Trinidad’s Most Holy Trinity Church, a holy work in progress since 1885

By Mary Jo Tesitor

TRINIDAD — On May 31, 1885, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, which is the pastoral feast of the parish, Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church was dedicated. The project was financed in part by the sale of property gifted to the church by Don Philipe Baca.  Twenty eight years later, in 1913, the parish undertook an eight month remodeling of the whole interior of the church, especially the sanctuary, renewing the ceiling, painting the walls, erecting a new set of artistic stations of the cross, and putting in stained glass windows, all at a cost of $12,000.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church is now undergoing another huge restoration and repair project which  was started in 2011 after an earthquake.  A survey of the church interior had been done in 2010 but, when small pieces of plaster fell during the quake, conditions needing attention were brought to light.  Engineers and architects who visited the church to determine the damage related to this event discovered additional problems that needed attention.  An assessment was done by the engineers and they were able to come to a number that it would take to complete.  Their rough estimate was approximately $3,000,000. 

As is the case with old buildings, each time a phase is started, something new needs to be done, so there is no firm figure of what the actual cost.  Although, as part of El Corazon de Trinidad Historic District, the parish is able to receive grant money from the Colorado Historical Fund to help with this project, that amount is only a portion of what is needed to accomplish the restoration.  A restoration fund has been established.  

Ordinarily, projects begin from the ground up, and foundation stabilization is certainly a concern, since the sandstone foundation continues to deteriorate each winter.  Unfortunately, what falls from the ceiling tends to get your attention, so this project started from the ceiling down.  In February of 2016, work was begun on repairing the central dome of the cross-shaped church.

According to business manager John Pearce, the next phase of the project will be the repair and replacement of the roof, damaged in recent hail storms, and of failing gutters which now dump onto the foundation, further exacerbating deterioration.  The roof will be covered by insurance, but a grant will be applied for to replace the gutters.  Tuck pointing and grouting of the exterior walls will come next.

One special gift to the Most Holy Trinity renovation has been the repair of over a dozen antique statues by local artist E.R.A. McCarthey.  Dating from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the statues were missing parts, had been hastily repaired with whatever was on hand, and had been previously repainted with house paint.

McCarthey began work on the statues in November of 2016.  She has finished 13  and still has 12 apostles left to do.  With each, she will learn the iconography, colors, and symbols associated with that saint, and will restore the statue to its original glory using the historic painting techniques of the Italian community where it was produced.  She expects they will be done by the end of this month.  Occasionally, she has found through her research of the iconography, that a statue, venerated for years as one saint, is actually a different saint.  

She says her house is like a church sometimes, and her three children have become accustomed to new “friends” in the house. One happy result of all these long hours with the saints is that McCarthey is now preparing, under the instruction of Sister Regina Marie, to enter the Catholic Church.  Raised Southern Baptist, McCarthey calls herself the Gerber baby for the Equal Rights Amendment, and yes, that’s what her name stands for.  Her mother was a delegate to Washington for the E.R.A.

Just as Easter has arrived, Most Holy Trinity itself is rising, thanks to the labors of love of many parishioners, old and new.  They will certainly have much to celebrate. 

Published previously in the Huerfano World Journal, 4/13/17. Reproduced by permission.