Father Bayer tries to raise $2M more for Holy Name
January 3, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Father Ernest Bayer got a new church for Christmas. Now all he has to do is find about $2 million more to build it.
The Steamboat Springs City Council gave final approval Dec. 15 to the first and largest phase of an expansion for Holy Name Catholic Church, of which Bayer is the pastor. The 15,382-foot, $5 million church expansion was nearly the last item on a packed agenda that brought crowds to Centennial Hall last month for issues including the upcoming Steamboat 700 annexation vote, medical marijuana dispensaries and regional building fees. By the time the City Council got around to approving the church expansion with a 4-1 vote, with Jim Engelken opposing, most of the people had left.
But the moment was monumental for Bayer.
The 47-year-old pastor has led the parish of the downtown Steamboat church for more than four years. It's his first pastorate. Bayer said Wednesday that even before one stone has been laid, the expansion of Holy Name is proving to be a massive undertaking. But he trusts in a higher power.
"It's extremely challenging. It's a big leap of faith," he said. "I feel like God has called me to move in this direction. … I'm just trying to walk in faith."
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The need for an expanded Holy Name was evident, he said, during the church's total of seven masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. One of those masses, on Christmas Eve, was held at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and drew about 600 people, according to Bayer and longtime parishioner Barb Shipley. As many as 600 also attended several of the holiday masses at Holy Name, where people were seated on the floor in front of the sanctuary, in seating areas to each side of the main nave, in the balcony and even in the church basement, where they watched the service on a television screen.
"People really don't like to do that," Shipley said about TV viewing. "They want to be in the body of the church."
That's not always possible in Holy Name, which Bayer said has a capacity of about 200.
"We can really pack 'em in at 300," he said.
Parishioner Bob Dapper, director of mountain operations at Christy Sports and a Steamboat resident since 1971, said an expansion is due for Holy Name and its growing parish of about 600 families. Visitors to the area and second-home owners significantly add to Holy Name's community, Bayer said.
"On any given Sunday, we're out of seating, let alone Christmas and Easter and other special occasions," Dapper said.
Holy Name was built in 1964. Bayer has said the expansion would double the size of the church. The existing church building would become a gathering space, with offices, a library and more, planned for a future second phase. The first phase will occur west of the existing church. After entering the church and turning left, parishioners will enter the new nave, with seating for 578 people.
Before that can happen, Bayer said, about $2 million more is needed to reach the $5 million cost of the first phase.
"The archdiocese doesn't give us money," Bayer said. "We have to raise it from the community."
Bayer said the church has about $1.3 million in the bank and $1.5 million in pledged funds for the expansion. Raising that amount took about a year, he said.
"We need to have half the money in hand, and we need to have the other half pledged … before the Archdiocese of Denver will give us permission to break ground," Bayer said. "They don't want us to lose our shirt on this."
Bayer acknowledged that donations are hard to come by, and to ask for, during a recession. But he and Shipley also noted that the sooner the church is able to build, the more potential savings it could receive from reduced construction costs in a lagging building industry.
Bayer said his best-case scenario would be to lay the foundation in fall 2010 and build in 2011 and 2012. Constructing the expansion will take two summer seasons, he said. That points, ideally, to a potential first service on Christmas Eve of 2012.
"That would be a very appropriate time to consecrate the church," Bayer said.
Dapper acknowledged that some members of the parish question the expansion's size and cost but said he is not swayed by those concerns.
"I'm very supportive of it. I feel that a lot of thought went into it. I feel that it's a well-managed project," he said. "In the beginning, it's a chunk of dough — but things don't come free."
Dapper added that in his opinion, Bayer has been patient and attentive with parishioners, and careful "to make sure everybody understands we're not building the Taj Mahal."
Shipley said the final product would erase all doubts.
"This is going to be a remarkable building for this small of a community — not so much in size, but in architecture," Shipley said. "You will know that it's a church, and it will be a great sacred space."
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