Msgr. John Slattery remembered as a ‘founding father’ of Springs diocese

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By Veronica Ambul | Colorado Catholic Herald

Msgr. John Slattery, the first vicar general of the Diocese of Colorado Springs and founding pastor of St. Patrick Parish, died Nov. 28 at age 87. Msgr. Slattery had been residing at Mount St. Francis Nursing Center.

Msgr. Slattery was born in Denver on July 5, 1931. He attended Annunciation School and enrolled in St. John Vianney Seminary in 1949. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Denver on June 1, 1957, by Archbishop Urban Vehr.

Shortly after his ordination, he was named assistant pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, where he remained in until 1966. He was then named pastor of St. Mary Parish in Breckenridge, where he served until 1970. He served as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish from 1970-1976. He was then named pastor of St. Jude Parish in Lakewood, where he remained until 1981.

In 1981, at the request of Auxiliary Bishop Richard C. Hanifen, Msgr. Slattery was named the founding pastor of a newly-created parish in northeast Colorado Springs — St. Patrick. For the next six years, he celebrated Mass in a retail space on North Academy Boulevard, while overseeing the planning and construction of St. Patrick Church. The site of the new church — a roughly five-acre property on Brook Park Drive — had been donated by prominent Colorado Springs businesswoman Bonnie Fitzpatrick, owner of the Dublin House restaurant.

“It was a challenge; I loved it,” Msgr. Slattery said of starting the new parish. “It was probably the premiere experience of my priesthood.”

In January 1984, Msgr. Slattery was named vicar general of the newly-formed Diocese of Colorado Springs, a role that he held while still serving as pastor of St. Patrick. In 1987, he became administrator of St. Paul Parish. In 1991, his term as vicar general ended and he was named rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral, where he remained until 1997. He then served at Divine Redeemer and Corpus Christi parishes until his retirement in 2000.

In 2009, he was one of three priests in the diocese to be designated a Prelate of Honor by Pope Benedict XVI. With that, he gained the title of “Reverend Monsignor.”

Msgr. Slattery “will go down as a ‘founding father’ of the diocese,” said Bishop Emeritus Hanifen.

Bishop Michael Sheridan said that “Father Slattery’s service in the Diocese of Colorado Springs is legendary. I know how much Bishop Hanifen relied on him in those early years, and I am deeply grateful for all that he has done to serve the mission of the Church in our diocese.”

COMING UP: Prophet Elijah House: An opportunity to support our retired priests

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Our priests enrich every age and stage of our lives. Through them, we are baptized, masses are celebrated, sins are forgiven, couples are united in marriage, and loved ones are delivered into the loving hands of God.

Unfortunately, after giving a life of service to the faithful, retiring typically at age 70, priests often are not able to afford a place to live, especially in Denver where housing costs continue to rise.  Luckily, we all now have an opportunity to care for them by supporting Prophet Elijah House, where they are guaranteed a locked-in monthly rate that will not outpace their pension.

The Prophet Elijah House, officially opened in April, is located on the campus of St. John Paul II Center.  The house offers its residents, retired priests, a comfortable place to enjoy their retired years.

“Our priests have helped nurture us spiritually throughout their lives, providing the sacraments and all that a priest does,” said Keith Parsons, Chief Operating Officer for the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Although they have a nice retirement pension…It’s not sufficient to pay for an appropriate place in our city. The cost of housing, especially for seniors living in Denver, is very expensive,” he added.

Named after the Old Testament prophet Elijah, the two-story, 24,150-square foot facility has 12 suites for retired priests and two guest rooms (for visitors or priests recovering from medical procedures).  It also offers communal areas to aid fraternity including a chapel, community kitchen, dining area, entertainment room with reading and conversation areas.  Priests also can participate in Mass, fitness and rehab programs, and enjoy community life with their brother priests.

“It’s already served as a blessing for those who are living here now… It’s been a tremendous service to our priests in helping them and letting them know that we are with them,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila told the crowd during the opening ceremony in April.

Six priests are already living in the Prophet Elijah House, and more are expected to move in during the coming months. Other priests, currently in active ministry, have added their name to the Prophet Elijah House registry and intend on moving in when they reach retirement.

“For me, a strong part of priesthood is fraternity. I look forward to a greater fraternity when the place has been around a while and more people will come,” said Father Tom McCormick, who moved in this past December just after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.  At the Prophet Elijah House he was able to receive assistance from his fellow residents.

However, none of these would be possible without those who generously donate to the Prophet Elijah House. About half the facility’s cost was provided by donors who wanted to make the center possible and keeps operating by donations of people who are willing to give back and take care of those shepherds who have taken care of us.

Your donations are vital to keep this center going and alleviate the burden of the expense it requires to deliver services and care to our retired priests who have given us so much.

“You’ve served us wholeheartedly and unreservedly and exclusively,” said Deacon Steve Stemper. “There is no one that we could be more grateful for than you — our priests.”

Contributions to the Prophet Elijah House can be made through their website. To donate, visit elijahdenver.org/support-our-priests.