Holy Family in Keenesburg celebrates a century

Moira Cullings

After 100 years, the tight-knit, diverse community at Holy Family Catholic Church in Keenesburg is still going strong.

“It’s a sign for the Church,” said Father Carlos Bello-Ayala, pastor of the parish for the past six years. “It shows it’s alive — even though we have all these problems, all these difficulties, persecution.”

“I see that in a rural town, still people have the desire to find God in this small church,” he said. “For me, it’s a sign that with a few people that God has in this church, we can be a big sign for those who are far away from God.”

Holy Family celebrated its 100th anniversary on June 8 with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila followed by a reception.

The parish, located in a town of just over 1,200 people, has around 65 families. Although it gone through ups and downs, its parishioners, many with deep ties to the parish, have remained faithful and worked hard to keep the parish alive.

Anita Lutz, whose family helped found the parish, has been involved in both Sacred Heart in Roggen and Holy Family (both run by the same pastor) throughout her life.

“It’s a small, welcoming church,” she said about Holy Family. “It’s a strong, faithful community.”

Lutz, who has been a member of the Altar and Rosary women’s group, appreciates Father Bello-Ayala’s efforts to bring the diverse groups of the parish and has enjoyed getting to know the Hispanic community better.

“That really made an impact on me in the last couple years,” she said. “We’ve done a few projects together, and it’s worked out really well.”

Amy Veith, President of the Pastoral Council and a member of the parish’s Altar and Rosary society, has been at Holy Family around 11 years and has also been impacted by the rich diversity at the parish.

“I have especially enjoyed getting to know some of the families from our Spanish Mass, and I think we are pretty successful at bringing all of our parishioners together and embracing the wide diversity our little parish has,” she said.

Veith explained that the small rural community loves and takes care of each other.

“We are tiny but mighty,” she said.

Father Bello-Ayala remembers one particular instance when he experienced the concern of his parishioners.

“We had a very bad storm,” he said, and the meeting he was supposed to attend with parishioners was canceled.

“People were calling and texting me, saying, ‘Father, is everything ok?’

“People are always connected [here], taking care of each other,” he said.

Although Father Bello-Ayala’s six-year assignment at Holy Family recently ended, he was instrumental up until the end in bringing his own parish community together, as well as reaching out to the local community, particularly through the Neocatechumenal Way.

“We are visiting houses two by two every year in order to call people, those who are fallen away Catholics,” he said. “Our mission is to invite.”

He believes the parish’s 100th anniversary is a message to Keenesburg that “we are a Catholic Church that is alive, that is vibrant, and we are welcoming those who are in need of God.”

The turnout at the anniversary Mass also gives him hope for the parish’s future.

“To see almost 200 people in one Mass, that was amazing,” he said. “Everybody was happy sharing together and celebrating that 100th anniversary.”

COMING UP: St. Scholastica parish in Erie has served community for well over 100 years

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For more than a century, St. Scholastica Catholic Church has served the faithful in the northern community of Erie, Colo. Over time there have been many changes to the structure of the parish, but it still stands on the same foundation that Benedictine pastor Father Cornelius Enders set in place in 1899.

Vibrant, spiritually alive, and welcoming is how St. Scholastica can be described. For years, the church formed part of a circuit assigned to one priest of different parishes and missions, but four years ago, Father Robert Wedow was assigned to St. Scholastica as its first full-time pastor in history.

Since day one, Father Wedow knew there was a lot of work to do for the growing community: “To do what Jesus told us. To go to the ends of earth and baptize all the nation,” said Father Wedow to the Denver Catholic about his mission.

In order to accomplish that mission, he and the pastoral council came up with a parish plan that consists of three goals for the church.

“One of the goals is what we call our spiritual needs, to understand and begin to use our resources to meet the spiritual needs of the people of Erie. The second one is the evangelization of ourselves and others. And the third one is the development of our parish so that we will put ourselves to be able to have a brand-new parish,” he said.

The altar at St. Scholastica was recently renovated and blessed by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. The Erie parish has served the community for over 120 years. (Photos by Brandon Young)

When he first became the pastor of St. Scholastica, Father Wedow noticed things in the church that required maintenance and renovations in order to keep serving the community in Erie. Among those renovations were the floors, the carpet and the altar of the church that was starting to break apart. On Oct. 13, after months of hard work and dedication, parishioners and friends attended a special ceremony in which Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila dedicated the new altar at St. Scholastica, one of the biggest renovations.

For a parish of approximately 200 families, St. Scholastica offers a wide range of ministries to meet the needs of the whole family. From youth groups, bible study and the Knights of Columbus, the community stays involved and keeps growing bigger and stronger.

To serve the community and continue evangelizing, the church holds a variety of fun events throughout the year where parishioners have the opportunity to help others while having a good time. Among these events is St. Scholastica’s Annual “Cookies and Caroling,” where the community gathers to make delicious cookies, then goes door to door and hands them out to the neighbors while caroling and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

“I personally think what’s unique about my parish is the powerful love of the volunteers and the way in which they show their love for God and for their neighbor,” Father Wedow said.

Although there is still much work to be done in the 120-year-old parish, Father Robert continues to work hard and does everything in his hands to meet the needs of his growing community.

“It’s a great privilege for me to be able to serve the people of Erie and to be a part of this growing community. May the joy of seeing the face of God overwhelm us all, as we celebrate the true gift of Christmas at Christmas night mass,” concluded Father Wedow.