Steamboat bids farewell to Father Ernest as he heads to Northglenn
This weekend, as Rev. Ernest Bayer leads Mass at Holy Name Catholic Church in Steamboat Springs, there is little doubt that he will focus on delivering a positive message to the parish he has led for 17 years.
“He strongly believes in God’s merciful love for all of us, for everybody, for every person,” said Betsy Johnson, office manager and pastoral assistant. “That’s the thing that strikes me because that enables him to look for and see the best in everybody … I’ve never heard him saying anything but positive things about anybody.”
Saturday and Sunday’s masses will be Bayer’s final masses at the Steamboat sanctuary located at 524 Oak St., and the last chance the local parish of about 650 families has to say goodbye to the man who has been with them through the good times, and bad. Bayer is headed to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a parish of more than 6,000 families in Northglenn, Colorado.
Bayer has been a priest for 21 years, and has spent 20 of those years in the Yampa Valley. He spent three years living in Craig where he served three Catholic churches including St. Michael in Craig, Holy Family in Meeker and St. Ignatius in Rangely. He came to Steamboat and the Holy Name Catholic Church in 2005, and also served parishioners at Saint Martin of Tours in Oak Creek.
Earlier this year, the Archdiocese of Denver asked Bayer to step in at the Immaculate Heart of Mary after the reverend there had to step down because of health problems.
It’s a tough move for Bayer who will not only leave his family at Holy Name, but his sister Wendy Dillon, who moved to Steamboat, and his parents, who are in their 80s and live at Casey’s Pond Senior Living. He also has two brothers that live outside of Steamboat Springs.
Those who have come to know Bayer over the years, however, are not surprised that he prefers to focus on the positive, and how blessed he has been to serve in a place like Steamboat Springs.
“I’m willing to share this beautiful community, this beautiful place and it’s beautiful parish with the next guy, and to let him be blessed by it,” Bayer said. “I was blessed by it for 17 years and I don’t want to claim in a selfish way. I need to share it to share, and in God’s time he’s sending the person that he wants to enjoy this place and be blessed by it, but also to move it forward with his gifts, with what he wants to bring and where he wants to move it. God only knows, but I was here for the time when God wanted me here to do what he wanted me to do.”
During that time, Bayer touched many people in the community. Not only those who walked through his doors to hear God’s messages, but many who did not attend the church.
“He’s truly going to be missed, for sure,” said Mitch Locke, who has owned the Yampa Valley Funeral Home for nearly two decades. “He was a very good minister, he was always there to help every family and I will utterly miss him.”
Locke often witnessed Bayer’s kindness as he dealt with grieving families at the lowest points. He was moved by the love, support and guidance that Bayer provided to everyone that needed it.
“He’s just a great guy,” Locke said. “Over the years, I like to think that we were good friends. He was a great person to talk to, he was always helpful and just had a huge heart, and was always willing to help wherever he could.”
Bayer remains modest when it comes to talking about what Holy Name Catholic Church has accomplished under his leadership. During his time in Steamboat, Holy Name started fundraising and built a new $9.3 million dollar sanctuary.
“When I got here the ground had been tilled, so to speak,” Bayer said. “The people were ready, and they knew we needed a bigger church. I just happened to be the one here, when it came time to get it done … it was a great team of people working together. Parishioners and committees, everyone worked together. It wasn’t just me. I was just sort of leading the way.”
Bayer’s leadership spilled out the doors of his church, and into the community.
Bayer was also involved in Steamboat Ministerial Alliance, Exploring the Sacred and served on the board of LiftUp Routt County for many years. Bayer is also carrying on the legacy of the late Father Tom Dentici — who provided the idea and seed money — by being supportive and working closing with Holy Names’ own charitable effort, Operation Good Shepherd.
Additionally, Bayer joined efforts with Ernest Richardson and the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra for a number of presentations including Joseph Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis (Mass for troubled times), Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D-minor and two performances of the opera Amahl and the Night Visitors.
“God loves you, and he has a plan for your life,” Bayer said. “He loves you and wants you to have freedom and peace and joy and life everlasting. I would hope that people feel like — somehow — I was an instrument of that message for them.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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