ST. JUDE (1967)
On August 22, 1967, St. Jude parish was created by Archbishop Casey to care for the fast growing area of southwest Lakewood, Green Mountain, and unincorporated southeastern Jefferson County. A census taker found 1,151 Catholic families in this area stretching from Wadsworth Boulevard to Hog Back Road, from Bear Creek to West Alameda Avenue. From three names recommended by a vote of the parishioners, Archbishop Casey chose St. Jude, patron of the hopeless.
Among those grateful for St. Jude's interest in difficult cases would be Lien Bui, then a one-year-old girl in Vietnam. After the Vietnamese war ended in 1975, Lien, her sister, two brothers, an aunt, an uncle, and her parents fled to America, where they were placed in a refugee camp at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
"We couldn't leave that camp," Lien explained in 1986, "until someone volunteered to help us make a new life in America. We had filled out many applications, but I was tired of hoping when Dad came home with the good news, `We've been accepted by St. Jude Catholic Church in Lakewood, Colorado!' My Mom was overjoyed because we had been accepted by a Catholic church."
Jack and Karen Whittier headed the nine couples who had worked with Catholic Community Services to sponsor the Buis, welcoming them to a new house, filled with food, clothing, furniture, and toys. One couple enrolled Lien and her siblings in school. Another found her aunt a job sewing in a factory and showed her how to get to work, patiently driving behind the slow RTD bus to make sure she did not get lost. Another couple taught Mr. Bui how to drive to his job with Catholic Community Services, where he helped resettle other Southeast Asians.
"We soon learned to call our sponsors aunties and uncles," Lien wrote in a parish history for her Colorado history class at the University of Colorado at Denver. "They made us feel comfortable in a place where no other Vietnamese had resettled. They helped us with problems big or little. When my skin grew itchy and white and flaky all over, Karen reassured us it was caused by Colorado's dry atmosphere. She brought over some lotion."
Despite the fact that St. Jude's was the sixth largest parish in the archdiocese, with 2,138 registered families by 1986, it has been able to reach out to individual families like that of Lien Bui. When St. Jude's was created from the overflow of St. Bernadette, Notre Dame, St. Anthony of Padua, and Our Lady of Fatima parishes, William E. Sievers, the founding pastor, wrestled with the size factor. Like many other new suburban parishes, St. Jude's embraced many new subdivisons of strangers lacking the traditions and long-time neighborliness of older churches.
To strengthen parish bonds while St. Jude Church was in the planning and construction stages, Father Sievers held Masses for his flock at "St. Alameda's," as Alameda High School auditorium was dubbed. For the convenience of all parts of his sprawling, eighteen-square mile parish, Father Sievers also held services and parish activites in the Notre Dame Parish Hall, in a Presbyterian church, and in the homes of parishioners. Father Sievers, a Denver native with a strong sense of community, came up with a novel solution to helping his parishioners get acquainted: He created twenty-six "little parishes."
Meanwhile, a ten-acre site, bounded on the north by Kendrick Lakes Elementary School and on the east by the lakes and a park, was bought on December 21, 1967. Denver architect Roland M. Johnson designed a church on the knoll with downtown Denver skyscrapers looming to the east, and Red Rocks Park and Mount Morrison commanding the western horizon.
A decidedly modern structure with nine irregular sides was begun on November 5, 1968. Huge steel arches served as the skeleton while burnt-orange brick was used as the skin beneath a rust-colored roof. The main entry is on the east, where church-goers are welcomed by a life-sized linden wood statue of St. Jude, handcarved in Oberammergau, Germany. Three separate naves facing the altar seat 900 people. The fan-shaped clustering of the three banks of pews was designed so that no one is farther than seventy-five feet from the altar, a simple oak table symbolizing the humble furnishings of the Last Supper. The stained glass windows representing the eight beatitudes were crafted by Alice Alter of Denver's Watkins Stained Glass Company.
For the dedication on April 5, 1970, neighboring Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis were welcomed among the hundreds who watched Archbishop Casey bless the new church. Some parishioners felt "consternation" about the contemporary architecture according to Ron Brockway, a Regis College history professor and founding member of the parish, who wrote "Saint Jude Church." Most, however, were delighted to have their own church at last.
This growing congregation in the booming suburbs of Jefferson County peaked at almost 3,000 registered households in 1975. That year 800 families in the area west of Union Boulevard became part of a new parish, Christ on the Mountain.
The young and lively families of St. Jude's did not stop with completion of their $359,000 church. In August 1974, they completed the St. Jude Youth Center--which claims to be the first in the Archdiocese of Denver. This $700,000 facility includes classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices for the Youth Ministry. Ten years later, on October 28, 1984, the St. Jude Community Center was dedicated. It houses administrative offices, a library, and a small chapel for weddings, funerals, and daily Masses. This center hosts pancake breakfasts and spaghetti suppers, wedding receptions and Bible study classes, as well as the meetings of such parish groups as the Young Marrieds, the Singles, the Divorced and Separated, and the Prime Timers. Alienated Catholics, a unique St. Jude's effort, reaches out to ex-Catholics. "The idea is not so much to reconvert them," as Pastor Robert J. Kinkel explained in 1986, "as to listen to why they left the Church."
St. Jude's contributes 15 percent of the regular Sunday offertory collection to help the needy around the parish, around the archdiocese, and around the world. Over the years, this relatively affluent suburban parish has provided both funds and volunteer workers for struggling inner city parishes. St. Jude's has also helped to build and maintain a church in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and reached out to Southeast Asian refugees.
Parishioners donate time, expertise, and money to the In Jesus' Name Shelter, an interdenominational bed, breakfast, and supper program for families and single women in Lakewood. Various Lakewood churches host the shelter on a three-month rotating basis. The Catholic Worker Soup Kitchen in downtown Denver, the Bread for the World organization fighting global hunger, and Birthright, Inc., a pregnancy counseling program, are among the twenty-seven outreach programs to which St. Jude's contributes over $50,000 a year.
Father Sievers left the parish in 1976; he was followed by John R. Slattery, and then by Robert J. Kinkel, pastor since 1981. "Father Sievers gave St. Jude's a vision of what a post-Vatican II parish should be," reflected Father Kinkel in 1986. "Our people have continued in that spirit of mutual ministry, saying yes to all that will be."