-term goal for the parish, when they are able to raise the millions of dollars that would be needed to build on the 20-acre plot of land they purchased in 2010 at County Roads 17 and 44.

The parish, while active and growing, is “not a wealthy community,” Father said.

Right now, the only sign of a church on the property is one that reads: “Future home of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.”

“There is an excitement,” he said. “There’s so much more God wants to give us.”

History of St. John the Baptist Parish in Johnstown 

1894 Established as mission

1905 Church rebuilt after burning

1938 Parish established by Bishop Urban Vehr

1974 Moved to church at 809 Charlotte Street

2010 Purchased 20-acre plot on south side of town

2014 Moved to church at 1000 Country Acres Drive

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