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Minturn’s last church still growing

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyColorado Springs residents Bob Frick and his wife Jeanne pray Sunday during Mass at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Parish in Minturn.
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MINTURN ” Thirteen turkeys were cooking throughout the Vail Valley four days before Thanksgiving Day.

The birds were free for members of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Minturn and anyone else who was hungry Sunday night.

Church member Robert Caspersen had been cooking turkey, green beans, potatoes and stuffing all day in the church’s kitchen for hundred or so people expected to attend St. Patrick’s annual Thanksgiving dinner, .

“I started at seven this morning,” said Caspersen as he raced around the kitchen Sunday afternoon.

That kind of dedication from church members has made St. Patrick’s, Minturn’s only church, a mainstay in the town, church members say.

Rosabell Cordova has practiced Catholicism her whole life and has lived in Minturn almost as long, she said.

“Years ago, when we were growing up, we never even thought of going to another church,” Cordova said.

Others like the church because they like its pastor, Father Hugh Guentner.

“Having a good priest makes all the difference in the world,” said Carole Colletti, of Minturn.

Irish immigrants started St. Patrick’s in 1913 and built the church along Main Street in 1925. That cream-colored building still stands today on Main Street, but St. Patrick’s holds mass ” and cooks turkey ” in its newer church on Pine Street.

The parish has 650 households from throughout the Vail Valley and about 100 of those are in Minturn, Guentner said. This year, the church is celebrating 55 years as a parish, which includes the Vail Interfaith Chapel and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Red Cliff.

“We’re pretty well-rooted here because of our history and the way that the priests who were here in the past took care of the churches,” he said.

St. Patrick’s has been around for almost a century because it consistently meets the needs of the people in the valley, Sister Gretchen Krueger said.

The church teaches Catholicism to families and children from five years of age up until high school in its education center, located in one of three buildings it owns in Minturn, she said. Other programs and social events, like a women’s group that meets for prayer and for book discussions, also bring people together, she said.

Despite being the only church in Minturn, St. Patrick’s is growing.

St. Patrick’s old church on Main Street had room for 80 people. The newer one ” built in 1990 ” has room for 200, said Deacon Michael Gallagher, a 34-year resident of Minturn.

“We will continue to grow,” Gallagher said.

St. Patrick’s hasn’t always been Minturn’s only church.

Formerly based in Minturn, The New Life Assembly of God and the Eagle River Presbyterian Church moved to Avon and Eagle-Vail respectively to build bigger churches because they grew and ran out of space in Minturn, Gallagher said.

Gallagher laments the loss of those churches in town, he said. Churches teach religious values that public schools cannot teach, he said. They provide a place for people to gather for social events and to console one another, Gallagher said.

“All of the things a church does is now left to one” church, Gallagher said.

The church’s role could change further if the Ginn Development Co. builds 1,700 homes and condominiums and a private golf course and ski resort south of Minturn, Guentner said, though he did not know whether the development ” if town councilors approve it ” would harm or benefit St. Patrick’s in Minturn.

“Right now, things look good, but who can tell what the future holds for any institution or individual,” he said.

The church is half- to three-quarters full each Sunday at 8 a.m. with church members and tourists coming consistently in the summer and the winter, Guentner said.

“Eight o’clock is probably not a desirable hour for a lot of people, but you would be surprised,” said Guentner, adding that the church also holds mass at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday.

Todd Oppenheimer, of Edwards, said he likes that he sees the same families regularly when he goes to Mass.

He won’t skip church on a powder day, he said.

“Church first, then the mountain,” Oppenheimer said. “Just wear your ski clothes to church.”

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.


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