The procession began at nearby St. Joseph’s Polish Church, with the Knights of St. John, two Slovenian choirs, six fraternal societies and distinguished clergy escorting
Bishop J. Henry Tihen to the new structure. As Bishop Tihen blessed the building, he praised the parishioners for their sacrifices and reminded them that poor people, rather than princes, built the great churches of Europe. It was Sunday, July 4, 1920, the day selected for the dedication of Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church (Kraljica sv. Roznega Venca) in Globeville. For this group of Slovenian and Croatian immigrants, establishing their own parish was an amazing accomplishment and the culmination of a long journey.
Blacksmith Andrew Boytz was conscripted by the Austrian army and was expected to train soldiers in the trade. Family lore says that, in the days before photos were used for identification, Boytz borrowed a friend’s passport and sailed to America. He made his way to Kansas City, then the silver town of Leadville, Colorado, and arrived in Globeville about 1901. Boytz got a job at the Globe Smelter, and his wages were sufficient to buy a home at 4455 Pennsylvania and raise his family there.
After Florian Krasovich completed his compulsory military service, he was unable to find work in Sleme, Slovenia. Leaving everything behind, Krasovich found a community of Slovenes in Globeville, and a job in the Globe Smelter. It took him two years to earn enough to rent a small house and send for his wife Mary and sons Tony and Frank.
The Boytz and Krasovich families were part of a great migration of Eastern Europeans and German Russians to the U. S. from 1880 to 1920, a time of political upheaval and financial hardship. They were seeking economic opportunity and freedom from conscription in the armies of Austria Hungary, Germany and Russia. Immigrants usually settled with relatives in manufacturing centers like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Joliet but were lured by tales of instant wealth in Colorado’s mines, of clean air, and mountains like those at home. What they found were gritty jobs in coal mines, heavy manufacturing and smelters in the industrial towns of Pueblo, Trinidad, Canon City, Salida, Leadville, Walsenburg and Globeville.
Globeville was incorporated in 1891, with a large immigrant population and a town council that reflected that diversity. Annexed by the city of Denver in 1902, the community still identifies with its ethnic heritage and prefers to be
called by its town name.
Located just north of Denver, Globeville was the site of three large smelters, foundries, pattern shops, rolling mills, brickyards, railroads and meatpacking plants. Newcomers obtained jobs, and then sent for family members and neighbors from their villages. Concentrations of Germans from Russia, Carpatho-Rusyns (Russian Orthodox), Poles, and Southern Slavs (Slovenes and Croats) populated the town. Most of the early arrivals came from small farms or rural hamlets, had a scant knowledge of the English language, and were paid much less than native-born workers.
During the late nineteenth century, nativists had no use for “Papists” (Catholics) and their large families, and viewed them as unlikely to adapt or contribute to America. German Russian and Carpatho-Rusyns were suspected of being anarchists or revolutionaries. Unwelcome, each group of immigrants took up with its own kind
and created a support system of ethnic taverns, fraternal societies and churches.
Most of Globeville’s Slovenes were from Lower Carniola or Dolenjska region, or Bela Krajina, both areas in the southeastern part of the country and from the Littoral region or Primorska in the southwestern part of Slovenia. The town was also home to Croats from the region of Zumberak, across the Kupa River from the Metlika area of Slovenia. Having been neighbors in the old country, they shared common interests and goals.
In 1902, Slovenes and Croats made their first attempt to found a church of their own, but were met with resistance from the German-born bishop, Nicholas C. Matz. Bishop Matz opposed ethnic churches and urged them to support St. Joseph’s Polish Church in the neighborhood. But Southern Slavs longed to confess their sins, hear a homily and celebrate religious feasts in their native tongue. Many quit going to Mass and became lax in their faith, while others saved their money and waited.
As often as he could, Father Cyril Zupan, OSB, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Pueblo, would travel two hours by train to say Mass and hear confessions at St. Jacob’s Croatian Hall or the Slovenian Home. In August 1917, the appointment of a new bishop revived the goal of building a parish. A committee composed of John Cimzar, Jacob Pavela, John Peketz, Sr., George Pavlakovich and Father Zupan called on Bishop J. Henry Tihen asking for permission to organize a church. The presence of Father Zupan helped their cause since he had already established two other Slovenian parishes, St. Mary’s in Pueblo and St. Joseph’s in Leadville. The zeal of the growing community moved Bishop Tihen to create Holy Rosary Parish in February 1918. The many fraternal organizations – KSKJ, Western Slavonic, American Fraternal Union, and the Croatian Fraternal Union – set to work raising more money by holding concerts, plays, dinners, dances and a week-long bazaar. Fifteen years of planning and scrimping enabled the parish to move quickly. A ground breaking ceremony was held on
May 27, 1919, a cornerstone blessed on August 17, and the structure was completed
on February 20, 1920.
