Parish History 1981-1987
St. Patrick Parish began to come to life as a faith community of May 21, 1981, when the Archbishop of Denver, James Vincent Casey, sent a letter to Father John Slattery naming him as the founding pastor effective July 1, 1981. At that time, Father John was serving as pastor of St. Jude’s parish in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver. The establishment of the parish was greatly facilitated by the donation of four and one half acres of prime property to the Archdiocese by Miss Bonnie Fitzpatrick. That generous gift enhanced the rapid development of the parish considerably and the parish remains indebted to her.
Father John rented a home, at 6625 Snowbird Drive, and moved there on July 15, 1981. The first parish organizational meeting was held on August 2, 1981. Weekday masses here held in Father John’s home, as well as the first meetings of the Liturgy, Welcome and Registration, Planning and Building, Social Concerns, and the Education Committees.
The first weekend liturgy was celebrated at the Sheraton Hotel on September 6, 1981 with 314 people attending. Shortly thereafter, Saturday evening masses were offered at the Sheraton Hotel and Sunday morning at Freemont School. A few months later, Saturday evening masses were offered at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and Sunday morning at the Sheraton. There were 436 people worshipping together as a parish community by Christmas of 1981.
In January, 1982, the Finance Committee was established, and in the middle of the month a group of enthusiastic volunteers painted the new church- a rented space in the Erindale Shopping Center at 5975 N. Academy III. That facility was to be “home” for the people of St. Patrick until February of 1987. Affectionately known as St. Yakitori because of the Japanese restaurant located in the same center, it drew people together in a special way, and helped to create the special spirit of hospitality and openness which has characterized the community from its earliest days. The first mass was offered there January 30, 1982. Bishop Richard C. Hanifen blessed the new church on March 14 of the same year. Afterwards, many parishioners enjoyed a brunch together at the Hilton Inn.
All kinds of parish activities were developing in those first months: the catechumenate, youth group, prayer group, and a parish council with all the committees previously mentioned. Kris Sprehe served as the first volunteer coordinator.
In July of 1982, Sister Laetitia Slusser, S.C. was hired as the first Director of Religious Education and was warmly welcomed to the community.
In August, the first parish picnic was organized, and in September the number of weekend masses climbed to three. After some voiced concern about the size of the site being too small, the parish council authorized a feasibility study, which in November recommended using the donated site.
Christmas of 1982 found double the number of people worshipping together as had gathered the previous year.
The following May, a site development plan was authorized and in September, the parish engaged John V. McCarthy and Associates to organize and direct a Founders’ Fund Campaign. It netted 274 pledges totaling $422,967. The parish also purchased 6602 Snowbird Drive in July, 1983 for use as a rectory. Christmas, 1983 found 1140 people worshipping, almost triple the number of Christmas 1981!
January 30, 1984 was a most important date for the people of St. Patrick. The Diocese of Colorado Springs was officially established that day, with many members of St. Patrick participating actively in the liturgy. Bishop Hanifen was named the first Bishop of Colorado Springs, and he in turn asked Father John Slattery to serve as the first Vicar General of the new Diocese. It meant that the parish community had to begin sharing Father John with Bishop Hanifen, who increasingly relied on him for help with diocesan responsibilities.
Parish activities multiplied in 1984 with the Renew program, marriage preparation, Newcomer’s Committee, a singles group, a bridge group, the Parish Life Committee and many more programs.
After many years of volunteer work, Judy Metts became the parish secretary in May, 1984. In August of the same year, Father Don Brownstein was appointed as assistant pastor and was welcomed with much joy into the community. Christmas 1984 found 1,500 people worshipping.
Bob Brotherton was hired as an architect for a new facility in February, 1985 and began consulting with all sorts of groups to develop a design for the newly proposed building. By September of that year, over a thousand people were regularly attending weekend liturgies. A Sacrificial Giving program was organized and proved to be very beneficial in helping parishioners understand their corporate responsibilities with regard to developing and maintaining programs and facilities. More 1,500 people worshipped together for Christmas of 1985.
In February 1986, the firm of Art Klein and Associate was hired to construct the new church facility, and the ground was broken on April 6, 1986.
A great tradition of celebration for the parish feast day, March 17th, was established early in the life of the community and has always been a special time. At this gathering, the pastor showed his appreciation to all volunteers and presents the volunteers of the year award to the deserving person/persons.
The spring and summer of 1986 was a time of significant change for parish. Father Don Brownstein was named pastor of Annunciation parish in Leadville and Sister Laetitia Slusser accepted a position on the staff of St. Thomas Seminary. Both had done wonderful work at St. Patrick’s and their departures were hard for all. However, the Lord replaced them with three equally fine people: Sister Roberta Westrick, S.C., Father Bill Martinez and Father Chet Soleta, CSC. All have contributed tremendously to the life and vitality of the parish.
To continue our comparisons, the Christmas celebrations in 1986 found almost 2,000 people worshipping together, a five fold increase in five years!
1987 was an action packed year for St. Patrick. The last Mass was offered in “St. Yakitori” on February 14th, 1987 and the first Masses in the new church on Sunday, February 15, to the immense delight of all the parish!! The formal dedication Mass was celebrated by Bishop Hanifen on Pentecost Sunday, June 6, 1987.
Founding members of the community testify to the fact that Father John had said from the beginning that he would serve as pastor for a six year term and then move on. Bishop Hanifen asked him to begin serving full time as Vicar General and, with characteristic generosity, Father John agreed. Parishioners bid him a fond farewell on June 25, 1987, six years exactly after founding St. Patrick Parish and a mere three weeks after the formal dedication of the new church facility he had worked so hard to see completed!
Father Donald. F. Dunn was named second pastor of St. Patrick by Bishop Hanifen and began his responsibilities on July 1, 1987. Father Dunn joined the Diocese of Colorado Springs at the same time, having served previously in many different ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver and most recently as a member of the Mission Team in Monteria, Columbia, South America.
Many new families have joined the parish in recent months. New programs have been initiated and new personnel hired. Darlene Boese and Steve Mantz joined staff as Religious Coordinator and Youth Coordinator, respectively. Joe and Debbie Gustofson served as maintenance personnel, and Josephine Prado served as Coordinator of the Nursery. Cathy Mound joined staff part time as parish secretary, and Judy Metts now serves as Business Manager. Jason Throne serves as the Sacristan.
The parish in 1987 had more than 1000 families, and was alive with celebration and activity. Together it is our goal to live out the parish mission statement authorized by the Parish Council in March, 1987.