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St. Jude marks 50 years of vibrant community

As a young Lakewood parish in August 1967 without a church building, Father William “Bill” Sievers knew that he had to get creative with the young families in his care. So he set up what he called “little parishes.”

Bill Campbell, one of the original parishioners of St. Jude, now a charter member, recalled that Father Sievers designated 27 of those little parishes, each with one couple as a leader, and a few even remain today.

“They would meet monthly as a group [in each of the areas] and have home Masses with the group,” Campbell said. “This went on for four or five years, and it brought the parish together and you really knew who your neighbors were. There are three groups still going today who meet monthly.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila presides over the 50th Anniversary Mass at Saint Jude Catholic Church on August 27, 2017, in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

This special attention to lay participation in parish life was what set up the parish as it is today for a rich community life, according to pastor Father Robert Kinkel, who was pastor for 12 years before being transferred out, only to be reassigned to the parish again in 2015.

“St. Jude was founded in August 1967 and was one of four that Archbishop Casey began when he came. It was a very creative and dynamic parish and was very interested in lay participation, so there was a lot of lay involvement,” Father Kinkel said.

The church building was built in Christmas of 1969 and dedicated in April 1970, meeting in the auditorium of Alameda High School until then — affectionately referred to as “St. Alameda’s,” Campbell said.

Deacon Alan Spears reads the second reading during the 50th Anniversary Mass at Saint Jude Catholic Church. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

As parish life flourished following its dedication, it marked the first in the Archdiocese for several things: Having female altar servers, involving the laity in a liturgical commission to select Mass readings and music (before the A, B and C cycles were instituted) and establishing a youth center.

As the parish marks the 50th anniversary of its founding this year, the community life remains vibrant and lay-inclusive, with 26 different groups including special education, adult education, RCIA and religious education, as well as Bible studies and prayer groups.

To celebrate its anniversary, the parish got a pictorial directory organized with the history of the church, had a 50’s-themed dance, and hosted a picnic and Mass with Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila on Aug. 27, where Father Kinkel recognized charter members and invited all former priests and deacons.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila receives the gifts for consecration from St. Jude Parishioners during the parish’s 50th anniversary Mass. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

“I’ve never seen so many people there. There were hundreds and it was beautiful,” Campbell commented. “It was special seeing people at the start of the parish come back and celebrate the 50th with us. I’m guessing there were [around] 1,000. I know it was almost double what was anticipated.”

Mur Hillenbrand, a parishioner who organized the 50th anniversary events, said that this vibrant community that welcomes everyone is still a mark of the parish today.

“It remains a very inclusive parish with all walks of life. It’s very welcoming. It’s also a tithing parish, every month, they give money to different organizations,” Hillenbrand said. “I feel so blessed to be here at St. Jude. It’s an example of what Vatican II was all about, the enthusiasm and outreach. Father Sievers, the founding priest, was so loving and kind and really set the tone for the parish. He had a vision of community working together in faith and in our everyday lives, too.”

Jennifer Kraska, executive director of Catholic Colorado Conference, joined the parish 10 years ago and found that the welcoming environment and joyful community left an impression.

“It was one of the parishes I visited when I moved that I went to, and the community was really welcoming and made me feel at home,” Kraska said. “Mainly the people [attracted me], a priest there…he always had a smile and made a point of greeting people, which stood out to me. He was always very present.”

“For someone who didn’t know anybody when I moved, I felt very welcome there.”

Parish Trivia

St. Jude has 1765 registered families and 135 charter members

The first Mass celebrated in the new church was December 20, 1969

The statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph were hand carved in Oberammergau, Germany

The youth center first opened on  August 17, 1974

St. Jude has sponsored refugees from Vietnam and Poland

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