August 23, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the
The first seed of Sacred Heart of Mary Parish sprouted while the
Civil War was raging far to the East. Still struggling to improve his
English while on his missionary treks, Father Raverdy visited the home
of John DeBacker on the north side of South Boulder Creek on January 7,
1862. There, he celebrated the first Mass in Boulder County and baptized
DeBacker’s two children, Louisa Barbara and Leontina – the first known
Catholic baptisms in Boulder County.
Today, Boulder County Open Space has preserved the
DeBacker homestead and part of that old home to illustrate its
pioneering history. That site is the genesis of Sacred Heart of Mary
During the ten years following Father Raverdy’s visit, priests
from Denver held Catholic Masses and sacramental celebrations with
regularity in various ranch houses for the small and scattered Catholic
families of Boulder County. Among the diverse families were farmers,
merchants, prospectors and coal miners. These families formed the nexus
of the Catholic Parish that would form the first Catholic parish in Boulder
County – Sacred Heart of Mary Parish.
In December of 1867, Father Machbeuf, later the first bishop of
the Diocese of Denver, purchased 160 acres for $500.00 from homesteader
Daniel Delehant. It would be six more (bulletin #606) years before a
church building would grace the hill.
The small wood from church appearing in our historic diorama gives rise to
more reflections. The Debacker family and their son-in-law, John Dunn, joined with
other south Boulder Catholics in 1872 to begin building the first Catholic church in
Boulder County. Under the supervision of father Thomas McGrath of Golden, they
merged their labor with capital expenditures of $600.00 to erect the small white
church. Construction proceeded slowly and with difficulties, but the manpower of
miners and farmers completed the Gothic house of worship in 1873. The modest
house of God stood in full view of the western Rockies.
Bishop Machbeuf (he had been elevated to vicar apostolic for Colorado
Territory in 1868) named the church, Sacred Heart of Mary. He donated vestments,
sacred vessels and two images, one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and one of the
Sacred Heart of Mary.
At first, priests from Golden tended the church, but in 1874, Father Hugh
Quigley became the “resident” priest and boarded at the home of Simon McGann for
about six months.
In the early days of the first church – Mass was celebrated only twice a
month. In 1909 Sacred Heart of Mary Parish was assigned a full time priest, but the
priest resided at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Boulder.
Under the pastor, Reverend Antonine Hintenach, O.S.B. a building
committee was assembled. The members on the committee were Charles Helburg,
Louis Stengal Sr. and Philip Hogan.
The Committee recommended Lawrence and Nortz of Boulder to be the
contractors. With Rev. Hintenach’s approval the plans for a brick church proceeded.
The design called for a cream– colored brick church in a cruciform shape. The
trimmings were to be of Redstone.
Twenty-three earnest donors signed the first pledges on September 18,
1912. By April of 1913 the pledged number totaled $4,479.86. The Most Reverend
Nicholas Matz officiated at the dedication of the cornerstone on April 13, 1913.
“Dedication of the church building”