When St. Bernadette Parish was created on July 2, 1947, Archbishop Vehr had already acquired a five-acre oat field near Wadsworth Boulevard, which houses the parish plant to this day.
Father John J. Doherty, a native of Killarney, County Kerry, was transferred from Cripple Creek to establish the first Catholic church in Lakewood. “We charge you in a special manner with the responsibility of seeking out all the lapsed Catholics,” Archbishop Vehr wrote in his July 3, 1947, letter assigning Father Doherty to Lakewood, and “to have a special solicitude for all the non-Catholics.”
While making plans for a church, Father Doherty began saying Masses on August 17, 1947, at West 11th Avenue and Balsam Street in a small Veterans of Foreign Wars hall guarded by a huge howitzer. The veterans were glad to rent the hall for $15 on Sunday mornings provided no one moved the pool tables. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as parishioners found the tables ideal for changing diapers and as cots for sleeping babies.