On Holy Family feast, Meeker church to celebrate 100 years
By Julie Filby
In 1911 construction began on Holy Family Church at 889 Park Ave. in the northwestern Colorado town of Meeker. Denver architects Aaron Gove and Thomas Walsh, who were finishing the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Denver at the time, were paid $125 to design it.
Built with bricks of red clay from the area, that were fired on a local kiln, the Romanesque church with a Gothic entry, colored glass windows, rose window and enclosed belfry was erected to serve Catholics who had settled in the rural ranching and agriculture community founded in 1883.
On Dec. 30, the feast of the Holy Family, parishioners will celebrate an early centennial anniversary—the church was dedicated July 6, 1913—with Mass, brunch and presentations highlighting the last 100 years.
“It’s the same centennial as the cathedral,” Deacon Bill Ertmer told the Denver Catholic Register. “Though we’re a long way from the Mother Church.”
Two hundred twenty five miles to be exact. At that distance, Holy Family is the second furthest church from the cathedral in the Denver Archdiocese (the furthest is St. Ignatius of Antioch in Rangely, 60 miles west).
Holy Family Church sits at the edge of the White River National Forest in Rio Blanco County, home to the Flat Tops Wilderness area, the White River, and plenty of wildlife such as elk and “deer all over town.”
“It’s a beautiful area,” said Father James Fox, pastor since 2004, and made up of residents that maintain an active spirit and strong devotion to their faith.
“People here are very dedicated to the faith,” said Father Fox. “They take ownership, and a lot of pride in their church, and they do a good job expressing that in action.”
Examples of this action are seen not only in its service to its 100-plus families, but to the larger community as well, through the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a weekly meal for the needy, an annual Thanksgiving dinner and involvement in ecumenical activities.
“(The church) is the center of our faith,” said Deacon Ertmer. “It adds a lot to the community.”
Holy Family Church in Meeker
1883 Town of Meeker founded
1884 First Mass celebrated by pioneer priest Father Edward Downey
1905 Holy Family Mission established by Bishop Matz
1911 Construction started on church
1913 Church dedicated July 6
1978 Mission elevated to parish by Archbishop Casey
2005 Celebrated centennial founding with Archbishop Chaput
A popular tradition, since the founding of the mission church in 1905 by Bishop Nicholas C. Matz, has been the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Held every year on the Sunday closest to the saint’s March 17 feast, the community gathers for … homemade noodles and chicken?
“We don’t serve corned beef because at the time, you couldn’t get it,” explained Deacon Ertmer, a retired elementary school principal who has lived in Meeker for nearly 40 years. “People couldn’t afford it.”
The chicken and noodle recipe has been passed down from generation to generation.
The parish has been blessed with “wonderful priests” through the years according to Deacon Ertmer. Prior to Father Fox, Father Roger Lascelle served as pastor from 1991-2004, preceded by Father Lawrence Solan 1986-1991, Father Bert Chilson 1983-1986 and the first pastor, after being elevated to a parish, was Father John Schuneman 1978-1983.
Pastors have led several refurbishing and remodeling projects since the original construction, including addition of a parish hall in the 1980s; refurbishing the exterior in the ‘90s with a grant from the Colorado Historical Society, and later renovating the interior through additional grants. About five years ago, the rose window was replaced with a replica made by a local artisan.
Centennial events kick off Dec. 30 with a 9 a.m. bilingual Mass, celebrated by parochial vicar Father Geronimo Gonzalez, who will be joined by Summit County pastor Father Randy Dollins, who had his first priesthood assignment at Holy Family. Mass will be followed with brunch, presentations and fellowship at the nearby Fairfield Center. All parishioners are invited to sign up in the vestibule by Dec. 16. For more information, call 970-878-3300.