History of St. Ignatius Parish
The earliest dates on the history of our church community dates back to 1881. The Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad had been completed with which allowed train travel. However, padres on horseback made the circuit to settlements in the surrounding areas, which inlcuded Ignacio, Tiffany, Allison, Arboles, Rosa, Pagosa Junction and Durango. As there was no permanent structure, Mass was said in private home or out in the open.
As the church community grew, it became apparent that some type of permanent structure was needed. In 1898, a small clapboard church was erected at the same location of our present church. At this time the church community was made up of mostly Native Americans and the only standing buildings in the immediate area were the Agency, the train depot, and the church (See photo dated 1898 – 1917).
On May 15, 1903, the location became official when application from the Roman Catholic Church was made to the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, to set aside three acres for missionary purposes. On June 5, 1903, permission was granted to set aside a tract of land to house church buildings.
In 1906, Sacred Heart Church was erected in Durango, Colorado, and the church in Ignacio became a mission under the priests assigned to that church, which was the Theatine Order. The Catholic population continued to increase and by 1917 a new church was necessary. Adobe bricks were prepared and set in order by local talent. (See photo’s dated 1918-1977)
On March 20, 1961, permission was granted for the church to place a parish hall on the premises. A parish hall was made possible by salvaging the local railroad station.
In 1975, a missionary priest, Father Donald Castonguay, from the Order of Divine Word Missionaries, approach Bishop Buswell about serving this community. On April 5, 1976, the parish began the new experience of having a full time priest.
In 1976 planning began and in 1980 permission was granted by the Bishop of Pueblo, for the construction of a new church. The church was completed in 1981, and a dedication ceremony, presided by Bishop Tafoya, was held on September 20, 1981. The bell tower from the old church refused to come down in the demolition, so it was preserved and still remains.
In July 1988, while under the direction of Fr. William Groves, St. Ignatius Church was declared a parish by Bishop Arthur Tafoya. St. Bartholomew of Bayfield and St. Peter St. Rosa of Arboles were now missions of St. Ignatius.
On September 1, 1995, a much needed rectory was built on Becker Street. A new rectory was needed if we were going to attract and keep a priest in our church. In 1997, Rev. Edward Andary was appointed as pastor for St. Ignatius Church and its missions – St. Bartholomew, Bayfield and St. Peter St. Rosa, Arboles. During his tenure Fr. Eddy was instrumental in getting a new education building (Tekakwitha Center) and in 2003 plans for a new parish hall began. The old railroad station that was serving as the parish hall was sold and removed. On December 12, 2003, Fr. Eddy passed so the parish agreed to dedicate the new parish hall in his memory. On April 12, 2004, Bishop Arthur Tafoya dedicated “Andary Hall.”
Today our parish is served by Fr. Cesar Arras, C.R. who is a member of the Theatine Order. Fr. Cesar made his solemn profession on September 17, 2017 and was ordained to the diaconate in Colorado Springs by Bishop Emeritus Richard Hanifen on December 29, 2017. On December 15, 2018 her was ordained as a priest. He has been serving St. Ignatius Parish since August 2019. He brings a new energy to our parish and we are so grateful to have him in our church community and the community of Ignacio.