In January 1861, Father Joseph P. Machebeuf, who later became
the first Bishop of Denver, visited Boulder and held a
service. On January 6 of the following year, Michael McNamara,
a resident of Coal Creek, accompanied Father John B. Raverdy
to the home of John De Backer (incorrectly called DeBaker),
a Belgian who lived on South Boulder Creek near the mouth
of the canyon. On the following morning, Father Raverdy celebrated
the sacrifice of the Mass and then administered the sacrament
of baptism to Mrs. DeBacker and to their two daughters, Louisa
Barbara and Leontina. The baptismal record of St. Mary's Church,
Denver, mentioned only the baptism of Mrs. DeBacker and Louisa
Barbara, but the records of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in
Boulder also named Leontina as being baptized on January 7.
Between 1862 and 1874, book A-I of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish
record listed twelve dates when priests were present in the
Boulder area. In February 1874, Father Hugh A. Quigley became
the first resident priest in South Boulder. He had boarded
in Boulder for six months at the home of Simon McCann.
Sacred Heart Church 1876-1907
The 160 acres of land purchased by Bishop Machebeuf
in 1867 for $600.00 became the site for Sacred Heart of Mary Church,
a 20' x 30' frame structure, located on South Boulder Road. This primitive
structure, after serving the needs of the area for 61 years, still
stands today. It is used as a barn on the property, adjoining the
new Sacred Heart of Mary Church.
Father Vincent Reitmayr became the first resident
pastor in Boulder in March 1875. This was one year before Colorado
became a state and less than 20 years after Boulder became a city.
On July 19, 1875, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish was officially founded.
A week after founding the parish, for the same $600.00 he had paid
for the South Boulder property, Bishop Machebeuf purchased the northwest
comer of what is today 14th and Mapleton. This property was located
on the present Sacred Heart of Jesus School playground and parking
The Boulder News for October 8, 1875 reported
that with Father Reitmayr's arrival in Boulder, services were held
City Drug Store on 14th Street on the first and third Sundays of each
month and at Erie on the second Sunday. Mass was said at South Boulder
on the fourth Sunday.
Erected in 1877, the first church was an impressive
60' x 20' brick structure, built for $1600.00. Church members who
could not give money, donated labor. Although the building was not
complete, services were held there Christmas Day of 1877. By the time
the church was dedicated in 1878, there were 133 Catholic families
living in Boulder County.
In 1887, when Bishop Machebeuf asked the Benedictine
Archabbey of St. Vincent in Pennsylvania for monks to serve in Colorado,
the Benedictines established St.Bernard's monastery in South Boulder.
Father Rhabanus Gutmann, O.S.B., became the first Benedictine pastor
in Boulder. Father Gutmann had written a number of letters to Archabbot
Boniface Gutmann about establishing the Benedictines in Boulder.
These letters are abstracted here:
In the early part of February, 1887, Father
Rhabanus visited Breckenridge with Bishop Machebeuf. A short time
before he had met Father Godfrey Raeber, then caring for the missions
in Boulder County. Father Raeber mentioned the desirability of establishing
a Benedictine monastery at Boulder (technically, South Boulder). Bringing
up the matter with Bishop Machebeuf, he was asked by the Bishop to
make a trip to Boulder. They then went to South Boulder where Bishop
Machebeuf had bought 160 acres, all irrigable with the exception of
fifteen acres, on which are situated the rectory (a frame building
of 4 rooms and a kitchen), the farmer's house with barns, stables,
etc., and to the west of these, the church and cemetery. There is
a fenced-in section planted in Wheat and oats. One can plant anything
but potatoes. According to conservative estimates, an acre bears
from twenty-five to thirty bushels of wheat and from thirty to
forty bushels of oats. The oats sell at thirty-five cents a bushel
and the wheat at $1.25. There is an adjoining eighty acre plot
of land, of the same general quality, and in the same favorable
surroundings, which can be acquired for around $2000.00.
