Letter: Don’t throw away church history
The front-page article in the May 20 Aspen Daily News (“St. Mary Church raises over $1 million a month for expansion”) characterizes the St. Mary parish family as being in total agreement on the proposed pavilion expansion and church renovation. There are many who have significant concerns and who are heartbroken over this proposal and its process. In fact, very few parishioners received the information submitted to the city under the election deadline to avoid Referendum 1. While I think this discussion belongs with the parish, the Rev. John Hilton has chosen to promote a propaganda campaign in the local press, tying our local church to advancement of the “Aspen Idea.” He chose to submit plans to the city of Aspen before the parishioners were given even one exterior elevation of the proposed pavilion (finally unveiled at Masses on May 16 and 17, a full 10 days after the plans were submitted) or had even one opportunity to discuss any concerns about the architectural style and height of the proposed pavilion or its impact on the historic church building.
Let’s be very clear: This entire process has created significant concern to many long-term and lifetime parish members. As a member of a family who have been stalwart supporters of St. Mary and parishioners over several generations, we are saddened over the proposal and the process to date.
It is a sad commentary when our local Catholic church becomes a development opportunity for a conference center to serve those from out of town, purely because of its prime location and name recognition. Professional-fundraising hyperbole to the contrary, there are significant concerns about the impact of such a contemporary and grandiose addition on the historic church and rectory grounds and on a property of such significance to the local community. The impacts on the historic Pitkin County Courthouse view plane are additional cause for concern.
Those who lovingly constructed this historic church did so in a time when they gave what little they had out of meager resources from working long hours, many underground in the mines or on local ranches. This legacy has been cared for by Aspen’s Catholics through the generations. It is distressing to me to think that some would so willingly throw away almost 125 years of our parish church heritage in favor of such an inappropriate design.