2016 marks the centenary of Catholic education in the Grand Valley on the Western Slope. The “odyssey of bricks and mortar,” as Father James Plough characterizes the journey, began with St. Joseph’s parish school. This three-story stone building, erected in Grand Junction in 1914, opened in 1916 with two furnished classrooms, i.e., with blackboards, erasers, chalk, teacher’s table and a few desks. Sisters Mary Agatha and Mary John of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas (the same religious order that staffed the local St. Mary’s Hospital) were the first teachers.
St. Joseph’s opened another school campus in 1951, and provided Catholic education through 1974. Somewhat concurrently, Immaculate Heart of Mary parish had a school at the “old” location of 7th St. and Bookcliff Avenue from 1962 to 1974. IHM subsequently moved to a newly built church “up the hill,” and Holy Family Catholic School opened on the same campus, accepting students from all the Valley parishes beginning in 1974 and continuing to the present day.
Together, the St. Joseph parish schools, the IHM parish school and the Holy Family Catholic School have provided 100 years of quality Catholic education.
Father James Plough, retired pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Grand Junction, recently published the fourth volume of his collected homilies, “Plough Shares.” This latest edition also includes narratives and photos featuring Holy Family Catholic School along with a profile of the school’s mission, written by Jake Aubert, the school's principal.
Historian that he is, Fr. Plough kept a record of most of his homilies. This habit served him well over the years, allowing him to publish four different collections of his talks, where he shares his thoughts with parishioners and friends. As he remarked, “…I have thoroughly enjoyed the leisure of retirement to devote time on these projects toward what I enjoy most: reflecting upon the faith, preaching on it and writing down those reflections.”
Each of the volumes was published to commemorate a special occasion:
- Volume 1 – a collection of articles relating to the art and architecture of the newly built Immaculate Heart of Mary church.
- Volume 2 – celebrated Fr. Plough’s “Trifecta” – his 75th birthday, the 50th anniversary of his ordination and his 25th anniversary as a member of IHM and St. Ann’s (mission) parishes.
- Volume 3 – the anniversary of Fr. Plough’s 80th birthday and his baptism (1/2/33 and 1/22/33).
- Volume 4 – the centenary of Catholic education in the Grand Valley.
One of the introductions in the fourth volume of “Plough Shares,” entitled “Holy Family Catholic School Today” and written by principal, Jake Aubert, details the mission of both the school and Catholic education in general.
Aubert states, “The purpose of Holy Family Catholic School (HFCS) and Catholic education is student formation and the nurturing of souls. Holy Family’s focus is developing an environment where students learn to encounter Christ as part of their daily [lives].” He continued, “Holy Family’s educational community works to develop and cultivate students into complete citizens, ready to become productive members of society.”
Holy Family Catholic School continues the long tradition of excellence in Catholic education by giving Grand Valley students a strong and varied educational background and helping them to realize that God is beautiful and is the center of everything.
Copies of “Plough Shares – Volume IV” are available by contacting the parish offices of Immaculate Heart of Mary/Grand Junction, St. Joseph’s/Grand Junction, Sacred Heart/Fruita or St. Ann’s/Palisade. The cost per copy of $10 benefits Holy Family Catholic School.