Letter: Re: St. Mary’s Church Expansion Fund

It has recently been reported that St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen has raised “over $1 million a month for expansion,” and that “the expansion is intended to bring more spiritual dialogue to the town.” (“St. Mary Church raises over $1 million a month for expansion.” Aspen Daily News, May 20).

$4.2 million is pledged to build a one-story pavilion and $3.8 million is being sought to “finance renovation of the existing building.”

According to the article, “The largest gift has been for $ 1.5 million, with several others pledged above $ 500 000.” “Donors so far have asked to remain anonymous.” “Not a single one of them has asked … what the building will look like.”

In view of the above, it would seem that several important matters ought to be considered:

1)The current proliferation of Aspen-core commercial developments viz-a-viz the recently passed Referendum 1 (in which the majority of voters appear somewhat distressed concerning this construction);

2)The association between developers of these properties and the architectural firm of Charles Cunniffe;

3)The association of St. Mary Church with the same architectural firm;

4)The statements by St. Mary relatively, newly-arrived, urban/suburban oriented, anonymous, well-to-do donor parishioners of whom “not a single one asked … what the building will look like”;

5)The current Southern-California style architectural renderings within Aspen’s core, which are presumably in keeping with Aspen’s present, and continuing, ‘bi-coastal’ influence;

6)Wikipedia’s reference to Aspen as “being the most expensive place to buy real estate in the U.S. As of March 2011, the lowest priced single-family home was a trailer for $559,000, and the median listing price for homes or condos is $4.5 million” (according to Trulia).

7)The per capita income for the city was $40,680:

8)The relatively short period of time in which St. Mary leadership and staff have lived in Aspen;

9)The failure of that leadership to consider, for example, Ian McHarg’s ‘Design With Nature’;

10)The presence within the St. Mary parish bulletin of twelve items of real estate advertising of parishioner brokers/contractors/attorneys.

To be polite and respectful, an Alabama-based Avila Institute, which issued a statement, claims to be qualified to help “transform one of the most secular and wealthy communities in the U.S. into a haven for the finest in Catholic spiritual training and formation.”

According to Aspen’s pastor, “A lot of people in Aspen are looking for a stronger community,” and that Aspen has a “spirituality that understands beauty.”

In consideration of the ten items presented above, could the foregoing statement be true given the following:

1)The per capita income of its labor force is $40,680 while the median listing of local housing is $4.5 million;

2)The continuing systematic degradation of Aspen’s beauty due to the “proliferation of Aspen-core commercial development,” and to which the St. Mary Church proposes to become a contributor;

3)The continuing systematic death and/or relocation of Aspen’s beautiful wildlife due to migration and foraging interference for the express purpose of upper-class residential development;

4)The obvious anonymous/parishioner/donor ignorance contained within their local lifestyle in favoring this expansion.

With all due respect toward those who have engaged themselves in this project, it might be wise to give a bit more thought to your zeal for “improvement” since it is rather disconcerting to many among its older, wiser residents that you are not listening to the voice of experience. Your focus has alien influence based largely upon material concerns in direct contrast to a spirituality of which you attempt to speak.

Art Allard