Monsignor John Slattery, founding pastor of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and the first vicar general of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, died Nov. 28 at age 87. He had been living at Mount St. Francis Nursing Center in Colorado Springs.
Slattery was born July 5, 1931, in Denver and attended Annunciation School there before enrolling in St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver in 1949. He was ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Denver on June 1, 1957, and served in several churches in the Denver area and Breckenridge for the next 24 years.
An avid outdoors enthusiast, he skied frequently and climbed all of Colorado’s fourteeners.
He was asked in 1981 by then-Auxiliary Bishop Richard Hanifen to become founding pastor of St. Patrick Church in northeast Colorado Springs, celebrating Mass in a shopping center on Academy Boulevard while seeking financial help from other Catholic churches and supervising the planning and construction of the church building near Dublin and Academy boulevards.
“For 60 years Msgr. Slattery and I studied, played and ministered in the Archdiocese of Denver and later here in our diocese,” Hanifen said in an email. “Over those years we watched Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI navigate the waters of change in society and our Church. Sometimes we agreed with each other about the changes and at other times disagreed but always knowing whose church it really is. While he became a pastor I went to Rome for studies. When I returned we became skiing buddies who shared our lives and experiences with each other. A fortunate priest it is who has a friend in the priesthood like I had in him.”
At St. Patrick’s, Hanifen next asked Slattery to become vicar general, the second-highest post, of the newly formed Diocese of Colorado Springs in 1984. In that role, he served on several boards and committees, helped resolve conflicts in parishes and represented Hanifen when he was unavailable.
“Monsignor John Slattery was above all a Pastor,” said Monsignor Don Dunn, a longtime friend and colleague. “For more than 60 years, he brought the Lord Jesus to people in many places in much of the State of Colorado. He loved priestly ministry and led with strong leadership. People loved him and served with him. I know this because I succeeded him in the different assignments at St. Patrick’s, vicar general and St. Mary’s Cathedral. He made the transition so easy.”
After raising money for St. Patrick’s, Slattery put 1 percent of weekly offerings in a fund to help build a Catholic church in the Briargate area, St. Gabriel the Archangel. He moved to St. Paul’s Church in southwest Colorado Springs in 1987 and became rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral downtown four years later when he completed his term as vicar general.
Before retiring in 2000, Slattery served at both Divine Redeemer and Corpus Christi churches for three years. He was named a monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
“Father Slattery’s service in the Diocese of Colorado Springs is legendary,” said Bishop Michael Sheridan, who succeeded Hanifen. “I know how much Bishop Hanifen relied on him in those early years, and I am deeply grateful for all that he has done to serve the mission of the Church in our diocese.”
Slattery is survived by a brother, Tom, and a sister, Pat.
A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at St. Patrick’s Church, 6455 Brook Park Drive, with burial to follow at Evergreen Cemetery.