ALL SAINTS CATHOLIC CHURCH
A BIT ABOUT US
Major Arthur "Tex" Harvey bought a 320-acre farm and built his home at 2277 South Tennyson Street in 1948. As Southwest Denver began to boom, Harvey subdivided his spread between Federal and Sheridan boulevards on the south side of West Jewell Avenue. By 1950, 221 Catholics lived in the Harvey Park and Brentwood areas, leading Archbishop Vehr to buy five acres on South Federal Boulevard on January 5 for a new parish. John Harley Schmitt, the pioneer pastor, first held Masses and catechism classes at nearby Loretto Heights College.
On August 13, 1951, Archbishop Vehr and many other clergymen attended the dedication ceremony of the first, $44,240 building. A barn donated by Safeway, the grocery chain, was remodeled and stuccoed by volunteers as a serviceable meeting hall, and a small house was found for Father Schmitt on Federal Boulevard.
On January 8, 1953, All Saints Church burned to the ground. Unfortunately, a developmentally challenged man was playing with the votive lights amid sere Christmas greens. All that was salvaged was the Blessed Sacrament and the Infant of Prague statue. The Denver Catholic Register of January 15, 1953, called it "the worst fire in Denver Catholic history." The struggling, shocked congregation received condolences from many, including Pope Pius XII, who sent a blessed piece of mortar and his apostolic blessing. Many sympathetic souls contributed more than $11,000 to begin rebuilding. Meanwhile, a parish that had grown to 550 families resumed meeting at Loretto Heights.
The congregation conducted a Bonanza Night until it was found in violation of the state's antigambling law and hastily reorganized its fund-raiser as an annual bazaar. Denver architect Henry J. de Nicola of the John K. Monroe firm helped design the new $145,000 church; parishioners donated much of the labor, even constructing the communion rail and altar, before dedication on August 15, 1954. A parish elementary school was opened in 1959 in a new catechetical building. A few grades were added each year until 1960, when All Saints became an eight-grade school conducted by the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. Although the school closed in 1978, the facilites are still used for religious education classes. All Saints parish had grown to over 1,600 households by 1957, when parishioners west of Stuart Street joined in the formation of the new Notre Dame Parish. By 1967, the congregation was finally free of debt and decided to build a new church, which incorporated the old church's altar, stations of the cross, and other furnishings. This 1,100-seat, modern structure designed by Henry de Nicola had a rusticated stone exterior and a free-standing bell tower, and was crowned by stainless steel crosses. On the east side fronting Federal Boulevard, de Nicola designed a thirty-foot-high mosaic glass and plaster mural of Christ the Saviour. The cornerstone reads: "TO THE HONOR AND GLORY OF GOD ALL SAINTS CHURCH ERECTED IN THE YEAR OF FAITH A.D. 1967-1968."
On Thanksgiving Day, 1968, the third church built during Father Schmitt's time at All Saints was dedicated by Archbishop Casey. After nineteen years at All Saints, Father Schmitt was transferred to Our Lady of Fatima parish in 1970. He left behind a thriving parish plant that occupies the full block between Federal Boulevard and Grove Street, with a church, school, convent, parish hall and rectory wrapped around a central playground and parking area. Following the pastorates of Fathers Daniel Kelleher, Paul Wicker, and Dorino DeLazzer, James R. Purfield took charge in 1985, assisted by Thomas P. Stone and Deacon Arthur A. Vigil. As a third of the congregation are over age sixty, caring for the elderly and the shut-ins has become a major part of the parish ministry. The ethnic composition has also changed: More than a third are now Spanish-surnamed; many Hmong refugees also attend All Saints, which since 1984 has housed the Hmong Catholic Community. The convent has been turned into the Bridge Community, a home for developmentally disabled women. All Saints parish has relied on the help of all the saints, according to its pastor, in its heroic efforts to build despite a relatively poor congregation and a disastrous fire. These struggles of the past are hidden from motorists whizzing by on Federal Boulevard; they see a large, modern parish plant and a dramatic church with its inspirational mosaic of Christ.