St. Bernard's Monastery is no longer in existence,
though some of its buildings, until recently, were used by St. Walburg's
Convent in South Boulder.
A book entitled "The History of the Catholic
Church in Colorado" by
Rev. William O'Ryan and Rev. Thomas Malone (Denver 1889) referred
to St. Bernard's Monastery at Boulder City, Boulder County, Colorado,
and named Rev. Placidus Pilz,O.S.B., as superior and named Revs.
Henry Hohmann, O.S.B.,and Rudesind Schrembs, O.S.B., as his assistants
who also served Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Boulder City. Included
in the Boulder City parish were Caribou, Erie, Louisville, Marshall
and Sacred Heart of Mary in South Boulder, all of these being located
in Boulder County.
Around 1896, with the establishment of a priory
in Pueblo, two priests were assigned to Boulder, one for the town
of Boulder City and one for the missions.
In 1902, Father Agatho Strittmatter, O.S.B.,
became pastor of Sacred Heart, where he served for the
next 36 years. After Father Strittmatter, Sacred Heart had the following
succession of pastors:
Father John Forsyth, O.S.B., 1938-43
Father Paul Fife, O.S.B., 1943-57
Father Edward Vollmer, O.S.B., 1957-66
Father Bonaventure Bandi, O.S.B., 1966-68
Father Warren Heidgen, O.S.B., 1968-79
Father Louis Kirby, O.S.B., 1979-85
Father Thomas Woerth, 1985-90
Msgr. Edward Madden, 1990-2001
Rev. William E. Breslin, 2001-present
By 1903, church members met in the school to
discuss building a new church because they had outgrown their first
church. Under the direction of Father Agatho Strittmatter, O.S.B.,
the building program became a reality. Building committee members
included J. Kirlig, F. Miles, J. McCabe, F. Burger, M. Schons, C.
J. O'Conor, H. A. Lennartz, T. J. Miles, and John Loring. After
the demolition of the first church, church services were held at the
Boulder County Court House.
Sacred Heart Church 1907-1963
On August 22, 1907, the Right Reverend Nicholas
Chrysostom Matz laid the corner stone for the new church. Over the
years, people gave generously to the new church. On July 29, 1925,
the church installed a $10,000.00 organ, donated by Father Agatho
and his four sisters-Mrs. Margaret Yost of Carrolltown, Pennsylvania;
Mrs. William Butler of Creson, Pennsylvania; Mrs. Valentine Bishop
of Loretto, Pennsylvania; and Sister M. Josephine Strittmatter, O.S.B.,
a Benedictine nun from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The family made the
gift in memory of their parents. Dr. Frank Wilbur Chase, director
of music at the University of Colorado, who had drawn up the plans
for the organ, gave the inaugural recital on July 29.
Walter P. Chrysler, president of Chrysler Motor
Corporation and a friend of Father Agatho, though not Catholic himself,
donated chimes to the church. The chimes weighed 12,000 pounds and
Present Sacred Heart of Jesus Church
On June 15, 1962, bids were opened for construction
of the present church. The designers were Langhart, McGuire and Hastings,
Architects and Engineers of Denver. The church was designed so all
participants could gather around the altar of sacrifice.
Present at the church dedication on November
21, 1963 were three famous brothers-the Reverend Paul Reinert, S.
J., then President of St. Louis University; the Reverend Carl Reinert,
S. J., then President of Creighton University; and the
Reverend James Reinert, S.J., then principal of Kaupan Memorial High
School in Wichita. These brothers were all sons of
Francis J. and Emma Reinert of Boulder. The current rectory is the
former home of Francis and Emma Reinert.
In 1985, the Benedictine Fathers, faced with
a declining number of priests, gave the ministry of Sacred Heart of
parish to the Archdiocese of Denver.
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Father Fife and Polly were colorful characters
February 10, 2005
Boulder Daily Camera
From 1943 to 1956, Father Paul Fife was the colorful and occasionally impatient pastor of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Boulder. He was often seen walking between the church,
school and the rectory (where he lived) wearing a smoking jacket, puffing on his pipe and being
followed by Polly, his pet parrot.
