St. Bernadette Parish, the pioneer Catholic church of Lakewood, Colorado, outgrew its first worship space just 18 years after being founded in 1947.
half-century-old church remains large enough but needs updating to
better serve its exceptionally diverse congregation.
In addition to ministering to the faithful of central Lakewood, the
parish heads Colorado Catholic Deaf Ministry, is home to St. Kateri
Native American Community, runs a school and soon will be host to
Marisol Home, which will provide transitional housing to homeless women
“One holy, Catholic and apostolic church is a pretty good description for our parish,” said the pastor, Father Tom Coyte.
“Catholic means universal,” added pastoral associate Julie Plouffe,
“and there is so much diversity represented in this one worship space:
the deaf, Native Americans, service to the poor and the homeless, and to
When Father Coyte was named pastor of St. Bernadette’s two and a half
years ago, he quickly realized his handsome church was in need of
repairs and renovations – from the essentials of updating the heating,
cooling and electricity, to improving the sanctuary for comfort and
He wants all of his parishioners, including the deaf, to be able to
enjoy full, active participation in the church liturgies. When Father
Coyte arrived to St. Bernadette’s, the deaf community, which he’s led
for 45 years, came with him.
“We became aware of how difficult it is to participate visually in our liturgies here,” Father Coyte said.
Because it’s essential for the deaf to see what’s being signed, the
parish plans, among other improvements, to elevate the altar platform to
increase visibility for the congregation. (The change will also aid
seeing the schoolchildren when they take part in liturgies.)
Deaf ministry enables the hard of hearing to serve as lectors, ushers
and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. It offers interpretive
services for weddings, funerals and religious education classes, and
“Deaf ministry is an archdiocesan outreach to all deaf persons and
their families to be fully involved in parish and Church life,” Father
Services include religious education and interpretive outreach, and
signed weekly Masses at two other parishes – one in the Colorado Springs
“We also go to Pueblo and have been to other states,” Father Coyte said.
St. Kateri Community
The St. Kateri ministry, in which some 60 people from across the
archdiocese representing about 10 Native American tribes celebrate a
weekly Mass incorporating Indian traditions, has been at St.
Bernadette’s since 1985.
“They’ve been embraced by the St. Bernadette community,” Father Coyte said. “They have a beautiful spirituality.”
Kateri ministry exists to evangelize and serve the archdiocese’s
Native American community and provides religious education and community
Aid to the poor, homeless
Last fall, the Kateri community, which had turned the parish’s old
convent into a chapel, moved their weekly Mass into the church proper.
Catholic Charities is leasing and transforming Kateri’s former home for
worship into a home for single-parent mothers with children. Marisol
Home, set to open this year, will be able to shelter up to 18 families
“St. Bernadette’s will be providing a lot of meal support and volunteer hours,” Plouffe said of the Marisol ministry.
Ministry to the poor and homeless has long been a cherished activity
of the parish, which helps a near daily stream of indigent from
Lakewood’s Colfax corridor with food, rent assistance and resource
“We reach out to many needy families in our school as well,” Father Coyte said.
This spring the parish is launching a three-year, $1.5 million
capital campaign to fund necessary improvements to make St. Bernadette’s
more beautiful, functional and welcoming for its diverse congregation.
Just as the church’s unique ministries stretch beyond its parish
boundaries, Father Coyte said so, too, does its need for donations.
“Our outreach is much larger than St. Bernadette Parish,” he said.
“We’re a relatively small parish of 700 to 800 families, yet our
ministries are quite ambitious.”