The Diocese of Pueblo’s bishop has directed the sale of the Parish Hall, parking lot and the old rectory, locally referred to as the “Father’s House,” located next to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in downtown Pagosa Springs.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church will thankfully remain under the ownership of the diocese.
The Parish Hall was closed down due to safety concerns back in August of 2022. There are numerous issues with the building, including structural issues and mold, among other things. We were told an estimated $200,000 to $250,000 is needed to make the needed repairs.
You cannot put a price on the sentimental value of the Parish Hall and Father’s House to those who were born and raised here and to many who have made Pagosa Springs their home over the years.
Locals have started a letter-writing campaign to the bishop in a last-ditch effort to save the property. They are going to “give our best to save the property.”
Some hope to raise the money to repair the Parish Hall, citing it is an asset to the community as a whole. They would like to hold dinner fundraisers. Even previous community residents are offering their help to save the property by sewing and making items for silent auctions. People are also offering to volunteer to help repair the building.
With the property being prime real estate in downtown Pagosa Springs, there is concern among locals, especially “old-timers” over what will happen to the hall if it is sold.
There are priceless memories of weddings, church parties and meals served by the Guadalupanas to those who lost loved ones that weigh on the heartstrings of many. Some feel the Parish Hall is a landmark in the community and that the property is part of Pagosa’s history. Even people who are not Catholic say that the property is close to their heart.
The hall has been used to serve the entire community, not just for those of the Catholic faith. There have been countless fundraisers, dances, Knights of Columbus fish fries, weekly bingo games, fashion shows, baby showers, bridal showers, classes, meetings, wedding receptions and numerous other community events held at the Parish Hall.
The Knights of Columbus have resorted to offering takeout meals for the fish fries this year up at Pope John Paul II Catholic Church on South Pagosa Boulevard. Sadly, there remains the missing element of being able to have social interaction between community members which has made the event so successful and attractive in the past. The traffic to get uptown to pick up orders is less than desirable for many.
Thankfully, bingo has been able to relocate uptown to the same location.
One of the biggest and most frequent events that happened at the Parish Hall since 2005 has been Loaves and Fishes, a volunteer-run community meal program that offers a free lunch every Thursday. Each week, a different community organization prepares a meal that nourishes not only the body, but the soul.
Its mission statement reads: “Loaves and Fishes provides a weekly nutritious hot meal, free of charge to anyone seeking nourishment and fellowship. We also provide access to community services and resources to those in need, while allowing volunteers the opportunity to give of themselves in service to others.”
When you would walk into the Parish Hall on a Thursday at lunchtime, you would discover a sense of community like you have never experienced before.
The kitchen once buzzed with laughter and camaraderie as community-based nonprofits and church groups prepared a hot, nutritious meal in service to those who have gathered.
The pandemic changed things and meals became curbside takeout for quite some time. Things were set to reopen to indoor dining just when the hall had to be closed in August.
Volunteers scrambled and the Community United Methodist Church, located across the street from the Parish Hall, generously made its kitchen available for Loaves and Fishes; however, a commercial stove and commercial kitchen are needed to continue providing meals. They also need space for indoor dining like the hall once offered. The downtown location has been ideal since many people walk there to pick up food.
Last year, Loaves and Fishes served up 10,019 hot meals. Along with the hot meals every week, local stores provide frozen food items to distribute to those in need, with 8,184 servings of frozen items handed out last year. Bread and other bakery goods were also handed out throughout the year.
Just last Thursday, volunteers served 230 nutritious meals.
There aren’t any options to relocate the program that the group is aware of. They are in a precarious situation. The Parish Hall has also provided storage and much-needed space for meal preparation.
One Loaves and Fishes volunteer told The SUN that if the hall is sold, “We are pretty much out of business.”
Archuleta County Commissioner Veronica Medina posted on Facebook this week: “Friends and family we need to save our church, the parish hall and fathers house downtown. The Historical Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church is a huge part of Pagosa Springs history and culture. Even if you are not Catholic you know this to be true. Please start attending Mass at IHMC to show that we need and want our church. We can do this together! SUNDAY MASS IS AT 11:15 AM
“… help spread the word to save our beloved Immaculate Heart of Mary Church downtown please attend church. I am also attaching contact information for the Bishop [https://www.diopueblo.org/bishop]. We need to flood him with letters of support for our church property downtown that includes the parish hall, parking lot and father’s house….”
When we left work last Wednesday, the stained-glass windows in the downtown Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church simply took our breath away.
Change is never easy. There is no doubt that the potential loss of this unique property could be a huge detriment to our community as a whole.
Terri Lynn Oldham House