Pastor hopes Sacred Heart Church's renovation/restoration can last 200 yearsJune 13, 2018
The historic Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Colorado Avenue and 21st Street unveiled its renovation/restoration at a dedication ceremony in late May.
The roughly $2.5 million project upgraded most of the 96-year-old structure's interior and restuccoed/repainted its exterior. Other improvements included new
One of the improvements inside the church is subtle - a hand that had to be replaced on a statue of the Virgin Mary that dates back to Sacred Heart's construction in 1922. Her right hand had worn out from years of parishioners touching it in adoration.
More obvious to the general public is the building's new outside color. The light yellow has been replaced with a rosy hue. According to Ronald Raab, the pastor of Sacred Heart, it's a nod to the original Spanish
Grace Donnelly, the church's historian, elaborated that the name of the color is “Pikes Peak Granite,” which makes it local to the area.
(She also pointed out that before 1922, the church had been known as St. Mary's and was located at the corner of 26th and Robinson streets. It is not known how long it was there, but there is no direct tie to the current St. Mary's downtown.)
The dedication event began outside the main entrance, with Raab standing on the steps surrounded by scores of smiling parishioners. Also on hand were Bishop Michael Sheridan and Bishop Emeritus Richard Hanifen.
The church's bell tolled 96 times - one for every year that Sacred Heart has been at that location - and then the pastor led everyone in a Litany of Blessing and Unlocking the New Doors, which featured the repeated refrain, “Open our hearts, oh God.”
Shortly after that, attendees were let inside to admire the upgrades and to participate in a Mass of Dedication, followed by a reception.
During the project, which took nearly a year, church services were held in a hall in the old office building (formerly a Catholic grade school) on the other side of the former alley/now a walkway.
Raab expressed appreciation for the contractor, Nunn Construction, but also the volunteers and artists who lent a hand-made feel to the project. Examples are the new chandeliers, the pews, the tabernacle, the processional cross, door handles, various murals and the crest above the entrance outside.
The pews were made by Geoffrey Keating of Keating Woodworks. Even their bolts and washers were made by hand, Raab revealed during a
The project did not expand the church's roughly 400-person seating capacity. The new pews are installed farther apart, making them more handicapped-accessible. But the potential loss of space was balanced out by converting the former choir loft into pews.
Raab, who had first served as pastor at Sacred Heart in the mid-1980s, said he thought it needed a renovation then, and he definitely decided to advocate for it after returning to the church about 20 years later.
He recalled that the complaint heard most often was the carpet wearing out, but there were other problems wrought by nearly a century of constant use. The lighting was bad, the boiler was old, there was no air conditioning, the floors squeaked, the ceiling had unattractive acoustic tiles and the windows were failing.
In addition, some venerated long-time displays had started to become neglected. The Virgin Mary's hand issue was mentioned higher in the story. (As a side note,
The Santos, a set of religious art items donated by Hispanic members of the parish in 1993, had not been so much neglected as overlooked. It was in a place where “nobody saw it, it was pushed back so far,” Raab recalled. Now it's more visible, in an alcove on the left side as people walk in.
As for the church's 14 Stations of the Cross displayed on the walls, they had so much grime built up that a volunteer, Lori DiPasquale, had to spend hours with Q-tips cleaning them.
Proud of the quality of the overall church restoration effort, Raab predicted "People are going to walk in here 200 years from now, and it will look exactly like this."
As a crowning touch, a small statue of Jesus with a flaming heart on his chest, which dates back at least to the church's construction in 1922, has been relocated from a side niche (where the Santos are now) to a place of maximum prominence, atop the new alter. This was considered appropriate because the statue symbolizes the Sacred Heart name, Donnelly summarized.
With Sacred Heart owning the entire 2.5-acre block - bounded by the avenue on the south, 21st Street on the west, Pikes Peak Avenue on the north and 20th Street on the east - the renovation originally had an even larger scope. The city in 2017 gave approval to a master plan that would have allowed (over time) demolishing and replacing the rectory and office building, expanding the parking lot and adding new amenities.
Raab said those plans had to be scaled back when preliminary work revealed previously undiscovered soil and asbestos issues that put the cost beyond reach.
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