History of St Mary's Help of Christians Church

08/13/11

Home The Slovenian immigration to this country took place in large measure during the 1880's. These natives of Carniola Slovenia, Styria, Dalmatia and Croatia (those provinces of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire) which later were incorporated into the northern section of Yugoslavia after the First World War, settled mainly in Cleveland, Ohio and Joliet, Illinois. Poverty and a quest for new homes and new fortunes directed these sturdy sons of the soil to the United States. A few young ambitious pioneers left their native shores to seek employment. Others followed; and after saving enough money for passage sent for their families with the intention of making their permanent homes in this country.

    About this times plans were being laid for the construction of a large steel plant in the Rocky Mountain region, a territory rich in mineral and oil deposits. Pueblo, which at that time boasted a population of about 14,000 inhabitants, was selected for this venture. The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company purchased a large tract of land in what is now known as the Bessemer district. Before this, the people of Pueblo were chiefly employed on the railroads, smelters and ranches. Agents of the C.F.& I. were sent East to canvass workers for the plant. From Cleveland and other cities came Slovenians, Slovaks, Germans and Italians. They readily found employment in the steelworks. In a few years Pueblo became a busy booming city of 60,000 inhabitants. Most of the mill workers settled in the downtown section of the city near the banks of the Arkansas River known as the Grove.
    In 1891 the Most Rev. Bishop Nicholas Matz, D.D. of Denver asked the Rt. Rev. Abbot Boniface Wirtner of St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania, to establish a parish for all the German speaking elements of the city. These took in all the Slovenes, Germans, and Slovaks who were residing in the Grove. An abandoned broom factory was purchased and converted into a church building. Father Boniface served as pastor until October of 1894. The Rev. Cyril Zupan of St. John's Abbey in Minnesota was appointed to succeed him. Father Cyril was a native of Carniola
and a master of the German and Slavic languages, thus making him an ideal pastor for these various national groups.
The Roots Were Planted......

    The small church proved inadequate for the many Catholics in the Grove.  In 1895 money was raised for the construction of a more spacious church. Ground was purchased on Clark Street and the building of the new church was put into execution.   In a few months the church of St. Mary's emerged. The title, "Mary Help of Christians" emanating from Brezje, Slovenia was given to the church. The structure was a school and church combination. The Americanization of his people was the thought uppermost in the mind of Father Cyril.  The bulk of his parishioners were young married couples with growing children. Three Benedictine Sisters from St. Scholastica Convent in Chicago were asked to teach.  They were Sister Magdalen Becker, Sister Leocadia Tomazewska and Sister Perpetua Powers. The cost of the entire building was $27,000. The school occupied the first floor of the building, the church the second floor. A residence was purchased for the sisters, a frame dwelling which at one time was the first St. Mary's Hospital. This was opposite the church. Soon ,many more Slovenian and Slovak families began to migrate to Pueblo and settle in the Grove. Work-a-plenty was provided for them in the Steel Mill and the smelters of the city. Within a few years more Sisters were employed in the school. Another frame building was built next to the church to accommodate some of the classes.

    On December 1, 1894, Father Stenno Staudigl of St. Vincent Archabbey was appointed assistant to take care of the Germans in the parish. In 1897 the Rev. Chrysostom Lochscmidt who later served the parishes of Canon City and Florence became assistant. The Rev. Gregory Zeilnhofer succeeded him in 1899. Towards the end of 1900, it was deemed necessary due to the growing number of German families to build a church of their own. A frame edifice was built off Santa Fe and Sixth St. on a hill. It was dedicated to St. Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans.   Later a red brick building was attached to the church as a school.  This building amply provided the religious wants of the Germans until 1922 when it was discontinued. Most of the parishioners had by this time moved to the Park Hill section of the city on the east side. This later gave rise to St. Leander's Church.

