Bishop Fernando Isern from Pueblo blessed the new eight stained glass windows at St. Rita of Cascia Church, Mancos, during Evening Prayer on June 19, 2012. The family of Edward Jankowski, who died two years ago, donated the windows in his memory.
St. Ritas Catholic Church is located at 203 S. Main Street in Mancos. But it was not always a Catholic Church. Back in 1911 and 1912, with the help of the Catholic Church Extension Society and the generous contributions of Catholics and non-Catholics, a cash fund of about $3,000 was raised with which to build a small church. The foundation was laid and paid for, then came the disastrous cloudburst of October, 1911, which prevented the priest reaching Mancos from Telluride for four months.
In the spring of 1912, Father Joseph Brunner was able to return to Mancos and the Baptists, who owned a small church on the corner down the street, importuned him to buy their church property. After much discussion and delay, this property was purchased for $1,350, leaving a neat surplus with which to build a modest rectory on the foundation which had been, originally, placed for the church building.
In June 1913, Father Brunner moved from Telluride to Mancos in order to facilitate operations. He came to a territory that had been sadly neglected. In 1908, Father Patrick J. Gallagher had ridden his horse all the way from Telluride to Mancos during the summer and fall months when he would stay a week, saying Mass in private homes. When he was succeeded in August 1909 by Father Brunner, Mass was said regularly once a month, at first in the home of Lew H. Soehns, and later in the Opera House.
So, when Father Brunner arrived in Mancos, he discovered no church, no rectory, and only a small number of practicing Catholic families. However, ranchers pitched in and renovated the old Baptist church, while Father Brunner worked on a rectory in which to live.
Father Brunner died suddenly in the last part of August 1941, and was replaced by Father Joseph Lane who stayed less than two years. But Father Lane managed to put a hardwood floor in the Mancos Church, organized the Altar Society with the women, and had a Parish Mission conducted. He also spent about $300 on furniture for the Mancos Rectory, and renovated the church, putting in new drapes and supplying it with many needed vestments and altar supplies.
During 1944, the old Lew Soehns blacksmith shop across the street was purchased for $300 for a garage. The church roof was painted, numerous repairs made on the rectory, and plumbing renewed, replacing pipe lines that were completely rusted out.
Now in 2012, all of the windows of the Church have been replaced.
Ed and Joanne Jankowski discovered Mancos in 1980, buying the Alamo Ranch in May, and putting their three children in school in the Fall. Ed still had to commute to California where his business was located and did that until 1986 when he sold it. Ed and his oldest son, Peter, started a new business, Loronix, in Mancos, eventually moving it up to Durango.
In 1999, the Jankowskis became snowbirds, spending the winters in Arizona and summers in Mancos until the 7,000 feet altitude became too much for Eds health. But he always said that when he died, he wanted to go home to Mancos. He loved St. Ritas Church and always attended Mass there. He always wanted to do something special for the church without changing the charm and beauty of the old building.
When Ed passed away two years ago, Joanne, his wife, and children thought about stained glass windows in his honor which would only make this special church more spectacular.
The eight windows were made by Powers Brothers Stained Glass of Phoenix. Five windows around the body of the church illustrate the life of Christ from his Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, Christ working as a carpenter, the escape of the Holy Family to Egypt from Herod, and Jesus with the small children at his feet. One window is dedicated to the patron saint of the Church, St. Rita of Cascia, at the entrance to the Mission Church. Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Isidore, the farmer, are the windows facing the street. Each panel has the name of who it highlights and who has given the gift in memory of.
The final installation of the windows was completed by the men of the parish, especially the Knights of Columbus.