Longmont parish hopes to ‘bring people back into the Catholic faith’ with new church building

Moira Cullings

In his 15 years as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Father Frank Maroney has been struck by the potential of the growing Longmont community.

“There is close to 100,000 population here,” said Father Maroney. “According to the statistics, there should be something like 20,000 Catholics in this area.

“We’ve got lots of work to do to try and get out to those who have fallen away a little bit and try to attract them back.”

St. Francis of Assisi, which now has around 1,000 registered families, has taken several steps to evangelize the faith, particularly through its brand-new church building created for parishioners and visitors to enjoy.

“It’s going to enable us to continue to evangelize and grow and bring people back into the Catholic faith,” said parishioner Mike Swedbergh.

Swedbergh, who is part of the parish’s finance committee, explained the new sanctuary will “accommodate the growing families and the people that are moving here that are going to be looking for a new church.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blesses the altar at the new St. Francis of Assisi church in Longmont during a dedication ceremony June 19. (Photo by JoAnn Beldt)

“It gives us the capacity to take care of all those people now,” he said.

The new building was a long time in the making. St. Francis, formerly called Spirit of Peace, initially shared a space with a Presbyterian church before it moved to an office building after experiencing significant growth.

“That became the stepping stone for beginning the process of planning and raising the money for the first phase of the church,” said Father Maroney, who recently retired.

Ray Falce, who has served as chairman for the parish counsel and played a major role in fundraising for the parish, has witnessed parishioners’ excitement surrounding the new building throughout the construction process.

“They always wanted to sneak in and climb under the construction line,” he said with a laugh. “Once they saw the dedication on Wednesday night, the church was packed. They were just overwhelmed with what we did.”

The parish’s new-sanctuary dedication, held on June 19, included Mass celebrated by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, followed by a reception.

Those who were close to the project have been inspired by the parish community’s efforts to make the building happen.

A view of the new altar. (Photo by JoAnn Beldt)

“When you think back on all the things that have happened with St. Francis of Assisi in Longmont, it’s a testament to the effectiveness and the work that Father Frank did and the prayerful community that we have here,” said Swedbergh.

“To see people come together and have the ‘can-do, will-do’ kind of attitude and the commitment toward the future of the Longmont community and the next generations is very fulfilling.

“Everybody in the parish should be really proud of the work that they’ve done and very grateful to God for helping us to get through the whole thing,” he said.

Falce is “honored and blessed” to have been a part of the parish’s milestone accomplishment.

“From my perspective, we’re building this larger church for the future,” he said.

Father Maroney agreed.

“A lot of people made sacrifices here,” he said. “I’ve really grown to appreciate this community. They’ve helped me to grow deeper in my faith.”

Featured image by Bob Gudel

COMING UP: The shock of forgiveness

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Every so often, the media will pick up a story that serves as a potent reminder of what it means to be a Christian. That’s because living as a Christian in today’s post-Christian society is an unusual way of living, contrary to what the rest of society might say about it. It is not “outdated.” It is not “irrelevant.” It is radical, countercultural and, to some, even incomprehensible.

On Oct. 2, the trial of Amber Guyger came to a close. Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was charged with the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man who lived in the same apartment complex as Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she walked into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, saw Jean sitting there on the couch, and after giving verbal commands, shot him twice, killing him. It was an absolute tragedy and played into the ongoing national conversation about police behavior toward people of color (Guyger is white; Jean is black).

What I want to focus on is a particular moment that came at the end of Guyger’s trial, after she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jean’s younger brother Brandt took to the witness stand to address his brother’s killer directly. He wasn’t planning on saying anything during the trial but changed his mind at the last minute. A prompting of the Holy Spirit? I think yes, based on what happened next.

“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” Brandt told Guyger. “If you are truly sorry … I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” He continued, “I’m not going to say I hope you die … I personally want the best for you … I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want … and the best would be: give your life to Christ. Giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But it didn’t stop there. Brandt was bold enough to ask the judge if he had permission to give Guyger a hug. He was granted it, and they embraced for over a minute, Guyger weeping into Brandt’s shoulder, just as some of us might do were we to be embraced by Christ.

Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Brandt has every reason to hate Guyger. This woman gunned down his innocent brother who had his whole life ahead of him and was given a lighter sentence than what she originally faced. Those in the courtroom and watching on TV wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Brandt tell Guyger that he hopes she rots in hell. No, the shock from those in the courtroom – and subsequently, the rest of the nation – came when Brandt did the exact opposite.

With those words and the simple act of embracing his brother’s killer, Brandt gave the world an incredible witness to the forgiveness Christ calls us to live as Christians. Of course, you can count on the bickering voices of social media and pundits to take this powerful moment and exploit it for their own agenda, but that’s because many of them don’t understand. It is not normal in our culture to forgive. It is also not easy. And that’s what makes witnessing something like this so shocking. It was not supposed to happen, but it did. It defied every expectation. Make no mistake about it: Brandt was living his call to be more like Christ in that moment. And it is exactly this moment – this shocking moment – that we are able to get a glimpse of what it is to be a Christian.

Following Jesus does make for quite a shock. And it is that shock that we are called to bring to the rest of the world, just as Brandt Jean did.