MANITOU SPRINGS. It’s known as “The Little Church that Could” and “The Church at the Incline.” Either way, members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Manitou Springs are facing an uphill battle but remain undaunted.
Last fall, Holy Cross Father Ron Raab, pastor of the Sacred Heart Tri-Community that includes Our Lady of Perpetual Help, delivered a sobering message to parishioners: Mass attendance and weekly collections were both on a downward trajectory, putting the parish’s future at risk. There were also urgent repairs that needed to be done — such as remodeling the bathroom to make it handicap accessible — but there wasn’t any money for them in the parish budget. A group of about 20 parishioners immediately sprung into action, forming a sustainability committee and putting their individual talents to use in an effort to get the church on solid footing financially.
One of the first problems the group identified was a lack of parking along Ruxton Avenue — especially for tourists and out-of-town visitors who didn’t have a parking sticker from the City of Manitou Springs. So members of the committee approached the city and asked that parking patrols not be conducted while Sunday morning Mass is being celebrated. They are also passing out slips of paper that visitors can put on their windshields to avoid being ticketed.
And the city recently announced that the free shuttle bus that runs along Ruxton Avenue will stop in front of OLPH.
So far, the group’s efforts seem to be paying off. Sunday Mass attendance is up to about 80 people versus the 60 or so it averaged before Christmas.
“We are stepping up and owning the problem,” said parishioner Mary Clare Veteto, a committee member who is in charge of marketing.
Veteto has come up with several ways to publicize OLPH, including creating a Facebook page and designing a bookmark with Mass times and the shuttle schedule that will be distributed locally.
Due to its historical significance, OLPH may also qualify for state funding to help the parish determine exactly what building repairs need to be made. The last renovation took place 30 years ago, said parishioner Chuck Smith, a retired architect.
Although the parish is not out of the woods yet, committee member Jerry Murphy said he is confident that parishioners will rise to the occasion.
“Experience has shown that, if you explain what’s needed, the congregation of Our Lady of Perpetual Help will come through.”