    In July of 1899 Rev. Adalbert Blatnik of St. Benedict's Abbey in Atchison, Kansas, a native of Slovakia, came to assist Father Cyril. He was placed in charge of the Slovaks; Father Cyril concentrating his ministry on the Slovenians. Father Adalbert served at St. Mary's until January 1, 1912, when a new foundation was built by his co-nationals. Ground was purchased on Clark and C Streets and the present combination church and school of St. Anthony was ready for occupancy. The spacious home of Mr. Marshall opposite the Clark Hospital on B Street was bought as a convent for the Sisters who were to teach at St. Anthony's.   At this time there were about four hundred families of Slovenian and Croatian extraction and about two hundred of Slovak origin.

    Upon the entrance into the First World Ward in 1917, Father Cyril Zupan stood upon the steps of the Pueblo Courthouse the day before the declaration of war and pledged his own support and that of his people. The call to arms was answered by some three hundred members of St. Mary Parish.

    On June 3, 1921 Pueblo suffered its greatest flood disaster. The raging waters of the Arkansas River almost reduced the city into shambles. The banks of the river overflowed and the swift and turbulent waters took everything in its onward course of destruction. The banks of the river were then south of the Nuckolls Plant. The river flowed through the very heart of the Grove district, at that time the hub of the city. Over three hundred homes in the Grove alone were inundated and laid in ruins. The whole city was under ten feet of water. People fled to the mesas for safety. St. Mary's Church and its various buildings suffered heavily. The storm started at nine in the evening and raged on until two the following morning. The damage to the church and school was estimated at $4000. Many members of the parish were left homeless and in want. The sufferings of the people were alleviated by the tireless Red Cross workers and volunteer rescuers. According to the records only one member of the parish, a Mrs. Wirtz, lost her life in the flood.

    When the waters subsided and work of rehabilitation commenced, a general meeting of the parish was held to determine the advisability of purchasing property in Bessemer. This was on June 24, 1921. It was unanimously voted to purchase from the Newton Lumber Co. half of its holdings of the now defunct Eiler Smelter works off South Santa Fe and East Mesa Avenue. The price settled upon was $25,000. It was an expansive piece of land of eleven acres, which took in the former residence of Smelter Supt. George Marsh, a company office building and a big barn. The property extended from South Santa Fe on Mesa Avenue to the railroad tracks of the Santa Fe, taking in four full city blocks.

    In order to protect the city from future floods, the city of Pueblo authorities decided to divert the waters of the Arkansas from its present dangerous course below the Nuckolls Plant. New strong cement banks and dykes were built near the railroad south of B. Street, near St. Mary Church.  This meant that a large residential area had to be condemned. Thus a few hundred families had to build homes elsewhere. To be closer to their place of employment, many build their homes in Bessemer, near the property of St. Mary's.  The cost of the new river bank ran into the millions of dollars. St. Mary's was taxed $9,000, payable in thirty annual installments of $300 per year as its share of supporting such a project.

    The first St. Mary's rectory was located on B. Street in the Grove adjacent to the church. The house did not have all the conveniences now thought indispensable. Just to mention one, the Fathers had to rely on a coal stove for the necessary heat. The flood left its mark on the rectory too. It tore off part of the office and swept away the porch. Many church records were lost at that time. The most necessary repairs were made, making the rectory habitable for a while longer. After the building of St. Mary's School, the priests moved into the rectory on the Mesa that was serving as a temporary school, priest's office and a home for the caretaker of the grounds.

Demolition of the Eiler Smelter Smokestack....

    To keep down the expenses in the parish, it was decided to demolish the huge smokestack which stood like a watchful sentinel northwest of the rectory; and to use the bricks in the construction of a new school. The razing of this great landmark of Pueblo took place one Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in July of 1923. It was a great and memorable event. Father Cyril accompanied by the altar boys and parishioners, went to the place in solemn procession. City and newspaper photographers were present. A movie was made of the demolition. People from all over the city came to witness the downfall of the mighty stack under the power of dynamite. Slowly it came down in a heap of bricks and rubble.

