As announced today, our new pastor will be Father John Paul Leyba. Father Leyba will join us next month from St. Thomas More parish in Centennial, Colorado. St. Thomas has published video of some of Fr. Leyba’s homilies. Here are some recent additions to the St. Thomas web page:

Wrapped in Self – Sunday April 10, 2011

This Baby Has Come to Change the World!- Friday December 24, 2010

Archbishop Chaput ordains three priests for the archdiocese

A June 2002 article by Alwen Bledsoe in the Denver Catholic Register highlights Father Leyba’s ordination by Archbishop Chaput. The article provides a biographical look at Fr. Leyba’s call to vocation:

John Paul Leyba very nearly chose a very different life for himself before concluding God was calling him to the priesthood. In fact, it wasn’t until he and his fiancée were in the midst of marriage preparation that his feeling that he might have a vocation to the priesthood became too acute to ignore. Fortunately, his fiancée, a devout Catholic herself, had once considered a vocation as a nun and so understood his dilemma, Leyba said. The engagement was put on hold, Leyba found a spiritual director, and a year-and-a-half later he entered Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. At the time, 1997, Denver did not have a seminary, he added.

It officially took five years of schooling and a year-and-a-half of discernment to get Leyba to his ordination June 1, but really, his vocation was a lifetime in the making, he said.

After five years in Illinois, he’s back and will be taking on the position of parochial vicar at St. Thomas More in Centennial.

Here is an excerpt from a 2010 DCR article about Fr. Leyba, written by his mother:

A Priest’s Chalice: My son’s chalice

By Lucille Leyba

Father John Paul Leyba was born near Taos, New Mexico. One of five children, he grew up and attended schools in Penasco, N.M.

As a boy he was a faithful altar server and he made sure we got him to church on time. He seemed to always enjoy being at Mass.

He started playing guitar at 7 and the following year joined the parish choir as a musician. He continued to serve as a parish musician even as a young adult. His high school autobiography list of possibilities for a future career included: music, engineering or priesthood.

He earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico and got a job with Hughes Aircraft in Aurora, Colo. He enjoyed his work there, but after about 10 years, he called our family to tell us he was applying to the Archdiocese of Denver to attend seminary.

Because the Denver Archdiocese didn’t have a seminary at the time, he attended St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. After a year, he came home and announced: “I’m going back. Without any pressure from anyone, now I know that is where God wants me. I’m at peace.”

We weren’t really surprised and we gave him our support. The idea of becoming a priest had never really left him even though he had tried to push it away as he pursued a career in the aerospace industry and had even been engaged to be married.

We joyfully received his priestly blessing on his ordination day, June 1, 2002.

Here is Father Leyba’s biography from the St. Thomas More Parish web page:

Editor’s Note: After his ordination in June 2002, Father John Paul Leyba was assigned to St. Thomas More. He served as parochial vicar until 2005. STM parishioners who knew him before are delighted to have Father John Paul with us again. Father will touch many hearts as he shares his musical talent, sense of humor and his deep love of God.

After Father John Paul Leyba left St. Thomas More, he spent two and a half years at St. Anthony’s in Julesburg, Colorado, a town near the border of Nebraska. While there, Father John Paul says he “did everything,” from running the parish both financially and spiritually, to fixing toilets, shoveling snow and fixing leaks. Since St. Anthony’s had no parish staff, Father John Paul did it all. He says his experiences at St. Anthony’s were fun and that he learned a lot. Another task Father John Paul managed at St. Anthony’s was teaching the teen religious education program, which he says was “intimidating” because, unlike St. Thomas More which has full-time youth ministers, he was given the task of coming up with the material to teach them. But, overall, Father John Paul likes working with youth because they are “wild” and willing to share themselves with others and open up spiritually. He also says, “I think like they do, so I think I relate to them.” After serving at St. Anthony’s, Father John Paul spent two and half years at Our Lady of Loreto.

For six months the pastor was on sabbatical, so he was again given the task of running both the financial and the spiritual sides of the parish. However, after being in Julesburg, doing administrative work at Our Lady of Loreto was a lot easier, and he says it was also interesting. At every parish in which he has served—including STM—Father John Paul says his favorite part is the people, who are “fascinating. Everybody’s so different and so not different. You just don’t get bored…you’re always exploring… the way they think and their perspectives on life.” Father describes working with people like “being an explorer. There’s always new territory.”

In addition to his musical talent that he previously shared at the LifeTeen Masses at STM, Father John Paul provides the parishioners with his insight to the Gospel readings. He says he came up with this idea when he was ten years old. While on vacation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he attended a Mass where the priest explained the Gospel readings. Father John Paul never forgot that experience and he adopted it for himself. He explained, “I want people to recognize that we’re not that different from the people in the Scriptures,” and he hopes, “It would spark in people a love for the Scriptures.”

Father John Paul is very happy to be back at St. Thomas More, which he says feels like home, “like putting on comfortable shoes.” Father John Paul has certainly blessed this parish with his gifts, both musical and spiritual, and we are pleased he will continue to do so.

Father Leyba – we welcome you to Holy Trinity!


One year ago today, on Saturday 15 May 2010, Holy Trinity dedicated our newly remodeled church. The success of this project is due to the vision and wisdom of Father John Hilton.

