Colorado Catholicism

By Thomas J. Noel


The Adams County town of Westminster grew up around Westminster College, a soaring castle-like building on the highest hill in what is now a thriving suburban community. Between 1940 and 1950, the town's population tripled from 534 to 1,619.

John Giambastiani, the Servite pastor of nearby Assumption parish in Welby, realized that mushrooming Westminster needed a parish of its own. He held a meeting in September 1948, in the home of Anthony Blatter, where eighty families opted to form a parish. A site was available as Archbishop Vehr had bought a four-acre tract on West 72nd Avenue between Hooker and Irving streets in December 1946.

For $6,000, an army barracks was moved to the tract and capped with a cross and steeple. Approximately 150 worshippers showed up for the first Mass on Christmas Day, 1948. Archbishop Vehr formally dedicated the church to the Holy Trinity on April 7, 1949, and asked Forrest Allen of St. Anne's in Arvada to handle it on a mission basis. The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet from St. Catherine parish began teaching catechism classes in January 1949.

By August 28, 1957, when Holy Trinity Church had to offer four Masses each Sunday to accommodate 1,100 parish households, Albert Puhl was appointed the first-full time pastor. He lived at St. Anne's in Arvada until the Frank Huber home at 7190 Julian Street was procured as a rectory. The fast growing parish soon had to offer additional Masses in Westminster High School, and the building committee decided that the four-acre site was inadequate.

The old site was sold for $85,000, and a new 12.33-acre site was purchased for $68,000. The new location contained two old houses and some rickety outbuildings that were demolished before groundbreaking on September 7, 1958. To guide and inspire the parish through the construction process, Father Puhl placed a small roadside shrine to Christ Crucified in what was then a sheep field. There, the shrine stood sentinel and remains to this day.

The new $250,000 building to house the growing worship community was dedicated on September 24, 1959. The Santa Fe Studios of Church Art designed and manufactured the interior furnishings for the modern, low-slung brick church. A $103,000 rectory was completed in 1962, and a convent in 1965. The $222,857 school opened in the fall of 1966, staffed by four lay teachers and four Dominicans from Great Bend, Kansas, until the sisters withdrew in 1985.

"From the Heart to the Head" is the motto of Holy Trinity School, 3050 West 76th Avenue, which offers education from preschool (age four) to eighth grade, as well as extended care before and after school. Father Puhl saw his booming parish through the changes inspired by Vatican II, including replacement of the traditional Latin Mass with an English service in 1964. After seventeen years at the parish he founded, Father Puhl stepped down in 1973, when the Servite order took charge. Since then, Mark Francescini, OSM, and Jude Herlihy, OSM, have guided Holy Trinity parish, which by 1988 served 1,800 registered households.

Copyright © 1989 The Archdiocese of Denver