Historic Churches See Renovation Milestones
Historic renovation and repair work continue at Leadville’s Catholic churches: Annunciation and St. Joseph. So it’s time to check in with news about some fundraising efforts planned for this weekend, as well as some significant milestones at both historic buildings.
Today and tomorrow October 14 & 15, the Women of Hope will have a yard and bake sale at Annunciation Church, located at the corner of Poplar and E. 7th Street, near the garage and social hall. Today, Saturday, the sale will run from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. On Sunday, the sale will resume at 10 a.m., following 9 a.m. Mass. With several families contributing items to this sale, there should be some great treasures and of course, delicious baked goods.
In other church news, historic renovation efforts continue at Annunciation and St. Joseph, with significant progress and a milestone announcement last week from Father Rafael Torres-Rico, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Parish in Leadville.
“Through these two years, we have done a lot and I am very grateful and thankful for all the volunteers who have spent hours and hours of work,” said Father Rafael addressing the congregation last Sunday, Oct. 8. “St. Joseph’s is getting ready to re-open,” he continued, announcing there will be a special 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Oct. 22.
“But the work is not completely done. There is still much to do,” the priest reminded parishioners.
While the two churches have seen a decline in attendance since the late 20th century, as well as decay in building infrastructure, the last 2 years since Rev. Rico-Torres’s arrival have put a new wind in the sails of Leadville Catholics. After all, the young priest’s “lean-in” approach was going to determine if the two historic churches would still be standing in another 10 years, not to mention the spiritual awakening that was necessary to keep the religious church in place. By the 1990s, the local Catholic community had seen two separate parishes, one for west-siders at St. Jospeh’s and the other for east-siders at Annunciation, combine down to one: Holy Family Parish. But by 2015, it was “roll-up-your-sleeves” time, and maybe that’s when Leadville brings its best.
The work at Annunciation Church involved a complete remodel to the Sacristy (the room behind the altar). The walls and ceilings were repaired, updated lighting was installed and new cabinets were constructed to hold all of the religious artifacts and vessels need to conduct Mass and other sacraments.
Deacon Tony Wreckman also reported that 90% of the materials and 100% of the labor was donated in order to not only bring the space up to its deserved, respectable status, but to meet emergency exit needs in the church as well.
The social hall at Annunciation has had noticeable upgrades, in large part due to a group of visiting Knights of Columbus members from the Highlands Ranch Catholic Community near Denver. With help from the Leadville chapter of this religious order, the floors have been replaced and the kitchen is nearing competition on an entire overhaul. The Parish office, the red-brick building adjacent to Annunciation Church, continues to address aging issues. Like many old Leadville buildings the structure sees settling and shifting concerns, as well as infrastructure issues with old heating and plumbing systems.
In the church itself, Annunciation has seen some upgrades, structurally in the choir loft, as well as the restoration and re-installation of some of the original, beautifully hand-carved, woodwork which encircled the altar. For readers who may not know, this was the church where the Unsinkable Molly Brown got married and where Baby Doe Tabor’s funeral was held.
Meanwhile the restoration down at St. Joseph historic church on W. 2nd Street, will likely show the most significant efforts, but it was needed. When Rev. Torres-Rico first arrived as Leadville’s pastor two years ago, the condition of the Rectory (the house adjacent to the church, where the priest lives) was nearly uninhabitable, with reports of Father Rafael having to sleep in the pews for several nights when the heat went out in the Rectory. Since that disturbing announcement, many faithful have stepped up to help, and both the house and historic church have seen marked improvement.
In the church itself, a sneak peek reveals some incredible new brick work has been added to the altar, and Sacristy, all while fully respecting the artistic heritage of the frescoes and other religious artifacts beloved by this 118-year-old parish. In addition, all of the pews have been stripped down and refinished, with the flooring beneath them repaired.
“It’s not enough to feel proud (of these churches), you have to be responsible as well,” Father Rafael preached. “It is important for the faithful to have a place of worship for God.”
All the faithful are invited to the Special Mass at St. Joseph Church on Sunday, Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. For those interested in making a contribution to the Holy Family Parish “Building Campaign” you may do so by sending a check to 609 Poplar Street, Leadville CO 80461. For more details about the overall plan and projects you and your group can assist with, please contact Father Rafael Torres-Rico directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Parish’s Office Manager is Kathy Micklich, she may be reached by phone at 719-486-1382 or by email at email@example.com. You may also connect with the local parish on the Leadville Catholic Youth Facebook Page where the weekly church bulletin is generally published for additional details on services and Mass Schedules.
Kathleen Bedell, © Leadville Today 2017