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Celebrating 100 Years of Education, Faith & Family

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Welby Community

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish

Denver, Colorado – Established 1912

On November 17, 1911 Father Joseph Bosetti held the first Mass for 40 families at Rotolo’s grocery store in Welby and plans were made to build a church.

On December 4, 1911, an acre of land was purchased for a new church and the cornerstone was laid in February 1912. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Welby was established, and the church dedicated by Bishop Matz on May 12, 1912. The Servite Fathers took charge of the parish on October 20, 1912. Father Stanislaus John Giambastiani was appointed pastor and lived in the church sacristy. A brick rectory was built in 1916 and a school in 1920. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary School was blessed by Bishop Tihen on August 29, 1920 and opened by four (4) Servite Sisters (Servants of Mary) for students in grade school and high school in September 1920. A convent was completed for the sisters in 1922.

In 1917, Father Giambastiani established Our Lady of Sorrows in Eastlake as a mission church of Assumption Parish. Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Eastlake was dedicated on November 13, 1917. The Servite Fathers later returned Our Lady of Sorrows Mission Eastlake to the diocese in 1927. Our Lady of Sorrows in Eastlake was closed in 1969.

In December 1941, the parish decided to remodel and enlarge the church. An addition was made to the front of the church and a bell tower was added on the westside. Father Giambastiani returned as pastor in 1945. The old church was razed, with the exception of the vestibule and bell tower, in 1947. Masses were held in the upstairs school auditorium. Construction on a new church was begun and a second matching bell tower added on the east side. The original Stations of the Cross, altar and statues were installed in the new church and the dedication by Bishop Vehr took place on April 27, 1948. Ground was broken for a gymnasium behind the school in April 1950 and the gymnasium was dedicated on September 18, 1950. With the opening of Mount Carmel High School in Denver, Assumption High School was closed in 1952. A renovation of the rectory and church, as well as a hallway to join the church and rectory, were completed in 1962.

In 1978, an extensive renovation of the school and church took place that included the stained glass windows, gymnasium, school ceilings and school windows. The Servite Sisters (Servants of Mary) departed the parish in 1978. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish celebrated their 75th anniversary with a renovation of the church interior in January 1987. The Servite Fathers departed in 2003 and returned the parish to the arch-diocese. Monsignor Jorge de Los Santos was appointed administrator pro-tem in August 2011.

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In a year like none other, opening a school to in-person learning is a challenge but Assumption Catholic School in Welby, Colorado made it happen for the 100th year in a row. 

"It is a crazy time to celebrate our anniversary amid the pandemic," admits first-year principal Marie Dunn but she believes "we were all called here at this exact time in order to continue the mission of this school." 

That mission, which strives to “develop the whole student - mind, body, and spirit - in a loving community rooted in catholic faith,” is possible with such deep roots. Assumption Catholic Parish has been a landmark in Welby for generations.

Early in its formation, Welby attracted many families of Italian descent to farm small plots of land. These mainly Catholic families worked together to open the church in 1912. The community dedicated the church to The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Servite Fathers took charge of the parish almost immediately and by 1920 Father John Giambastiani was ready to “provide a religious education for the children and young people of this large parish.”

In September of 1920 four Servite Sisters began the education of 250 students from first grade to high school. All 250 students were taught on the first level of the school with a gymnasium on the upper floor.

In the late 1940s, the popularity of the school necessitated a new bus. At the time, bus service to and from the school required two trips both morning and afternoon to bring students in from the surrounding farms and homes. In 1950 a state of the art gymnasium was added to the back of the school to open the top floor of the building for classrooms. However, in 1951 Mount Carmel High School was opened and, as the Servite Sisters were also called to teach there, resources were stretched too thin and Assumption made the decision to close its high school in 1952. 

The grade school continued on and lay teachers finally took over for the remaining Servite Sisters in 1978. Since that time hundreds of students passed in and out of those classrooms.

“When I walk the halls, I often think of all the students, teachers, and families who have walked them before me. The original brick, the cafeteria (that was once a bus garage) the art deco lettering on the front of the school, and the beautiful art in the church are all physical reminders that we have been here for a while” says Principal Dunn.

The view from outside the school looks much the same as it did in 1920 but many changes have taken place inside this school. Smart boards have replaced chalk boards and you need an electronic card to open doors. Automated hand dryers and touchless faucets have made bathroom trips more efficient. Computers replaced typewriters and then iPads and laptops replaced computers. Yet, everyone agrees that something familiar remains constant.

First grade teacher Jamie O’Donnell believes “the students at this school are given an excellent education but what is more important is that they begin to understand that they are children of God and as such they are called to take their faith and put it back into their community.”

New teachers, principals and pastors have come and gone but the essence remains at Assumption. “The legacy of the Servites, their deep devotion to Mother Mary, and a service to our community, continues to permeate the spirit of our school,” says Pastor Nick Larkin.

Many of the original families that built the parish are still involved at Assumption and so many families that recently discovered this community stay on and volunteer even after their kids have graduated.

“The school has been so beautifully maintained and cared for, which also reminds me that the people who belong to Assumption truly love it!” says Dunn.

The pandemic has changed the way the school had intended to celebrate this milestone anniversary but the students received a special blessing on the first day of school from Father Nick. The school will soon begin a brick campaign for school and parish families to commemorate the anniversary in a permanent display. The Knights of Columbus chapter is holding several drive-in movie events in the parking lot and they still plan on holding a gala when restrictions are relaxed.

Despite the challenges, Mrs. Dunn energetically looks ahead “As we look to another 100 years and more, we are exited for all of the families and children who walk these halls and grow as faithful servants in Christ.”

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