Mission and History
The roots of our parish run deep in Archuleta County, intertwined with the dedication of the Theatine Fathers. Information gathered by the San Juan Historical Society shows that a group of Catholics organized in 1893 to build the first Catholic Church in Pagosa Springs. On Lewis Street, they built St. Edwards Catholic Church that served the community until the 1950s. In 1906, the Theatines, Order of Clerics Regular, arrived in Durango where they staffed Sacred Heart Parish. Eventually, the Theatine Fathers served in Pagosa Springs and outlying mission churches in Archuleta County.
Our parish church on Lewis Street, Immaculate Heart of Mary, was built when the need for a larger church was recognized in 1948. Bishop Joseph Wiliging of the Pueblo Diocese dedicated the church on Sunday, May 22, 1949. Two years later, Immaculate Heart of Mary became a permanent parish with a founding pastor, Father Bernard Rotger, C.R. In 1960, the Parish Hall, a 1900's building undergoing renovation, was destroyed by fire. Within two weeks, a building committee was formed to build a new parish hall and rectory. After many fund-raising activities, the priest's residence was completed in 1960 and the parish hall was finished a year later. This Parish Hall has offered, not only the parish but also the Pagosa Springs community, a valuable meeting place for both parish and community activities and event.
Two men of God loom large in any historical account of our parish. The first is Father Bernard Rotger, C.R., the founding pastor. He was our pastor from 1951 to 1963 and again from 1966 to 1976. In addition to his pastoral work, Father Bernard was widely known as a collector of and authority on beetles and butterflies of the region. The founding pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary died at age 82 in 1986 and is buried in the "Jardin de los Recuerdos" cemetery in Mexico.
The second notable figure in our parish history is Father John Bowe, C.R. He first came to Pagosa Springs as pastor 25 years ago. He continued to work among us until October of 2004 except for two terms as supervisor of the North American Province of the Theatines. Father John was a widely recognized leader in our parish as well as the Pagosa Springs community. He celebrated three Masses and plays the organ for Immaculate Heart of Mary parishioners each weekend. On alternating Sundays he traveled to the four mission churches for services. According to an article in the Pagosa Springs Sun in 1998, "Wherever you venture in Archuleta County, you were likely to observe Father John Bowe ministering to his flock. On rare occasions you might catch him at the keyboard, or eating green chili at the Elkhorn. Whether it is conducting a Mass, a funeral or a wedding, Father John Bowe is a man of God and a man of his people. Father John is currently serving as Parochial Vicar of the Sange de Cristo Parish in San Luis.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish has four missions in Archuleta County. They are St. Francis Church in Frances, St. John the Baptist Church in Pagosa Junction, St. James the Apostle in Trujillo, and the Chromo Mission Station in Chromo.