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January 10, 2021

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.”

Read More
Assumption Catholic School 100th Anniversary Updates: News
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