St. Victor's saved!

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Angelic bulldozer who remains undaunted when the odds are stacked against her, Mary Bielz keeps an eye on the target and plows on through.

Thrust into the fray two years ago when word leaked that St. Victor's Catholic Church might be closed by the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Bielz took a minute to reflect and then leaped into action.

In August, Bielz received word that Bishop Michael Sheridan had relented, to a point. In a letter written by Deacon Doug Flinn, general counsel and chief of staff for the diocese, the bishop proposed four resolutions as conditions for keeping St. Victor's open.

That's enough for Bielz and a signal for going full-speed ahead. “We're rejoicing that the bishop has taken this direction,” she said. “We've got a lot of people on board and hope to keep the church open for another 115 years.”

At issue was the cost of keeping two small chapels open in southern Teller County, including St. Peter's in Cripple Creek.

Father Timothy Corbley, pastor of Our Lady of the Woods Catholic Church, serves all three churches. However, with St. Victor's in need of repairs, Corbley has been saying Sunday Mass at St. Peter's alone.

In order to keep both chapels open, the Bishop proposed a separate accounting for each regarding maintenance, repair and insurance costs, in addition to donations, grants or other revenue streams.

For St. Victor's, the revenue stream is ongoing, infused with an initial donation of $11,000 by Reed Grainger in memory of his late wife Maureen. As well, Grainger agreed to transfer property across from the Church to provide additional parking while pledging to donate $500 a month for church maintenance for the rest of his life.

One hurdle down, Bielz enlisted her husband and son to clear debris from the chimney to solve the carbon-monoxide problem. At the same time, Chuck Murphy, of Murphy Constructors, volunteered to help with other necessary repairs.

To top it off, Bielz presented a petition to the Bishop, signed by 150 people, who asked that the church in Victor remain open.

“We're going forward with the logistics of the recommendations put forth by the bishop,” she said. “We're energized but now this is where the rubber meets the road. There are some things that need to be done and we're anxious to get started and have Mass said there. This is a beginning. It's exciting, like a renewal.”

A Pied-Piper for Catholics in southern Teller County, Bielz has awakened spiritual inertia in some who had fallen away from the church. “People who hadn't been to church in a decade are coming back,” she said.

While some may credit Bielz and her team for saving St. Victor's, she gives credit to a higher power. “It's a calling. God calls us all and I think people recognize it as a calling,” she said. “God's the initiator.”

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