    Money was scarce, so the families were asked to help clean as many as 100 bricks. There were many volunteers.  The children were paid a penny for each brick they cleaned. For a time the site resembled a beehive and in short time, the bricks were salvaged and used in the building of the school just south of the place where the stack stood. The present rectory, or the main Eiler residence, was used for classrooms and the parlor was set aside for the use of the pastor.  The large barn was pressed into use as a chapel. The hay loft was prepared to receive the second grade and the first floor as a schoolroom for the first grade and also as a chapel. A small addition was built to the front of the building to serve as a sanctuary...sliding doors closed this during school time.  There was not much comfort to be found in these surroundings, but everyone accepted the discomforts with the courage of pioneers. Patience was sorely needed in those trying days. The third and fourth grades went to school in what was now the rectory.  The Fathers then lived in the Grove, and came up to attend to the needs of the branch. Both sisters and children had to suffer many inconveniences here. For one thing, they were very crowded.  Then they had to depend on fireplaces for heat in the winter. Often they had only smoke. This was the story for five years. Meanwhile, five Sisters made daily trips in "Lizzie" to the Grove where all the Grove children and the older ones from Bessemer were taught in the five nice classrooms which had not been disturbed by the flood.

    It was the intention of Fr. Cyril to construct a modern school building west of the rectory on the Eiler grounds. A meeting of parishioners was held for this purpose. About ten thousand dollars were subscribed at this meeting. The new located of St. Mary's School met with great favor as many of the families were building homes in Bessemer and in the prairie district of Pueblo east of South Santa Fe Avenue. That same summer of 1923, ground was broken. Soon the present structure of light brick was completed. There was a full basement, six classrooms on the first floor, and a large hall and library on the second story. The school was able to accommodate five hundred children with ease.  The cost of the building was $45,000.

    Classes began in the fall of 1923 with an enrollment of 229 children.  The Grove still continued with about 250 children. It gradually decreased until it was definitely closed in 1927. Few families remained in the Grove at this time, however those children who were too small to come to the school in Bessemer easily could attend St. Anthony's Slovak School in the Grove.

The following is taken from the "History Of St. Mary's" as compiled by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary's School during the school year 1931-1932.

    Although St. Joseph's Hall in the Grove does not belong to St. Mary's Parish, yet it may have a place in our Class Book, for it has been the scene of many of our activities in the past. For many years we had no hall of our own to stage plays. We were then very glad to have such a nice place as St. Joseph's Hall for our plays. The hall is large and airy. It can seat six hundred people easily. Many times it was filled with friends of our school who came to see what our children could do. On such occasions, the officers of St. Joseph Society to whom the hall belongs, would give us the use of their clubroom downstairs as a dressing room. This made it convenient for the Sisters and was much appreciated by them. The one drawback in the use of the hall was the distance from the school. This was especially the case when the new school was built in Bessemer.

    The stage in St. Joseph's Hall is quite high which makes it easier for all to see what goes on there. Another advantage is the absence of pillars which obstruct the view. The scenery in this hall is very good. The outdoor scene is particularly beautiful. The back curtain shows a scene in Bled, Austria (now Slovenia). It portrays a magnificent church on a tiny island set in the blue sea, with mighty mountains in the background.

    The large building once occupied by the Eiler's business manager, now became the spacious convent for the twelve teaching Sisters at St. Mary's. The building was of Swiss style with thirteen rooms and porches both upstairs and down on three sides.

    The chapel was called "Little Bethlehem". To provide space for church and classrooms a small addition was built to the west of the building which served as the sanctuary. At the same time and outside stairway was also built as an entrance to the hay loft, which served as a classroom and as a choir loft. On week days after Mass the Chapel was transformed into classrooms. The first floor was used by grade one and the choir loft for grade two. This went on until 1925 when the school was built. In 1922 Mr. Renart, the church carpenter, made pews for the convenience of the worshipers.

    The depression of 1929 weighed heavily over St. Mary Parish.  The depression era continued until about 1940. The steel mill closed many of its shops and limited production to a minimum. Many men of St. Mary's found themselves with little or no work. It was a hard blow to the parish as the debt stood at $50,000. In spite of hard times, however, a purse of $3000 was presented to Fr. Cyril on his 35th anniversary to the priesthood. It was hard, but by the end of 1933, the parish debt had been reduced to $35,000.  In 1935 work was done on the interior of the rectory. The rooms were redecorated and a new furnace installed at a cost of $700.

