OLPH church renovation

An architect’s rendering shows the proposed new ramp and deck that would be built between Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s church and community center, so that people with disabilities could access both buildings.

The Pikes Peak region’s oldest Catholic church is showing its age, and leaders say it’s time for the equivalent of a hip replacement.

Founded in 1860, the community of Our Lady of Perpetual Help opened a church in Manitou Springs in 1889 on Ruxton Avenue. The original building was badly damaged by fire and reconstructed on the site in 1903.

But the small historic church, which is located on the winding road that leads to the popular Manitou Incline, the Cog Railway and the trailhead to Pikes Peak, hasn’t walked far enough into this century, members say.

While some renovations have been made, the 117-year-old Our Lady of Perpetual Help still is not accessible for people with disabilities, which is crippling attendance for its oldest parishioners.

“It is very upsetting for us when a longtime member can no longer attend church with us simply because he or she cannot get up the small flight of steps that lead into the church,” said the Rev. Randy Rentner, associate pastor.

“Creating access means keeping our church community together and being able to invite more people to worship with us.”

The church and a former rectory on the property, which is now a community center, have been “frozen in time for so long,” said member Diane Allen.

“We’d like to join the 21st century and allow everyone access to visit the church,” she said.

For years, members have been dragging out a temporary gang plank anytime someone in a wheelchair or otherwise unable to use stairs wants to join in prayer or for social gatherings, Allen said.

A project to add an access ramp and a deck that connect the church and the community center is underway. Designed by local architect Zachary Taylor, the addition has been approved by the Manitou Springs Historic Preservation Commission, since the church lies in a historic ditrict.

The commission asked that proposed stone walls supporting the ramp and deck match the traditional appearance of the neighborhood, Allen said.

To preserve the look of the front entrance, people will enter the church through a side door off the new deck.

The renovation includes making the restroom handicapped accessible as well, restoring an outdoor grotto, which was built soon after the church opened as a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes in France, and creating a patio in front of the grotto.

The work will cost about $200,000, Rentner said.

Allen calls it “a big and expensive undertaking for a small community.”

About one-third of the money needed has been raised, Rentner said, with donations being solicited. Construction is anticipated for either the spring or the fall of next year, depending on contributions, the economy and the pandemic.

Hundreds of thousands of people have ties to the church, as its charming grounds have hosted many weddings, baptisms and funerals, Allen said. She’s hoping for more widespread support in order to add the new features.

The church had been earmarked for possible closure in 2016, when parking constraints, financial problems and declining membership led to an unknown fate.

Parishioners rallied to save the church and succeeded.

Over the past few years, a stone bridge on the property over Ruxton Creek has been rebuilt, the two buildings have fresh paint, and there’s a new roof.

About 100 families are year-round regular members, Rentner said, with attendance swelling in the summer when tourists are in town. “The efforts and enthusiasm behind this huge project for us has kept our community energized, even during these COVID months,” Rentner said. “We intend to be here for another 100 years.”

Donations can be made to “OLPH Building Fund” and sent to Sacred Heart Parish, 2021 W. Pikes Peak Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80904. There is also a GoFundMe campaign online at gf.me/u/yzsjcm. Or contact Rentner at 633-8711.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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