At 11 a.m. on January 1, Guardian Angels Parish in Mead dedicated it’s new parish center, which includes a beautiful church. The event’s date and time honored the first Mass held in the original white frame church for 25 Catholic families over a century ago on Jan. 1, 1911.
Now boasting 270-families, the parish that serves Berthoud and Mead along the Interstate 25 corridor in northern Colorado experiencing a housing boom, simply outgrew its picturesque, steepled church.
“The little church only held 99 people, so we were holding four Masses on the weekend and they were still standing-room only,” Father Alan Hartway, CPPS, told the Denver Catholic.
The handsome new 12,000-square-foot brick Romanesque facility, which is located on the same 7-and-a-quarter-acres site the tiny old church sits on at 109 S. Third St., also includes a dining hall that doubles as overflow seating for the new church, a kitchen, a meeting room and offices.
Parishioner Kerry Sewczak said that when she attended the first Mass in the new 250-seat church, which took place on Christmas Eve 2017, she was astonished.
“It’s amazing, especially the reredos (altarpiece),” she told the Denver Catholic. “It was always referred to as a parish center, so it didn’t occur to me that it was a church. I think a lot of people were surprised that it really does look like a church!”
“The architecture of the new church professes our faith life,” said Sewczak’s husband Jim, who was on the design committee. “Father put that vision in front of us.”
“Church architecture is supposed to tell the story of the Gospel,” explained Father Hartway, a Missionaries of the Precious Blood priest. “So when you come into our church, the story doesn’t end with the crucifix on the wall, there’s the Resurrection after that. Our architecture tells the whole story.”
Starting with a bent axis entry, which forces a worshiper to turn their whole body to enter the building, echoing the spiritual practice of conforming oneself to Christ and his will; to the baptismal font inside the church door, reminding one of their new life in Christ; to the crucifix hanging above the altar, depicting Christ’s sacrifice; to the marble altarpiece, representing the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem, located behind the altar for the Eucharistic banquet, and ending with the stained-glass window of the Lamb of God above the altarpiece, the church embodies the Christian journey from baptism to heaven.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila was the main celebrant of the dedication Mass, during which he blessed the church and its contents, including the altar, the cross and the Stations of the Cross.
“Bless this altar built in the house of the Church that it may ever be reserved for the sacrifice of Christ and stand forever as the Lord’s table where your people will find nourishment and strength,” the archbishop prayed as relics were deposited in the altar and before anointing and censing it.
Noting that the day was the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the archbishop exhorted the faithful to turn to her.
“Mary intercedes for us that we may come to know her Son,” the archbishop said. “Her last words in the Gospel are, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”
The archbishop thanked all those responsible for the new facility and Father Hartway for his perseverance in guiding the project. In expressing his own gratitude, Father Hartway gave special thanks to the parishioners and parish staff as well as the architects, Bruce Larson and Peter Incitti, and the builder, Krische Construction.
The $4.5 million project is funded by a parish capital campaign, the pastor said.
“(It) came in on time … and pennies under budget,” Father Hartway said, drawing laughter.
The new church/parish center and related landscaping efforts—a Meditation Park open to the public featuring a new bronze Guardian Angel near an older bronze symbolizing Spring, which sit next to the original church located at the corner of the busiest intersection in Mead—aim to both serve the faithful and to aid evangelization, the pastor said.
“The Guardian Angel statue, because angels are so appealing to people, is a good entry to evangelization,” Father Hartway told the Denver Catholic. “That’s why we located it where we did. She’ll be able to invite people to come here to rest and to feel welcoming hospitality.
“Events can still be held in our old church,” he said, adding that the parish plans to restore and maintain the beloved, carpenter Gothic church. “Eventually, we may turn it into an adoration chapel.”
In the Christmas bulletin, Father Hartway expressed the joy the latest improvements mean for the life of the parish.
“Occupying our new parish center is arguably the second biggest event in the history of the parish, the first being the first little church,” he wrote. “Look how far we’ve come and imagine how far we’re going.”
GUARDIAN ANGELS PARISH FUN FACTS
- In 1910 Catholic families bought the old Mount Zion United Brethren Church and dragged it a mile down Weld County Road to its present location, where it was renamed Guardian Angels Catholic Church.
- Relics placed in the altar of the new church are from St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese-born former slave who became a Canossian religious sister in Italy, and St. Gaspar del Bufalo, an Italian priest and founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood order.
- The face of the new Guardian Angel bronze was posed by a child of the parish.
- The new Romanesque marble reredos is flanked by two 5-foot trumpeting angels. It dates to 1881 and is from the now-closed and demolished Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Philadelphia.
- The Stations of the Cross, the statue of Mary in the center of the reredos, and the corpus on the crucifix, are hand-carved olive wood from Bethlehem and were created by artisans of Bethlehem Arts.