    Came 1936 and with it a day most dear to the heart of Father Cyril and his people. It was the occasion of his Golden Jubilee to the Holy Priesthood.  Fifty years in the service of his Master. Of these forty-five were spent as pastor of St. Mary's.

    On September l, 1939 Father Cyril, feeling that his work for his people had been completed, retired to Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City, where his happy disposition and life of experience won for him the office of Prior of the monastery. In his place was appointed Father Anthony Roitz, a product of the parish. As a farewell gesture to his parish, Father Cyril installed a new pipe organ.

    It was the work of Father Anthony to organize the young people of the parish. In 1940 the Junior Newman Club and the Legion of Mary was organized, The young girls were organized into St. Mary's Cadet Corps. In order to facilitate the reduction of the debt, which amounted to not more than $20,000 at that time, steps were taken to divide the property from South Santa Fe to the Sister's home into lots. Arrangements were made with the WPA to introduce a sewage and water line through this development. Upon completion of the work, at a cost of $3000, the lots to the number of 36 were put up for sale. After the war, when home building was resumed, one and two family homes were built on the west side of South Santa Fe Ave. and the north side of East Mesa Ave., thus adding to the beauty of the region.

    In September 1940 it was deemed necessary to make extensive improvement and alteration to the rectory. As one of the spacious buildings on the premises during Eiler's time, it was the superintendents office and residence that became the classrooms and later the rectory for Father Cyril. The exterior was stuccoed at a cost of $1300, and as a safety precaution, an outside fire escape was built on the west side of the building. This residence was also the home for a number of years for the caretaker of the grounds, Mr. Fritzel and his family. The original building had a long porch all around the building. It was here that people, young and old, enjoyed dancing in the evenings of the summer frolic each year. The festival was a gala affair, not only providing funds for the parish, but united the parishioners more closely together as a parish family.

A new St. Mary's Church and Father Daniel Gnidica......

    On October 20, 1943 The Rev. Daniel Gnidica OSB, who had been pastor of Holy Family in Kansas City, Kansas the previous seven years, was appointed to succeed Father Anthony Roitz. Father Daniel was also a native of Pueblo and a product of St. Mary's.

    With World War II having taken its place in history, the parishioners were to look ahead toward and expansion and construction era. On February 17, 1946 a general meeting of the parish was held to consider the building of a new church. The chapel on East Mesa was rapidly becoming more dilapidated; and most of the families now living in Bessemer found it more convenient to use the chapel in preference to the church in the Grove. Building a church on the mesa in the foreseeable future was decided. However, construction was delayed pending an accumulation of the needed funds. Each wage earner was asked to pledge $100 toward the building cost of $278,000.

    On September 17, 1947 the remodeled barn that served as a chapel for some 25 years was closed and Masses were now to be said in St. Cyril's Chapel that was set upon a temporary basis on the second floor of the school building. The old chapel was sold in 1949 to Willard Bishop for $450 to be dismantled.

    In December of 1949 the Holy Sea honored one of our parishioners, Mr. John D. Butkovich with the Papal Honor of Knight of St. Gregory.  Several months prior to this, under his direction, time was purchased from a local radio station for a Slovenian and Croatian program.

    From 1947 to 1953 the parish was involved in three professional money drives for the Pueblo Catholic High School to which the parish contributed over $100,000.

    A general parish meeting was called in May of 1953 to set the wheels in motion toward the construction of the new St. Mary Church; and by November 1st the cornerstone was laid in place. It contained names of the contributors, history of St. Joseph's Society, coins and medals. Father Daniel also inserted numerous blessed medals into the footing before it was poured. On the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1954, St. Mary Help of Christians Church was solemnly dedicated by the Most Reverend Bishop Joseph C. Willging.  Michelle Ann Cozzolino, Audrey Kambich and Philip John Resendez were the first to be baptized in the new church, while Charles Barnett and Audrey Medved were honored as the first couple married in the church. The first funeral was that of Steve Ogulin.  The first celebration of an evening Mass began at St. Mary's on June 6, 1954. The St. Mary Church in the Grove was officially closed on Decoration Day, May 31, 1954, but it wasn't until March 13, 1955 that it was given to Mount Carmel Parish to be used as a parochial school.

