Saint Bernadette Catholic Parish in the heart of Lakewood Colorado, is an inclusive Christian Community committed to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We are strengthened by the Word of God and the Sacraments, guided by the Holy Spirit, and inspired by our Patronesses the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Bernadette Soubirous. We aspire to live our faith through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and follow our Lord’s command to call all to discipleship.
“Her request to the local priest to build a chapel at the site of her visions eventually gave rise to a number of chapels and churches at Lourdes. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is now one of the major Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. One of the churches built at the site, the Basilica of St. Pius X, can accommodate 25,000 people and was dedicated by the future Pope John XXIII when he was the Papal Nuncio to France. Close to 5 million pilgrims from all over the world visit Lourdes (population of about 15,000) every year.” –Catholic.org
St. Bernadette died in 1879 and was officially canonized a Saint by Pope Pius XI on 8 December 1933. A biography containing more information about our humble patron St. Bernadette can be found by clicking this link. Please also see the video below created by Loyola Productions:
John J. Doherty, a native of Killarney, County Kerry, was transferred from Cripple Creek to establish the first Catholic church in Lakewood. “We charge you in a special manner with the responsibility of seeking out all the lapsed Catholics,” Archbishop Vehr wrote in his July 3, 1947, letter assigning Doherty to Lakewood, and “to have a special solicitude for all the non-Catholics.”
While making plans for a church, Father Doherty began saying Masses on August 17, 1947, at West 11th Avenue and Balsam Street in a small Veterans of Foreign Wars hall guarded by a huge howitzer. The veterans were glad to rent the hall for $15 on Sunday mornings provided no one moved the pool tables. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as parishioners found the tables ideal for changing diapers and as cots for sleeping babies.
Architect John K. Monroe, a Lakewood resident, designed a brick rectory and stone church, which, in unfinished state, housed its first Mass on Christmas Eve, 1948. The twelve pews filled quickly at St. Bernadette’s, whose parish boundaries–Sheridan Boulevard on the east, West Colfax Avenue on the north, Maple Grove Street on the west, and West Alameda Avenue on the south–embraced over 200 Catholic families.
Image Credit: First Mass Denver Catholic Register – Dec 30th, 1948
School and Convent
The school always seemed crowded as St. Bernadette’s was a parish of young people with rapidly growing families. Sister Mary Anysia, SCL, the principal, expanded it to six grades in 1955. Four additional acres of land were acquired as a playground and a possible future high school site; four more classrooms were added in 1956. Five years later, when enrollment had soared to 756 pupils, architect J. K. Monroe designed a second-story, eight-classroom addition.
A small house at 1120 Vance Street, purchased as a convent for the sisters, also became overcrowded. The nuns moved, in February 1960, to a modern, two-story, buff brick convent at the corner of West 10th Avenue and Upham Street. The old bungalow convent became the parish caretaker’s home. After the Sisters of Charity left the parish in 1986, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Cenacle leased their old convent.
St. Bernadette church overflowed, despite a 1956 addition making room for 200 worshippers. Lakewood, which boomed during and after World War II, zoomed from a 1940 population of 1,701 to 19,338 in 1960. Our Lady of Fatima parish, created in 1958, served Lakewood Catholics living west of Garrison Street. Still, St. Bernadette’s pews filled on Sundays, inspiring parishioners in 1964 to pledge $210,000 toward a new church.
Archbishop Vehr dedicated the new church, designed by architect Henry De Nicola, on May 16, 1966. While adhering to traditional church shape, it is modern in its clean lines and functional use of space. The church filled on Sundays even though St. Jude parish was created in 1967 for Lakewood Catholics living south of Alameda and west of Wadsworth.
Father Doherty, who never lost his Irish brogue and sense of humor, retired at the age of seventy, after thirty-five years at the parish he had founded. He had come from Ireland to Denver, suffering from tuberculosis. He graduated from St. Thomas Seminary at age twenty-five in 1937, about the same time his medically predicted lifespan had expired. Hundreds of parishioners turned out for his 1982 retirement party, congratulating him on turning an oat field into a flourishing, debt-free parish.
St. Kateri Catholic Community
St. Bernadette’s in 1988 celebrated the opening of the Courtyard, 124 one- and two-bedroom apartments across the street from the church. Lakewood’s Mayor Linda Shaw presided at the dedication of this senior housing effort, declaring, “Keeping our seniors here in Lakewood enriches our community, and we are delighted to welcome this very desirable and attractive addition to our city.”