Our History

St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School and Parish in Edwards, CO was founded in 2000. The inspiration for our school comes from Cardinal James Francis Stafford who, while Archbishop of Denver, desired the opportunity for a Catholic education for all the children in the Vail Valley.

St. Clare of Assisi was chosen as the patron of our parish and school. Above all else St. Clare loved God. Attracted by the joyful presence of St. Francis, a member of the merchant class, his preaching and witness led her to forgo the inheritance of her noble family and choose instead to serve Jesus as a nun. She maintained a friendship with him throughout her life. Living during a time and in a place of economic diversity similar to the economic diversity of our own community, she saw Jesus in all people regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Our school and parish community continue to learn from St. Clare about the importance of putting God first in our life, seeing God in all circumstances and people, living in community, coming to a greater knowledge through our relationships with others, and striving for the perfection of charity through responding to God in concrete actions. This in turn shapes our mission, vision, root beliefs, and core values as we commit to building up the Kingdom of God here on earth and strive towards bringing to life the vision of Cardinal Stafford under the patronage of St. Clare of Assisi.

Eagle’s few scattered Catholic clans have hung on to their often priestless parish ever since 1911 according to parish historian Eileen Randall. In 1911, Mrs. E. E. Glenn organized about twenty-two Catholic families under the guidance of Joseph P. Carrigan, pastor of St. Stephen’s in Glenwood Springs.

Masses were said in the Glenn home until the old Eagle schoolhouse and lots were purchased in 1916 for $1,100. A donation from Denver and Colorado Springs mining man Verner Z. Reed helped the parish to pay for these transactions and fix up the old school with ten pews. The Catholic Church Extension Society of Chicago donated an altar and a tabernacle.

Father Carrigan offered the first Mass in the present church in 1917. The tiny mission donated the rear of its building in 1945 as a home for the Eagle Public Library. Having the library nearby was helpful to the Benedictine Sisters from Canon City who came up in the summers to teach CCD classes.

In 1989 Harold Koonce compiled a brief parish history recalling the days when the congregation met in the old schoolhouse with an old-fashioned stove banked overnight with coal, would raise a mid-winter temperature from 20 below zero to a barely tolerable 50 degrees by morning. A priest, who had travelled by train from Glenwood Springs, would say Mass normally once a month.

Joseph J. Leberer became Eagle County’s first resident pastor, based at Minturn began offering Sunday Masses at St. Mary’s. As summer tourists squeezed into the little mission, Father Leberer expanded the church by moving the altar back into an adjacent room in 1953. The old homemade pews were replaced with elaborately carved oak pews from the old St. John Church at East 5th Avenue and Josephine Street in Denver. Parishioners donated lumber and labor to remodel St. Mary’s and painted the outside a soft desert rose. In 1985, St. Mary’s became a full-fledged parish with 185 members and a resident pastor.

John E. Dold, the first resident pastor, worked with parishioners in 1986 to add a new nave and remodel the old building. Frank Deml, SVD, the second resident pastor, further remodeled the church. SJ. Archbishop Stafford dedicated the remodeled church on January 4, 1989.

Harold Koonce noted proudly at the 1989 dedication that the fine new nave holds 160 plus persons, two classrooms, two offices, a big basement room outfitted with a full kitchen. When we are able, we plan to add more pews, rebuild our old bell tower and carpet our basement–all a tribute to Our Lord, and our people.

St Mary’s Pre-School opened in September of 1992 fully licensed and occupies a previously unused modular unit attached to the church.  The pre-school became fully accredited in 1994 and is funded through tuition fund raising and some parish support. In addition to actual an pre-school, it also serves as space for religious education in the evenings.

In 1993, St. Clare Parish was created in Edwards and St. Mary’s once again became a mission parish. It has continued to grow in parishioners and in property. As of 2011, St. Mary’s now consists of almost the entire block including the church, pre-school, small white house and on the corner a two-story house that serves as the Religious Education Center and space for two offices. Total regular Saturday/Sunday Mass attendance can exceed 700 at three masses. The congregation spills into the foyer area and basement which has a closed-circuit TV for viewing the Mass celebration.

Ten miles northeast of the Mount of the Holy Cross lies Minturn, a lumber town founded on the Denver & Rio Grande line in 1889. Several Catholics settled in the community named either for roadmaster Thomas Minturn or railroad director Robert G. Minturn.

James P. Carrigan, who was appointed pastor of St. Stephen’s in Glenwood Springs in 1910, began making monthly visits to celebrate Mass in Thomas Minturn’s section house. With his encouragement, local Catholics formed St. Patrick on September 13, 1913.

Thanks to a $500 gift from the Catholic Extension Society and funds raised by parish suppers and plays, a chapel was constructed in the fall of 1925. Howard G. Bayers built the one-story, 24-by-36-foot structure for $1,270.

Monthly Masses were offered by the pastor of Glenwood Springs, and, in 1936, Benedictine sisters from Canon City launched a three-week summer vacation school at St. Patrick. The sisters stayed with the families of various parishioners, including those of J.P. Doyle, J.A. Mack, William McBreen, and Charles A. Robbie.

The St. Patrick chapel expanded in 1950 with an $875 donation from the Catholic Extension Society, adding a basement, a choir loft, a confessional, and a new ceiling. On July 10, 1952, St. Patrick officially became a parish.

In September 1968, ground was broken on an interfaith chapel in Vail, and its dedication took place in November 1969. Father Thomas Stone, the pastor of St. Patrick at the time, and the Reverend Don Simonton of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church officiated, as they were the only two resident clergy at the time.

As the parish continued to grow, a larger church was built to accommodate the growing congregation. On August 11, 1990, the St. Patrick parish center, now St. Patrick Church, was dedicated on Pine Street, with Father Edward Poehlmann serving as pastor. St. Patrick Church is where weekend masses in Minturn are held today.

Father Hugh Guentner served as pastor of St. Patrick in 2002, when the building that would become the parish’s community building was purchased. The Spirit Center is now used for religious education classes as well as church community gatherings.

St. Patrick Catholic Parish is home to 450 visiting parishioners and 250 local parishioners and continues to grow year after year.