    Building a new church was not the only construction that faced Father Daniel as pastor, for on October 1957 the old adobe building that served as the sister's convent was razed and a beautiful white brick home, costing $62,000 was built by our parish contractor, Albert Jersin, adjacent to the new church on the north east side. Mr. Jersin was also the contractor for the building of the church. During the time of construction until September 1958, when it was ready for occupancy, the Sisters commuted to St. Mary's from St. Leander's Convent.   It was at this time that the parish invested in an automobile for the Sisters.

    A few of the major improvements that were done during Father Daniel's administration included partitioning half of the school for office and classroom space, replacement of the school desks, as well as replacing of electrical, plumbing and heating systems in the school, installation of curbing, a sprinkling system on the parish lawn and paving extensive parking and playground areas at a cost of $8,000.  Because of a shortage of religious teachers, the parish had to engage a number of lay teachers in September 1956. The first lay teachers were Mrs. Ann Spelich (gratis), Mrs. Jeanne Killian, Mrs. Martha Sandstrom and Miss Octavia Cook. The help offset the added expense of maintaining the school. As additional help, the Dollar a Month Club was started in 1960.

    On February 16, 1964 St. Mary's had the privilege of having the first Confirmation Class in the Diocese that was confirmed by the Most Reverend Charles A. Buswell at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The new liturgical changes were put into effect at St. Mary's on November 6, 1964, as decreed by the Holy Office: Mass offered facing the congregation -- English participation where permitted -- laymen serving as readers, commentators, etc.

    On August 31, 1970 St. Mary Parish and Mount Carmel joined efforts in the establishing of a school in the old St. Mary Church on Clark Street -- and named it Queen of Peace School. Children in Kindergarten through third grades attended Queen of Peace, and fourth through eighth grades attended St. Mary' School on East Mesa Ave. Students were bused back and forth. This was done in hopes of helping to solve the financial crisis facing the parochial schools. However in 1971, the Most Reverend Bishop of Pueblo, closed all Catholic Schools in the City of Pueblo due to the financial difficulties. C.C.D. classes were formed in the parish, and Father Daniel requested that three of the Benedictine Sisters remain in Pueblo to teach Christian Doctrine to the high school and grade school children.

    On March 6, 1972 Father Daniel died unexpectedly. Replacing him was Father Claude Roberts OSB, who was not a stranger to the parish, having served as assistant pastor under Father Daniel. It was a difficult time for the parish, but Father solidified feelings of "family" through the formation of the first Parish Council and the organization of the group known as the Senior Sociables.

    On August 10, 1974 Father Blane Bebble OSB became St. Mary's 5th pastor. His talent for restoration of "things from the past" -- whether it was furniture, liturgies or customs, became his well-remembered hallmark.

    The renovation of the rectory in June of 1975 and the renovation of the church sanctuary in 1979 were beautifully accomplished under his direction. He was instrumental in the restoration and installation of the stained glass windows from the old St. Mary Church into the window frames of the present church. The asset value of these windows in today's market are estimated at $40,500.

    During Father Blane's tenure many deacons and seminarians served under his tutelage. Some were the Reverends Bill White, Robert Doell, Mike McCleary, and Roger Dorcy, whose ordination took place at St. Mary's and who drew the plans for the renovation of the sanctuary. Adjacent to the school on the west side, a one time ball park and school playground was turned over to the city of Pueblo and became known as Benedict Park. The dedication ceremony took place October 19, 1980. Father Blane chose the name Benedict as a tribute to members of the Benedictine Order of Priests, Sisters, Brothers and Oblates who served churches, schools, hospitals, etc. in the state and specifically Pueblo. 1980 marked the 1500th anniversary (Sesquimillenium) of the birth of St. Benedict and the dedication of the park was timely. Under the direction of Sister Jeanne Hegarty, OSB and later Sisters Cecile Bouchard and Catherine Nadeau, DW, a Visitation Ministry became an active part of parish life. Frequent visits to the home bound and Eucharistic ministering became a regular activity. Because of ill health, Father Blane returned to Holy Cross Abbey officially on August 10, 1984 and Father Gregory Hudson OSB became the 6th Pastor.