Blessing of the cornerstone August 17, 1919
The tireless Father Zupan served both Holy Rosary and St. Mary’s parishes in Pueblo until February 1921, when Reverend John J. Judnic, a native of Kot, Slovenia, was appointed to guide the fledgling congregation.
Father Judnic arrived from St. Joseph’s Church in Leadville and stayed with Florian and Mary Krasovich (who had indoor plumbing) while the congregation built a handsome brick rectory for him. In 1927, the parishioners again took on debt to build a school, “in order to safeguard the faith and morals” of their young people. Father Judnic moved from the rectory into a tiny apartment in the back of the church to make room for four Dominican Sisters of the Third Order of St. Dominic of Springfield, Illinois. A handsome brick school, designed by renowned Colorado Springs architect Thomas McClaren, was completed in time for 152 children to begin the school term in September 1928. (Father Judnic continued to live in his tiny quarters until a new rectory was built across the street, some 20 years later).
The 1920s were a time of progress for Globeville’s immigrant communities.
Although two of the smelters had closed, railroads, manufacturing, and meatpacking offered steady wages. Most people were employed, and moving from frame homes
to modest brick houses. Everything
important – the family, job, church, school, fraternal organization, and the local
market – was within walking distance.
Few people owned a car or needed one.
Before World War II, the immigrant communities in Globeville
remained remarkably intact.
During the 1920s, each of the ethnic groups in the community began the delicate dance of maintaining the traditions and culture of their homeland, while gradually assimilating. More children were completing school, learning English and bringing the language home to their parents. And there was jazz on the radio, newspapers, silent films at the Cozy Theater, and baseball. In 1929, Western Slavonic instituted an
English-speaking lodge,Trailblazers No. 41, to appeal to younger members. By the 1930s, Masses at Holy Rosary included a sermon in English, as well as one in Slovenian.
Like all the neighborhood’s ethnic parishes, Holy Rosary offered numerous ways to socialize with those of the same faith and background. There was the men-only Holy Name Society, Knights of the Altar, Knights of St. John and the Knights of Columbus. Women were encouraged to join the Ladies Sodality, the PTA and the Altar and Rosary Society. For young people, the group to join was the Holy Rosary Choir, whose mission was to “…develop the vocal talent of the parish and to take care of the musical requirements of the divine services.” The group held its business meeting the first Wednesday of the month and rehearsals every Friday evening, each event followed by a social hour. And there were summer picnics, trips to the mountains and a winter train ride. The choir also produced several plays each year, eventually raising enough Depression-era dollars to replace a small reed organ with a beautiful Reuter pipe organ in 1932. There was a close relationship between the fraternal societies and Holy Rosary, with the lodges contributing to the parish and the church promoting lodge activities.
The Play: Seal of the Confessional
Front Row, left to right: John Trontel, John A Yelenick, Eddie Krasovich, Elsie Kasinga, Lillian Krasovich, and John Vidick. Back Row, Albert Horvat, Tony Padboy, John Peketz, Jr., Raymond Canjar, Director George J. Miroslavich, Joe Tezak, Steve Machuga.
The high point of the liturgical year was Easter, with parishioners bringing baskets filled with Potica, sausage, honey and wine to church for a blessing on Holy Saturday.
A solemn procession on Easter Sunday included the carrying of a statue of the Risen Christ and the congregation singing “Zvelichar.”
World War II swept Globeville and Holy Rosary into the future with the force of
a tidal wave. People who had never traveled farther than Pueblo for a lodge convention, joined the armed services and saw action all over the world. When they returned, they felt less obligated to marry within their faith, or maintain the culture or language of
their grandparents. By 1950, VA loans were available on new construction, but
not to fix up an older home in Globeville, and a younger generation bought
houses in the developing suburbs.
Other changes would divide and demoralize the neighborhood. In 1948, the first interstate highway, I-25, eliminated the western part of Globeville. In 1961, another interstate, I-70, was constructed at the very doorstep of St. Joseph’s Polish Church, and displaced so of many German Russians that two of their churches closed and another relocated to the suburbs. Residents who were forced to move found it impossible to find a comparable house or business with the money the city gave them. Those who remained saw their property values decline and had to deal with noise, dirt and constant vibration. Increased truck traffic through the neighborhood eroded the small town personality of the neighborhood.
Through all the turmoil, Holy Rosary remained both the spiritual center and source of great pride for the Slavic community. For thirty-eight years, Father Judnic, who was eventually made a monsignor, guided the church during the Depression, World War II and the construction of I-25 through the western part of Globeville. He is remembered as a humble, holy, compassionate and hard-working priest, and his death on July 12, 1959, signaled the end of an era.
