Cure d’Ars Catholic Church takes its name from St. Jean-Baptiste Vianney, a selfless priest who served the small village of Ars, France for more than 40 years. Our small, predominantly African-American, multi-ethnic parish embodies the dedication and courage of Vianney, the Cure d’Ars, as the church has overcome considerable challenges to serve the Park Hill community for over fifty years.
The Cure d’Ars Catholic Community was established in 1952 to relieve overcrowding at Blessed Sacrament Parish. Fr. William J. Mulcahy, assistant pastor at Blessed Sacrament, became the pastor. Tower Theater at 22nd Ave. and Kearney St. was the location of the two Masses on Sunday. Fr. Mulcahy died the following May and Fr. John Haley was named the new pastor.
Around 1953, Cure d’Ars counted 800 families in its parish. Ground was broken on the northeast corner of what is now Martin Luther King Blvd. and Dahlia St. for a church-school complex. When dedicated, there were 1,500 church families. Two hundred students attended the new parish grade school, which had only grades 1 – 3, in the fall of 1954. The school facilities expanded in 1956 and a convent was built in 1961 for the Most Precious Blood Sisters, who taught at the school.
With a large church and school, Cure d’Ars parish carried a substantial debt going into the 1960s. Many parishioners were employed by Continental Airlines at Stapleton Airport. In 1963, Continental Airlines moved its headquarters from Denver to Los Angeles. Many employees moved and others lost their jobs. Originally, the church boundaries had exclusively held white families and many were Roman Catholics. African-American families moved into the area, and white families began to move out. In 1962, Fr. Frank Morfeld arrived and tried different approaches to stimulate interest and participation in parish affairs. He kept the school open and paid the interest on the debt.
In the 1970s, school enrollment dropped and the parish membership was down to 200 families, an 85% decrease. The diverse ethnic church community was saddled with debt. Fr. John Canjar, the pastor, worked to keep the church and school open. When describing the financial situation, he declared “the parish is not physical buildings but where the parishioners congregate for services and meetings.” He formed a committee to look at neighborhood sites for our spiritual home.
In 1973, the school closed and most students went to Blessed Sacrament School as Sr. Margaret Kasper, BVM, the principal of Cure d’Ars School, became the principal of Blessed Sacrament School. In 1974, the physical plant was sold to Union Missionary Baptist Church. Cure d’Ars membership dropped to 180 families.
The community remained together sharing facilities with Park Hill Congregational Church and Temple Micah, a Jewish congregation, at 26th Ave. and Leyden St. Fr. Bob Kinkel came in January 1975 to help the parish build its own church and the Parish Council was formed. Archbishop James V. Casey visited with the Parish Council and said to proceed if a church could be built for under $250,000. In 1978, the parish used $180,000 from the sale of its original building to build the church. Architect Paul Maybury designed beautiful stained glass windows to bathe the church in a warm glow. Seating was arranged to gather the parish community around the table of the Lord. The family of pelicans carved into the face of the table symbolizes Christ’s love. Just as the young pelican is fed by the flesh of its parent, so are we nourished by the body and blood of Christ. Archbishop Casey blessed the new church on December 2, 1978.
Fr. Marty Lally came to Cure d’Ars in 1981, and his gift of preaching brought new faces to Cure d’Ars. He left in 1986. The community continued to thrive after the Capuchin-Franciscans of the Mid-America Province accepted leadership. Fr. Lloyd Schmeidler, OFM Cap., became Pastor in 1986 and Fr. John Cousins, OFM Cap., in 1992. Cure d’Ars continued its strong sense of ownership.
The spirit of the African-American community became more prevalent as the Liturgy Committee incorporated the African-American heritage into the liturgies. Religious education programs began to grow as parishioners focused on youth.
In addition, Cure d’Ars has brought forth three men who have become deacons: Rev. Mr. Charles H. Bright, Rev. Mr. Clarence McDavid, and Rev. Mr. Guffie Menogan. Deacon Charles served and Deacon Clarence serves Cure d’Ars Parish. Deacon Guffie served Loyola Parish.
Fr. John Cousins, OFM Cap., left in 2002. Deacon Clarence McDavid became Parish Administrator until 2003. During that time there were four Canonical Pastors: Fr. Thomas Jost, SJ; Fr. Paul Milcetich; and Father James Simko. In 2003, Fr. Simon Kalonga became and is the current Parish Administrator and Canonical Pastor of Cure d’Ars.
Through the years, the Parish Center was located at 3050 Dahlia St. In 2005, the new Parish Center, located at 4701 Martin Luther King Blvd., opened and Archbishop Charles Chaput came to formally dedicate it. This new Parish Center contains the church offices, a large community room, and a parish library. The former parish center is now the home of Fr. Simon and future pastors.
2. Colorado Catholicism, Thomas, Noel, 1989