After the Masses today, we celebrated with the Knights of Columbus the completion of their pledge for the new altar. We thank the Knights for their support and for providing a glorious table for the banquet of our Lord.

During today’s homilies, Father John Hilton announced that he has been reassigned to St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen, Colorado starting in mid-June. Father Hilton has had only a year to enjoy the beautiful church he helped bring to Holy Trinity. Since St. Mary Catholic was dedicated on 13 March 1892, it might need a creative vision to make sure it is still standing for it’s 125th anniversary in six years.

Here’s what Father Hilton wrote one year ago in the dedication Mass bulletin:

Does it seem like a long time since we started the renovation of our church? I know that many of us, from the Design Committee to the Finance Council, from our Architect to our dedicated staff, and all those who were involved in the planning and executing this project put forth the best of our efforts and energies. All of us were determined to use our gifts of generosity for the greatest honor of God and to provide future generations of parishioners with a beautiful place in which to worship. We hope that, when you walk into your new church, you will feel that we have achieved our goal, because during all the planning and executing stages we had you, as well as our Lord, in mind.

Traditionally, our Catholic churches have been designed as places of peaceful beauty for two reasons: First, because we instinctively know that God is the Creator of all that is beautiful and, as King David so many centuries ago, we want to honor Him by making for Him a home that is worthy of Him. Second: because when we gather in a beautiful place our minds turn more easily towards God, who is Beauty Himself. Many of our adorers, for instance, tell me that they find rest and gather strength every time they visit the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel: that was our goal, and it has been our goal as we planned, designed and transformed the church. I encourage you to look around, observe all the details, and tell me whether you agree that we have achieved our goal.

You will also notice that we have tried to make the space as comfortable as possible for you: the pews are a little farther apart, so those with long legs will not “bump” in the kneeler behind them. If you pardon me for saying it, I think that the Choir loft not only is beautiful, but it does more justice to the voices of our choir members. How about our confessionals? They are elegant, but more importantly, they will give greater privacy to everyone and the sound-proof wall coverings will make sure that no whisper can be heard outside. We gave special attention to our Marian Chapel, where our beautifully restored statue of the Blessed Virgin finds her home. The raised ceiling, the “clerestory,” with high windows give us more light and greater height. The best part, of course, is our Sanctuary, our new altar area. It is difficult to be distracted during Mass when our eyes are attracted to the exquisite work that required the greatest amount of thought and skill in execution.

Of course, the fact that we now have air conditioning for the Summer will make everyone more comfortable.

I pray that you are thrilled with how our renovated church has turned out. More importantly, I pray that our new church will be a rich source of blessing for you, your children and grandchildren. I again thank you for your generosity and sacrifice, which made all this possible, and I know that those parishioners who will come to the Holy Mass in the future will thank you, just as we thank those who fifty years ago first built the Parish of Holy Trinity that we love. God’s blessings upon you and your family!

Fr. John Hilton and Fr. Carlos Bello

Editor’s note: Click the embedded links for more about Holy Trinity Parish in Westminster and this remodeling project. Thank you to Allan Eckert, Dave Koski and Nancy Thompson for the images.

Happy Easter 2011!

Hat tip: Colleen Hammond

Before (2007):

Long Before (original circa 1966):

During (November 2009):

During (January 2010):

After (Far):


For more views of our project, see our Picture of the Day list.

In today’s bulletin, Father Hilton writes:


During my sermon last weekend I said that our new altar is called a “Tomb Altar.” Why? Because it is shaped as a tomb, and this is one of the earliest types of altar in the Catholic Church, because they were built over the relics of the saints who were martyred for love of Christ. Many of you know that every altar in old Catholic churches contained a relic of a martyr saint, and then, when persecutions ceased, of other saints, such as St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Charles Borromeo. Sometimes cities would fight over the right to bury a saint under their altars; for instance, if a saint was born in one town but died in another, both places would claim “ownership” of the relics. Why was this so important? Possibly because of a passage in the Bible. In fact, St. John, in Revelation 6:9 tells us that “I saw under the altar the souls of the them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.”

In fact, it is probable that this Revelation verse was the reason why Pope Felix I, in 279 A.D. decreed that “Mass should be celebrated above the tombs of martyrs.” This practice was so taken to heart by the people that, beginning in the middle ages it was a rule that no altar could be consecrated unless it contained a relic or relics.

With the development of the relic-custom the square box shape of an “altar-tomb” became the norm, and gradually the original table-shaped form disappeared. The altar then, became not only the most sacred place in the church because it was the place where bread and wine would be transubstantiated into the precious Body and Blood of Christ; it was also the resting place of those who had either been martyred for the sake of Christ, or who had shown heroic Christian virtues during their lives (the saints). That’s why these altars were crafted with great care, using the best of materials. Anyone going to pilgrimage in Europe or in the Holy Land will be able to see altars made even of gold and silver. Such an altar still remains in in the Cathedral of Saint Ambrose at Milan, dating from the 9th century.

Our new altar, at Holy Trinity, is not quite as elaborate as that, but it is beautifully made of marble, and a relic of St. Charles Borromeo (whose body lies in state in a crystal urn, which forms the base of an altar in the crypt of the Cathedral of Milan) rests within it. Thus we also, at Holy Trinity, can say that the words of Revelations apply to us: “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” While St. Charles did not spill his blood to give witness to God, his life was certainly a powerful witness to the love which he bore for the Lord.