Book chronicles archdiocesan history
Keepsake memento commissioned for 125th anniversary
By Gina Lanz
Photo provided Courtesy Archdiocese of Denver Archives: Father Joseph Projectus Machebeuf, above, arrived to Colorado in 1860 as a missionary priest with the Diocese of Santa Fe. He became the first bishop of Denver.
A new pictorial history book has been published just in time for the Archdiocese of Denver’s 125th anniversary, which will be observed in 2012.
Not since 1989, when author-historian Thomas Noel published “Colorado Catholicism” has the history of the diocese been chronicled for those intrigued by the story of the Catholic Church in northern Colorado.
The hardback book, “The Archdiocese of Denver: 125th Anniversary,” published by Editions du Signe, is distinguished by its colorful photos and historical highlights of each of the 146 parishes. It also includes Church history spanning the 305 years of people and events instrumental in founding and building the diocese—from the early Spanish Franciscan missionaries and first mission in 1706, through its most recent shepherd, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
“I hope this pictorial history of our beloved local Church will become a valued keepsake in Catholic households throughout our archdiocese,” Msgr. Thomas Fryar, moderator of the curia, wrote in a letter to pastors. “It will not only provide us with a wonderful reference and memento of our past, but also help serve as an impetus for efforts in the new evangelization in our future.”
The book shares the distinction of being part of a line of commissioned diocesan histories that started with the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Germany, at the request of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI).
“The idea of these books began when we met Archbishop Ratzinger in Rome,” explained Michel Tesan, representative for the French-based publisher. “Our company was printing Bibles and archbishop asked, ‘Why not print a history of the dioceses?’”
Editions du Signe founder Christian Riehl was reportedly surprised and responded: “There are many books on the history of dioceses.”
“Yes,” Archbishop Ratzinger replied, “in black and white for students and priests, but not for the family!”
That first book was such a success that the publishers followed by printing the history for every diocese in Germany.
In his meetings with clergy from around the world, Tesan recalled the most common reason such books are requested.
“It is important for Catholics to discover the history of our dioceses—to know who we are (and) where we came from. To know our Church family (and) those who fought for the faith.”
The Archdiocese of Denver’s commemorative book was customized and each parish was invited to offer input on their parish page’s content and design. The histories themselves, written by author John Hanley, are concise yet filled with important details.
Hanley has penned histories for the dioceses of Phoenix, Atlanta, Allentown, Pa., and Venice, Fla.
“To me, the book is like a Catholic family tree,” he said. “What’s great is that it ties together all of the current parishes of the archdiocese to the history. It shows how we’ve branched out and it connects present Catholics of the Archdiocese of Denver to the first Catholics in Colorado and Denver.”
The cover to “The Archdiocese of Denver: 125th Anniversary”
In addition to the historical photos selected with the help of archdiocesan archivist Karyl Klein, nearly 400 photos were contributed by Denver Catholic Register photographer James Baca and the publisher’s photographer John Glover.
The 240-page tome is for readers of all ages and is meant to stimulate memories, conversations and convictions about the rich local Catholic heritage and the role it’s played in the larger Church.
“It’s not just a book,” Tesan said. “It is a necessary book for the faithful to have a document of their history that is educational and useful.”
The volume can serve as a resource for families, parish centers and youth groups and would make a great gift for anyone wanting a pictorial memento of the archdiocese.
“Catholics craving an in-depth history of their faith in Colorado will now have a chance to purchase a keepsake book that will give a detailed insight into the early Catholics in the region,” Tesan said.
The limited edition books are available in both English and Spanish. They will be sold through parishes and the archdiocese’s Office of Communications beginning mid-December. The cost is $35. For more information, call 303-715-3230 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.