With just 200 registered families, St. Martin de Porres Parish in Boulder feels more like a large extended family than a church congregation, say the pastor and parishioners.
Founded in 1968, the parish marked its 50th anniversary on the Nov. 3 feast day of its patron saint with a Mass, meal and music.
“It felt like a family reunion,” said Barbara Schumacher, who heads St. Martin’s social concerns committee and created a memory wall for the anniversary celebration.
“It must have been very important to former parishioners who have moved away because a lot of them came back. They still feel connected,” said Schumacher, who, with her husband, Pete, has belonged to the parish since 1972.
The friendly congregation treasures the intimacy their size makes possible.
It’s a home away home.”
Father Jim Baird, who arrived as pastor in June 2017, said that before his arrival he had heard the parish was small but experiencing the reality of its size was an unexpectedly sweet encounter.
“The surprise was that it is small!” he told the Denver Catholic. “It’s great families. More single families — couples — because they’re older. We’ve got good roots.
“We also have some young families moving into the area,” he said, adding that while predominantly Anglo and Hispanic, particularly the families with children, the congregation includes a variety of ethnicities.
“That’s appropriate with our namesake, St. Martin de Porres,” Father Baird said of the Dominican lay brother from Peru who is the patron of social justice and people of mixed race. “You also have his acts of mercy serving the poor, and the parish has various outreach ministries.
“The parish is very welcoming, very kind and reaches out to all. If you want an experience of family — of a parent or grandparent — this is the place to be. Boulder is a college town and there’s a college parish but this one is like being at home.”
An extended family
Thirty-eight year parishioner Robert DeBolt, who cares for his disabled 59-year-old sister Patricia, agreed.
“St. Martin’s has been like extended family,” he said. “Especially with Patricia. We’ve always felt the parish has been supportive of us and everyone else in the parish.
“It’s small so you get to know nearly everyone. They look after Trish and keep us in their prayers.”
When his sister was still able to hook rugs, the parish’s art guild welcomed her with open arms, DeBolt said.
The art guild may be a ministry unique to St. Martin’s. Established some 14 years ago in response to St. John Paul II’s call in his Letter to Artists to foster artistic service for the “life and renewal” of people, the art guild meets monthly for the better part of a day. Members work on individual creative projects ranging from drawing and painting, to pottery and jewelry making. The guild sponsors an annual exhibit every fall.
“The purpose of the art show is to get others interested in art. To get them to say, ‘I can do that,’” said Pete Schumacher, who with his wife, Barbara, facilitates the guild’s activities, which includes occasional informal talks by members on a particular art or applicable to a variety of artistic disciplines.
A highlight of the anniversary memory wall and a point of pride for the parish is the number of vocations to holy orders and religious life that it has fostered despite its tiny size — three men became priests and are engaged in active service: Father John Hilton, pastor of St. Mary in Aspen; Father Christopher Renner, pastor of Spirit of Christ in Arvada; and Father Jeremy Hans, a priest for the Diocese of Omaha, Neb. Two men became deacons: retired Deacon Karl Matz and the late Deacon Francis “Bud” Boselli; and finally, a woman, the former Angela Read, is now Benedictine Sister Maria Gertrude with the Abbey of St. Walburga in Virginia Dale, Colo.
“We’re very proud of so many vocations,” Barbara Schumacher said.
Ever-changing, but still the same
Located at 3300 Table Mesa Drive, St. Martin de Porres was founded just three years after the Second Vatican Council ended.
“I believe it is one of the first churches built in the round in the archdiocese,” Father Baird said of the church building, which was built in 1970. “Vatican II was about full participation and bringing everyone together. The architecture was trying to do that.”
Before the church was completed, weekend Masses were celebrated at Southern Hills Junior High School and at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. When the dramatic round church was completed, it was designed to be multi-purpose.
In 1991, a parish center with classrooms, offices, a kitchen and large hall was built. Two years later, the church was remodeled to eliminate the multi-functional aspects of its design, and new furnishings and stained-glass windows were added. In 1998, a perpetual adoration chapel replaced a former office.
“We’re the only parish in Boulder that has 24-hour adoration,” said DeBolt.
Founding parishioner Sheila Kava and her husband, Don, have witnessed the many changes the parish has gone through since its inception.
“I remember going out to visit with neighbors to find out how many Catholics were in the area to see if the archdiocese needed to build a church,” she said of the parish in which the couple raised their four children.
“We’ve had wonderful times—many dinners in our new hall. Obviously it’s most important to be able to go to Mass, but I remember my mother saying that sometimes the people who have the most fun are the ones working in the kitchen.
“I just feel really blessed,” Kava said about St. Martin’s. “It’s a home away home.”