In downtown Denver, it’s ordinary to see buses, light rail trains, and plenty of foot traffic. Everything is in movement, because movement is ordinary for city life. Progress is abundantly evident in the changes downtown Denver has experienced over the years. However, when one reaches the corner of Nineteenth and California it’s also ordinary to witness someone stop, however short it may be, and look up, not at the skyscrapers above, but at Holy Ghost Church, which will soon be celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Pope Francis has been quoted as saying how a church needs “…nearness, proximity.” He also says how it can be compared to a “field hospital.” Holy Ghost has used its proximity to downtown Denver to fulfill this description, not only providing for the spiritual but the corporal needs of its surrounding neighbors who ask for assistance. Through the years, however, the “field hospital” has become in need of some repairs.
A parish committee was formed at the request of its pastor, Father Chris Uhl, in preparation for the church’s anniversary. One of the goals for the planning committee, Father Uhl said, was to “look at ways we can clean and restore some of the damage at Holy Ghost and some of the deterioration. There’s a lot of dirt and a lot of candle wax and incense smoke that have built up in the sanctuary and the side altars. There’s a lot of deterioration outside on the cement portions of the Church.” Such deterioration, that pieces of exterior stonework have fallen onto the ground. One such piece currently sits on Father Uhl’s desk.
A capital campaign has been put into place entitled “Holy Ghost, Renewed by The Spirit!” which has a monetary goal of $2.4 million in order to help with the list of improvements around the church, which include lighting in the sanctuary, cleaning the sanctuary ceiling, and cleaning and repairing cracked stone and tile. “We just went over the half way mark last week (the week of June 5th). A lot of that is from the parishioners here at Holy Ghost.”
The church building itself, with its mixture of Spanish and Italian Renaissance architecture, points to the mystery of our Catholic faith. Inside, one finds its walls and columns covered in 300 tons of cream, dark pink and ruby colored marble. Among its many highlights one will also notice an ornate baldacchino. The baldacchino is the arched roof that is above the tabernacle and was specifically designed into Holy Ghost for the purpose of adoration, which still continues to this day Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m – 3:00 p.m.
Father Uhl commented that “In the last seventy years Denver has seen so many changes. So many huge buildings constructed . . .all kinds of expansion, growth . . . and yet Holy Ghost is still here. It’s still a church that is thriving, that professes the faith, that lives the faith in sacraments and social ministry. So with all the changes in Denver . . . there’s a constant in [downtown] Denver and one of those constants is Holy Ghost.”
The social ministry program at Holy Ghost is another “constant” in the church’s story and that of downtown Denver’s. The ministry is well embodied through a story of one of its former pastors, Monsignor Charles Woodrich, lovingly known as Father Woody, who had opened up the doors of Holy Ghost during a pair of particularly cold winter evenings. Father Uhl added, “He probably saved lives that night.”
The social ministry program today includes such services as regularly handing out between 500 – 750 sandwiches a day to those in need, providing vouchers in obtaining vital records, and providing various clothing items throughout the year. It has been Holy Ghost’s pastors who have consecutively continued these programs.
Some samples of restoration work can already be seen throughout Holy Ghost. Looking at the roof of the transept, near the front left portion of the church, it’s possible to compare the restoration work alongside the uncleaned portions. Also, the sixth and seventh stations of the cross have been touched up. It is remarkable to see the vibrancy of the colors in the cleaned and restored portions of the church.
If you wish to assist the capital campaign, donations may be made online through the Holy Ghost website, by calling the parish office, or by taking the time to stop by the church itself to place an offering in a secure donation box. The celebration for Holy Ghost will take place during July 2018, and further details will be forthcoming as the parish continues in its preparations.
With all of the ordinary sightings around downtown Denver and our day to day lives, it is important for us to take a moment to stop and recognize the extraordinary gift we have in the sacraments and this “field hospital” we have in the midst of downtown Denver, Holy Ghost.