A native of Pennsylvania, Fife joined a band of Benedictine monks who moved to Colorado to establish
the Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City. Fife was the first of the Benedictines from the Abbey to be ordained
as a priest. He served various Colorado parishes for 21 years prior to 1943 when, at the age of 48,
he accepted a position in Boulder.
At the time, the Sacred Heart Church was in its former church building on the northwest corner of
14th Street and Mapleton Avenue. (The building was razed prior to 1963 and replaced with the current
Sacred Heart Church on the southwest corner of the intersection. A parking lot now covers the
site of the former church building.)
A Camera story from 1953 stated that Boulder residents looked forward to meeting Fife and Polly
on the street. The then-37-year-old South American-born bird didn't like to be carried and would
waddle after Fife or his housekeeper, Esther Christy. Often, Polly would follow Christy when she
did her grocery shopping in downtown Boulder.
Polly had a vocabulary that included 50 words; she also could mimic a raucous laugh, blood-curdling
groans and wolf whistles. She had a voracious appetite and consumed quantities of spaghetti, cereal, >toast, potatoes, chicken and steak bones. Her favorite food was tutti-frutti ice cream, which she
ate with a spoon clutched with her left talons.
Fife's pet must have been nearby when the Sacred Heart Church honored him with a large reception
on the anniversary of his 25th year in the priesthood. After a solemn high Mass, the honored
guest shook hands with 300 well-wishers.
Children from the Sacred Heart School presented him with four roses: in bud, half-open, open
and in full bloom; then recited Bible verses applicable to different periods of Fife's life.
Church members generously contributed to a fund he used the following summer for a European
trip that included an audience with Pope Pius XII at the Vatican.
Former Boulder resident Ron Quintelier, who was a Sacred Heart student and an altar boy at the
church, remembers Fife as a man with little patience.
"When hearing a confession," Quintelier said, "Father Paul would frequently cut you short if you
pondered your words too long while confessing your sins."
In 1956, illness forced Fife's retirement from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. He was replaced by
Rev. Edward Vollmer. Fife moved to Pueblo where, five years later, he died of a heart attack at the age of 65.
He's buried at the Holy Cross Abbey, where he had begun his long Colorado career with the Catholic church.
No records have been found to explain what happened to Polly.
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Salvation History - the intervention of God
in history to save - is masterfully presented in bronze on the doors
of the new Sacred Heart of Jesus church.
The Christian approaching the house of God sees
at once the vast span of God's plan for the redemption of mankind.
Adam's fall from the friendship of God results in a faulted nature
for all his progeny. Moses standing with the tablets of the law
indicates man's obligations to God and neighbor. Christ's baptism
by John, besides attesting the end of the old testament and the beginning
of the new, signifies how man becomes a child of God. And finally,
through his death and resurrection, the new Adam repairs the affront
to God's majesty and reconciles forever mankind with the Father.
Christ came into the world not to abolish the
Law of Moses, but to give it a new direction, a new fullness. When
the Christian seeking perfection tells Christ that he has kept the
commandments from his youth, he will hear Christ say, "Then go,
sell what you have, and come follow me. Follow me into the world and
help me with my work."
John's baptism of Christ at the start of the
Savior's mission reminds the Christian that his own baptism has launched
him on his Christian mission as well. And it further reminds him that
we who have been baptised are all "one in Christ." Parish solidarity
is founded on this fundamental of Christianity.
Christian Dignity has its genesis in this simple
truth: what happened to Christ happens to the Christian through the
Sacraments. The Christian has been baptized - he has made his introit
into the death and resurrection of Christ primarily through the waters
of baptism. He has really - though in mystery - been buried with Christ
and with him has risen to newness of life. He has been equipped in
confirmation with all the powers needed for full activity as a member
of Christ. He has been conformed to Christ the Priest by the sacramental
characters, enabled to carry out his functions in the Christian mysteries
and to be united sacramentally with Christ and with each other.
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