Pastor: Catholic church to celebrate 140th

Aspen’s St. Mary Catholic Church is preparing a landmark celebration of its 140th anniversary. A weekend of activities will include Teen Night on Friday, Aug. 26, and Family BBQ Picnic on Saturday, Aug. 27. Both days will feature a talk by internationally acclaimed Catholic speaker Chris Stefanick, as well as food, including our famous St. Patrick’s Day coleslaw and lawn games, such as Dunk the Priest.

The celebration is open to all teens and families in the community and is free of charge. Registration can be found at or in our church lobby.

St. Mary Parish was founded during Aspen’s earliest years, when this community was but a small mining camp carving a future out of a remote and unforgiving wilderness. The parish community were men and women possessed of indomitable spirits: the missionary priests who wandered the west, the tough miners and their families, and the adventurers who came to make their fortune.

Many settlers amassed and then lost great wealth overnight. Other lives ended in an early death in the mines or at the hands of the harsh climate.

Our history stretches back to July 3, 1881, when the very first Mass offered in this valley was celebrated by Father Harney in the Aspen Times building, and was attended by a small gathering of Aspen’s earliest miners and settlers.

Our first pastors, Father Harney and Father McCarthy, were assigned to the Gunnison Parish, which included Aspen and serviced the mission of Aspen during 1881 and 1882. They formed a building committee to raise funds for the construction of our first church on Main Street, known as St. Stephen’s Church. The church we know today as St. Mary was later built in 1892.

Our future awaits to be written, but of this we are certain: At the end of the 21st century and well beyond, the people of St. Mary Catholic Church will be engaged in the same marvelous work that busied the earliest parishioners in 1881 — proclaiming Jesus Christ to our great-great-grandchildren living in this most special place.

Father Darrick Leier

pastor, St. Mary Catholic Church