Small Boulder parish like family

Warm memories recalled as St. Martin de Porres Church marks 50th anniversary

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.

Parishioners warmly give one another the sign of peace at the 50th anniversary Mass at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church Nov. 3. (All photos by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

“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.”

COMING UP: ‘Church on the hill’ breaks ground on new sanctuary

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‘Church on the hill’ breaks ground on new sanctuary

For St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Collins, new dedicated worship space will be a ‘long-awaited promise’

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (SEAS) in Fort Collins is known around town as the ‘Church on the hill.’

“It’s the easiest way to explain where to find us,” said Vanessa Schibler, who has been a parishioner at SEAS since she was eight years old.

But the church that can be seen for miles has always lacked something special — a building dedicated solely as a church sanctuary and not a multi-purpose room.

Around 30 years ago when the parish was founded, the plan was to utilize a multi-purpose building and, once the parish was established, build a separate sanctuary next to it. Now, the wait is finally over.

“[Parishioners] see this as their long-awaited promise,” said Father Joseph Toledo, pastor of St. Elizabeth’s.

SEAS broke ground on Sept. 23, and for Schibler, who has worked at the parish for 10 years, it was an emotional experience.

September 23, 2018. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Groundbreaking new church building. Photo by Jason Weinrich

“I was in tears because I was thinking my parents were here at the first ground breaking ceremony,” she said. “Now, it’s me and my family here at the next phase. It was really emotional to think I’m going to have an aisle for my daughters to walk down, [and] the big, beautiful baptismal font that hopefully they’ll baptize their babies in.

“It just makes me feel so incredibly blessed and humbled to be able to be a part of this next phase,” she said.

Although such a massive parish project can be daunting, Father Toledo didn’t have to look far to gain help with funding the $8.1 million cost of the church. 477 families have already raised $6.8 million. And that help is coming from parishioners of all ages.

It was really emotional to think I’m going to have an aisle for my daughters to walk down, [and] the big, beautiful baptismal font that hopefully they’ll baptize their babies in.”

“When we started asking for help for this project,” said Father Toledo, “one of the things I started to see was the kids were asking the parents, ‘Can we help?’

“One little girl two years ago began a lemonade stand,” he continued. “She said to her mother, ‘I want to help the church.’ She presented the church with the profits from the lemonade stand.”

Many children and teens have been giving Father Toledo what they can to help the church’s latest development, and it reminds the pastor of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Children at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton participated in the new church groundbreaking. Photo by Jason Weinrich

“They say that in Jerusalem, the Western Wall is a wall that was built by the poor,” he said, “and that’s the only wall that’s still standing. I think in a sense, you can compare it to the children.”

Their involvement makes Father Toledo feel “like a proud father.”

A place to call home

It’s no wonder SEAS parishioners are oozing with excitement over the long-awaited church building.

“My heart is really at home in this parish,” said Schibler. “This church and the people that are in it are very much my second family. It’s more than just a place that we come to once a week to worship and receive Christ in the Eucharist.

“It’s really the first place I come to in the hard times and the first place I come to celebrate my joys in,” she said.

But the parish has gone through major struggles, including a scandal with former pastor Tim Evans in the early 2000s. Because Evans had married Schibler and her husband, she was even more shocked by what happened.

“It was a really great sadness that came upon our parish for a little while,” she said. “You could feel this heavy heart within the parish. It just took a lot of time for us to come together and heal.”

Father Toledo said the damage done was difficult to overcome and that it took time for SEAS to mend.

“In the last 10 years, the parish has really bounced back,” he said. “It’s a place that is welcoming, it’s a place that is family-oriented. It’s a place people are really finding a home.”

Father Joseph Toledo, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, speaks to parishioners during the new church groundbreaking. Photo by Jason Weinrich

Now, the parish is stronger than ever and bustling right along with the Fort Collins community.

“You can see that this town is flourishing with jobs and housing and recreational opportunities and material wealth,” said Schibler. “It’s just so beautiful to see that in the midst of all that, God’s people really want to see his Church flourish as well, and to grow along with the community.”

The vibrancy of SEAS was immediately clear for parishioners Mike and Angela Oberlander and their children, who joined the parish just over a decade ago.

“The parish is very welcoming,” said Mike. “SEAS has a culture of embracing folks who are new to the area and the parish.”

SEAS has several ministries and continued faith formation for children and adults, and the Oberlanders have been involved on the pastoral council and in music ministry. Angela takes part in Denver Catholic Biblical School and Mike works with the building committee.

SEAS has a culture of embracing folks who are new to the area and the parish.”

“All of these things make the parish a vibrant place,” said Mike.

The Oberlanders are now eager to enjoy the church building alongside their fellow parishioners.

“Our architects have done a fine job illustrating what the new church will look like,” said Mike, “so it is with great joy that we turned over dirt [at the groundbreaking.

“It will still be the ‘Church on the hill,’ but I think it will really convey to passersby that this is a special, holy place,” he said.