     Father Gregory was instrumental in developing a strong Adult Educational Program, he himself instructing sessions on Christology and the Bible. The Lenten Wednesday Mass, followed by a luncheon of meatless soup was begun in February 1985 and continues up to the present time. "Our Catholic Heritage" directory was completed in time for the 90th anniversary of the parish in 1985. It was at this time that Bill Brumjak terminated his employment as Administrative Assistant. By September that year Sister Carol Besch, a Fransciscan sister from Dubuque, Iowa became the Director of Religious Education. Beginning in January of 1985 Father Gregory introduced the "Necrology" method of remembering our deceased loved ones. He also began the public rosary for peace prior to the morning mass. Remarking that a "picture is worth a thousand words," he engaged the skills of Eileen Kaplan and Bernice Krasovec to create velvet panels for the sanctuary that depicted the Gospel messages during Lent and Advent. Father Gregory departed this life on December 13, 1985. He will be remembered for his ability to hold the congregation in the palm of his hand from the beginning of Mass to the last blessing. Replacing Father Gregory was Father Alan Schwab OSB. Even though his name sounded German, he was of Slovenian descent. He served at St. Mary's on weekends during Father Daniel's time. The former Sister's convent was named Hudson Hall in Father Gregory's memory. It became a rental. Msgr. Peter J. Maas was the first tenant. Later in years, it became a retirement home for the Benedictine Sisters who once served as teachers in the parish school.

    In May of 1986 St. Mary's celebrated their parish anniversary and Feast Day of their patroness, Marija Pomagaj z Brezij and Mary Help of Christians with a special liturgy and social. The celebration was through the generosity of the American Slovenian Catholic Union (KSKJ) St. Joseph Lodge #7. From its beginning and throughout the years this annual celebration continues...some years with a Day of Prayer and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, preceded b a Candlelight service on the eve of this Feast Day. The 100th anniversary of the parish was celebrated in conjunction with this Feast Day on May 21, 1995.

    Father Alan was a devoted son of the Blessed Mother and during his time as pastor the Holy Mary Mother of God Prayer Garden was built in front of the rectory through donations and memorial gifts. The Prayer Garden was blessed by Bishop Arthur Tafoya on the Birthday of the Blessed Mother, September 8, 1993. It was at this time that the monthly Medjugorje Masses were sponsored by various Marian Prayer Groups to honor the Mother of Jesus and pray for vocations to the religious life.

    It was at this time that the Gornick Slovenian Library started by two Gornick brothers, John and Alan Gornick and located at the University of Southern Colorado was going to close. Rose Gornick, wife of John Gornick, asked Father Alan to take the library and include it somewhere within the parish. It was accepted on a hand-shake and moved into the former school building in January of 1993. Father Alan appointed Bernice Krasovec as curator and historian and the collection was merged with St. Mary's museum and artifacts. When the parish school was needed as a rental for a Baptist grade school, the library was then moved to the former St. Mary's rectory at 217 E. Mesa. It then had grown into a genealogy center with a collection of all sacramental records of the diocese and other pertinent heritage records.

    With a growing shortage of priests, Bishop Tafoya advocated the clustering of parishes to facilitate better service to the people in sacramental programs, etc. In June 1992 St. Mary clustered with St. Patrick and Our Lady of Assumption parishes, and they began sharing the Religious Education Program. Barbara Duff became the cluster's Director of Religious Education . Priests in the cluster parishes were Rev. Fathers Ervin Schmitt, Edward Pettit, Alan Schwab, OSB and Michael DeSciose.

    In March of 1994 Father Alan was called back to the Abbey to head a program for postulants. Functioning in his place was Father Michael DeSciose until July 11th when Father Louis Kirby arrived to take up his position as the 8th pastor of St. Mary's Church.

    Since the church cornerstone had deteriorated quite badly, a new cornerstone of African sable granite was put into place on July 18th, 1994. Making the parish come alive through involvement in various ministries seemed to be the aim of Father Louis. Placement of items in the sanctuary was forthcoming. A notable change was the "gilding of the tabernacle" and its placement on a new self-mounting stand built by Edward Terlep.

