Rt. Rev. Joseph Machebeuf said the first Mass in California Gulch at the blacksmith shop of Thomas Starr in 1860. The first church in present day Leadville was Sacred Heart Church which was vacated in 1880 but continued to serve the French Communities until 1886. The little French Church was moved to the properties of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth where it slowly deteriorated beyond recognition.
Drawn to mines in search of a good life, first the Irish and then the Slovenes, in dramatic numbers, came to Leadville in the 1870s and 1880s. Annunciation Parish was founded by the Irish in 1879 and St. Joseph Parish was founded by the Slovenes in 1899.
With Leadville at 10,430 feet above sea level, the Church of the Annunciation is credited as having the highest church spire in North America. The sanctuary features a hand-carved marble altar, stained glass windows and canvas panels with oil paintings from Italy. In 1886, Margaret Tobin married James J. Brown in this church; she would later become the legendary “unsinkable” Molly Brown who survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The original Church of St. Joseph, a wooden structure built in 1899, burned to the ground approximately 20 years later. The present brick church stands on the same land and contains some of the finest examples of Slovene
folk-art in America. In 1926 the pastor, Father George Trunk, began a two-year project painting the entire interior of the church with biblical scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
In the 1920s, Hispanics from the Southwest came also seeking a better life. That same pattern continues today with Mexican nationals coming, no longer for the mining, but to work in the many resorts and service jobs in the area.
The Catholic Community of Leadville was formed in 1988 when Bishop Richard C. Hanifen united the two parishes under one pastor. The two parishes in the community were merged to form Holy Family Parish in a decree from Bishop Michael Sheridan on Oct. 22, 2007. The community still utilizes both churches. On Feb. 18, 2013, Holy Family Parish in Leadville was raised canonically to the status of being named a Center for Hispanic Ministry, a personal parish to minister to the Hispanic faithful for the Western Deanery.