A long 10 years of fund-raising, planning, building and praying for a new Catholic church on South Pagosa Boulevard culminated Tuesday, with a dedication ceremony of the new place of worship.
But, in the scheme of things, perhaps ten years of planning and building isn’t so very long.
A couple of weeks ago, when Pagosa’s priest, Father Carlos Alvarez, was giving a mass anticipating the dedication ceremony, he joked that, though the building of Pagosa’s new Pope John Paul II Church may have taken 10 years, at least it didn’t take 46 years — as long as it took the Jews to build their temple according to John 2:13-25.
“Jesus sees that the enterprise around the temple has profaned what should be a purity of worship,” recapped Father Carlos. “So he goes in and drives out the money exchangers and those selling oxen for sacrifice, etcetera. I reminded folks this past week that this church will be a sacred place, but what’s more sacred is every person who walks through the door. Each person is infinitely more important than this beautiful place, since we’re all children of God.
“A group called ‘Our Parish Our Future’ began in 1999 with the capital fund-raising effort. People have been working for this church for ten years, at least,” said Father Carlos. “I just came in four and a half years ago and picked up the reins. So much good work was done when I got here, it was easy to pick up and continue the good work.”
On Tuesday evening, Bishop Arthur Tafoya, the bishop for all of southern Colorado, celebrated mass in Pagosa’s brand new Pope John Paul II Church with a large group of excited Pagosa parishioners.
“We will have done for the building what we do for an infant or adult who is baptized,” Father Carlos explained to The SUN, the week before the dedication. “We will use water and oil to consecrate the building for the praise and glory and worship of God, just as we baptize a person to give glory and honor and worship to God.”
“The dedication of the new church is going to be as exciting as when people get together in Rome to see the Pope come out,” said Barbara Hendricks, a generational parishioner of the Catholic community in Pagosa. “There’s been so much anticipation for the new church, said Hendricks, who has celebrated every single sacrament in the old Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in downtown Pagosa. My grandparents went to that church, my parents went to that church, and I grew up in that church.”
Hendricks said that as excited as she is to see the new church, she and her husband will continue to attend mass on a regular basis on Sundays at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church downtown. The downtown church has an official capacity of 148.
“We supported the new church because that’s part of being a congregation,” Hendricks said. “You support changes, you support growth.” The new Pope John Paul II Church will have seating for over 350 worshippers.
“Support from the community is what makes both the town and the church of Pagosa so special,” said Father Carlos. “I want to thank everyone for their generous gifts of time, talent, treasure and testimony that have made building this community and building this church possible, I’ve been blessed to serve here for the past four and a half years, this is an amazing community, the people are absolutely wonderful.
“Pagosa Springs,” continued Father Carlos, “is the closest thing to an intentional community I’ve ever lived in. People here really want to be here. Maybe they’ve lived here their whole lives, and they’ve survived the ups and downs of the economy. Or maybe they are people who’ve moved here after traveling many places throughout the world, and deciding that this is one of the most wonderful places they’ve been, and they decide to make a life here. I’m blessed to call this place home along with those that are so grateful to call it home for a week, for a season, for a year, for all their lives.”
Bishop Arthur Tafoya wanted to encourage this community feeling with the building of the new church.
“The bishop affirmed that there was a need for expansion,” said Father Carlos. “His thought was that expansion should start with what’s central, and what’s central to Catholicism is worship. From worship flows communion fellowship and good works. The bishop affirmed that expansion should focus on taking our community and gathering us in worship. And by gathering in worship as a family, we will grow.”
Beginning on Saturday March 28, confession will be held every Saturday from 3:45-4:45 p.m. at the new church. A Saturday mass will be celebrated at 5 p.m. and a Sunday morning mass will be held each week at 8:30 a.m., at the Pope John Paul II Church. At 4 p.m. each Sunday, Father Carlos will also celebrate a special Life Teen mass at the new church.
But, for those who love the old church, never fear: the Immaculate Heart of Mary church will continue to be the place of worship for many masses to come. At 10:30 a.m. each Sunday, a bilingual mass will be celebrated downtown.
For information about masses at both the downtown and uptown Catholic churches, call 264-5702.
“It’s been a long, long road to get to here,” said Hendricks. “There is so much history, so much life in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. But now the road has brought us to this point, and the new church; and that will be part of history too.”