    The decision to consolidate and cluster the offices created the need for the building of an office complex and 919 East Evans Avenue. It was during this move that only two priests were to serve the cluster. Father Ervin Schmit and Father Edward Pettit. Father Louis Kirby returned to Holy Cross Abbey. After one year into that situation, Father Schmit retired and Father Pettit assumed pastorship of the three parishes. He was assisted by retired priests as needed.

    During this time St. Mary's School building was rented to the Park Hill Baptist Community while they were in the process of constructing a new school.  Following their departure, St. Mary's Genealogy Center and Gornick Slovenian Library moved out of their temporary quarters in the rectory at 217 East Mesa and back into the school building at 211 East Mesa Avenue. The Genealogy center is staffed by Bob Blazich and Lou Skoff as Genealogical researchers and Bernice Krasovec as Library curator. The Prayer Garden office is also located at the center. This move took place in June of 2003.

    Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Mary's Church continued daily under the guidance and assistance of three sisters of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament.

    On July 1st, 2003 Father Pettit retired from active ministry and Rev. John B. Farley, a native Puebloan, assumed the position as pastor of the Historic Southside Catholic Community of Our Lady of Assumption, St. Mary Help of Christians and St. Patrick Churches. Prior to Father Farley's arrival, the staff at the combined office at 919 East Evans Avenue was reduced to two secretarial/liturgical positions, Robert Sallee as pastoral administrator, August Cordova as Religious Education coordinator and a Pastor.

    Pope John Paul II, celebrating beginning his 25th year of His pontificate, declared October 2002 to October 2003 as the Year of the Rosary. He used this occasion to introduce the five new Mysteries of Light (Luminous Mystery) to the rosary. At the time of this announcement Holy Mary Mother of God Prayer Garden located on the grounds of St. Mary's at 217 East Mesa Avenue, erected a brick wall to include this mystery enhancing and matching the other mysteries in the prayer garden.

    Following the departure of Fr. Farley, Fr. Ben Bacino became the new pastor of St. Mary's Church.   Marie Vigil replaced Robert Sallee, but died shortly after resuming the financial director position.  Stephanie Mizer replaced Marie and Belinda Castro became the Religious Education coordinator.  Under these directors, the parishes of Out Lady of Assumption, St Mary's and St. Patrick's continued as the Historic Southside Catholic Community for several years.

    Because of declining memberships and a serious economic condition, the Churches of St. Patrick's and Our Lady of Assumption were closed on March 30, 2008.   Both churches were absorbed in the remaining church and assumed the name of St Mary's Help of Christian's Parish. 

    During the transition much care and consideration was given to the placement of religious items, statues, furniture etc.   The disposition of the buildings and structures were directed by the Diocese.

    Today the parish goes forward with transition and adjustments to write another page in the long history of St. Mary's Parish.  

     Starting in June of 2008 the members of the former St Patrick Parish and Our Lady of Assumption began attending  Masses at St. Mary's Church. 

       After 29 years as our Bishop,  Arthur N. Tafoya resigned  as the Bishop of the Pueblo Diocese that included 100,000 Catholics in Southern Colorado.   He was a devoted servant to the people of St. Mary's.   He blessed the Zegan  food baskets  each Holy Saturday in prepartation for Easter Sunday breafast as well as donning the attire of St. Nicholas each December 6th. 

       It was the  end of an era and the beginning of a new one.  It was a joyous yet somber moment in our local history as goodbyes were extended to Bishop Tafoya and a welcome to Reverend Fernando Isern .   On December 9, 2009 Reverend Isern was ordained as the 4th Bishop of Pueblo Diocese.

       At we begin the new decade 2010  Father Ben Bacino continues as pastor.  After a surgery of  a bad back, he recuperated with the help of Msgr. Marvin Kapushion,  Rev. Edward Pettit and  Rev.  Michael Papesh.    Bringing the history up to date, efforts continue with the ministry of one pastor with assistance when needed.

    Bringing the history up to date, efforts were made to accommodate the ability of one pastor to minister to three churches, as a spark of vibrant energy of the new pastor was becoming evident.

For more information email st.marysgen@yahoo.com

This site was last updated 08/13/11