Reverend John A. Canjar succeeded Monsignor Judnic. Father Canjar’s parents, Frank and Mary Canjar were among the founders of Holy Rosary, and he had grown up in the parish. He was faced with the loss of displaced parishioners, rebuilding after the devastating flood of the Platte River in 1965, and efforts by the city of
Denver to turn Globeville into an industrial area.
As descendants of the original parishioners left the community, Father Canjar welcomed the Hispanics
and Blacks who moved into Globeville. He was active in
anti-poverty programs, and served at the North Denver Action Center, a part of the Model Cities Program.
“Father Canjar felt that when people asked for help,
we needed to respond,” said Jerry and Janet Wagner, who owned a small grocery. With cash donated by Father Canjar, the Wagners began making up food baskets for needy Globeville residents at Christmas. “Depending
on the size of the family, there would be a couple of chickens, potatoes, beans or
a sack of flour, enough to make a meal. That way, the family was getting some
good food and the church’s money was being put to good use.”
By 1969, when Father Leopold Mihelich assumed the pastorate, both the Globeville community and Holy Rosary were struggling. Uncertainty about the neighborhood’s future discouraged people from fixing up their homes, and absentee landlords contributed to the epidemic of blight. As Slavs continued to move away, a dwindling congregation and declining enrollment forced the parish to close the school in May 1969. Yet Father Mihelich carried a torch for Slavic culture by teaching lessons in the Slovenian language on Saturdays.
The next two pastors had no connection to the Slovenian or Croatian culture but attempted to preserve that heritage. Monsignor Edward A. Leyden led the parish from 1977 to 1980, and obtained protective coverings for the stained glass windows. Monsignor continued Slovenian liturgical traditions, blessing the Easter baskets and leading Spanish-surnamed children in the singing of Zvelichar in the procession. Reverend Edmund Kestel served the parish from 1980 to 1982.
An accomplished musician and musical scholar, Kestel introduced the
Polka Mass to Holy Rosary.
His successor, Father Joseph Meznar, had deep roots in the parish. His parents were married at Holy Rosary and both he and his brother, Father Robert P. Meznar, were baptized there. Although the neighborhood demographics had changed dramatically since the founding of the parish, Father Meznar sought to ensure the permanence of Holy Rosary’s Slovenian personality with a complete restoration of the interior of the church in 1995, financed by the Western Slavonic Association. In 1999, he obtained Colorado State Historic status for the church, convent and school buildings. (5DV.349). In November of 2009, after 27 years at Holy Rosary, Father Meznar retired.
By 2009, very few residents with Slovenian or Croatian heritage called Globeville home, and their fraternal societies no longer had a presence there. The neighborhood was 68% Hispanic, and in 2010, Holy Rosary was assigned a bilingual pastor, Father Noé Carreón. Father Noé arrived just as the economic collapse of 2008 was in full force. He discovered that the aging church, convent and school buildings were all in need of extensive repairs. “Faith and hard work”
would be an understatement. This energetic priest welcomed back former parishioners, built up a
Spanish congregation and raised enough money to create a parish center in the former school.
Father Felix Zemeño Martín and Monsignor
Jorge de Los Santos continued the renovations and building up the congregation.
Father Felix Zermeño Martín Monsignor Jorge de los Santos
Today, Father Luis Escandón, an articulate and compelling speaker, delivers homilies that inspire all parishioners. Father Luis connects with both the English-speaking descendants of the founders, as well as a substantially larger Spanish congregation.
A walk through the neighborhood demonstrates that the two communities have a lot in common. Roadside shrines are common in Slovenia, Croatia, Mexico, and in Globeville. In yards and gardens, the Blessed Virgin Mary is often commemorated alongside Our Lady of Guadalupe. Memorials to St. Joseph, St Francis and Mother Cabrini are also popular. Families construct altars devoted to Our Lady or a family saint inside their homes.
Hispanics possess a deep love of the Catholic faith and have enriched the parish with prayer and Bible study groups, several choirs, and weekly nocturnal adoration. In addition, they have donated considerable time to restoration work on the church, convent and school. All parishioners have a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary, and commemorate the Feast of the Queen of the Holy Rosary on October 7th, as well as a robust celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th.
All of Globeville’s faith communities are works in progress. Few German Russians live in the neighborhood and their churches have disappeared, while St. Joseph’s Polish Church
has been invigorated by an influx of Poles who arrived after the fall of Communism. Likewise, Holy Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Cathedral has experienced an increase
in Romanian and Great Russian parishioners. Holy Rosary has also enjoyed modest growth, with young singles and families moving into affordable homes in Globeville.
As the parish prepares to celebrate its centennial, English-speaking, Hispanic, young, elderly, newcomers and long-time parishioners will come together to renew
our Catholic faith and devotion to the Mother of God.