From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Holy Family Parish: ‘Catholic means community’

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Aug. 2, 2001 edition of the Inland Register

The city of Lewiston, which is in Idaho, and the city of Clarkston, which is in Washington, sit right next to each other on opposite banks of the Snake River which separates their respective states.

Among the area’s pioneers were the Jesuits, including Father Joseph Cataldo, who established St. Stanislaus Church in Lewiston in 1867. In those days Clarkston Catholics traveled to Lewiston twice a month for Mass, but before long, as pioneers continued to make their way into the Snake River Valley, they requested that Mass be offered in their community.

The Catholic church in Clarkston was built in 1903 under the guidance of Father H. Post, a Jesuit who purchased two lots at the intersection of Chestnut and 11th streets. The two-story building featured brick veneer and cost $2,800. The church proper was on the second floor; the first floor was for the school. It was the first Catholic church in Asotin County. The Jesuits made the trip over from Lewiston each Sunday to offer Mass.

Not many years passed before the congregation outgrew its building and a larger structure became necessary. Father V. Chiappa, also a Jesuit, drew up plans for the second church. This wood frame building cost $4,500. It was constructed next door to the old building. Historic photos from that time show them side by side.

The larger church was completed and dedicated in 1915. As with the first church, volunteer labor built the church; the money paid only for materials.

Before the church was completed in 1913, however, the Spokane Diocese was formed. The east side of Washington state, including Clarkston, was placed in the new diocese. The first bishop, Augustin Schinner, designated Holy Family Church as a parish on May 24, 1915. He also named Father F.X. Stemper as the first pastor.

Attempts were made to start a school, but when Father Stemper was unable to obtain teachers it closed after only a short time. His successor, Father E.A. Jordan, succeeded in getting teachers in 1921 when, after much pleading, the School Sisters of Notre Dame answered his call. Today the school, with a rising enrollment of 140, is still an important element of parish life.

Over 40 years went by before plans were made for a third, much larger church. Construction began in 1962 on property on Chestnut Street, kitty-corner from the school.

The building is round, featuring prefabricated slabs of white concrete, punctuated by brilliant stained glass windows made by the Gabriel Loire firm of Chartres, France. One source states the church cost $250,000; another, $320,000. Whatever the price, the new structure was dedicated by Bishop Bernard Topel on Jan. 12, 1964, the Feast of the Holy Family. Father Albert Austen was pastor.

Today Holy Family Parish has about 645 families, most of whom are depicted in a colorful directory published last year.

If a short phrase could be used to describe the parish, it would be “a strong, solid family.” To look through the directory is to become aware of the many families whose children and grandchildren are also members of the parish.

Lloyd and Helen Hogden returned to Holy Family Parish after living in Lewiston for 10 years. Lloyd said the ideal of family could be seen in the parish’s care and concern for the young and the ill and elderly. “They’re very caring,” he said. “And they are strong supporters of the school.” He added that the parish was changing at present, with new families moving in.

Holy Names Sister Irene Knopes of Spokane was a member of the parish for 30 years, first as a married woman with husband and children, later as a widow and then as a Sister on the parish staff.

“I found worship there to be a meaningful experience,” she said. She described the parish as “easy-going. But,” she added, “it’s also very dedicated. They look forward to the future and to serving those younger with great anticipation.”

Wes Clizer has only been in the parish six years. But that’s long enough for him to see that the parish is working “on the Catholic principle, which is that Catholic means community.”

He said much of parish life is related directly to the school. “Third generations of families are passing through,” he said. “Now that we have the (class) pictures hanging in the school, we get a real sense of connection, of where we’ve been and where we are.”

Those connections are fostered by the parish scrapbooks, filled with clippings and photos contributed by parishioners. Two books are full, and a third is in process. What is lacking is information from the church’s Jesuit history, and anyone having information from that time they could share is asked to call the pastor, Father Leonard Forsmann at the parish office, (509) 758-6102.

The parish center, which is the former convent, is also located on Chestnut Street, kitty-corner from the school in the opposite direction from the church.

Father Forsmann, who grew up in Clarkston, has been pastor since 1991. Benedictine Sister Corrinne Forsmann is pastoral associate.

Several other vocations to priesthood and Religious life have come out of the parish, including that of Father John Sand, who is retired in Clarkston, and his brother, the late Benedictine Father Peter Sand.


Snippets of Holy Family history

  • Over 60 years ago, Holy Family Parish had a mission, Sacred Heart, in the small rural community of Peola. Sunday Mass was offered there twice a month, later reduced to once a month. The mission was closed just before the the outbreak of World War II. Before it closed it could claim a bishop from among its people: a Jesuit, Bishop Walter Fitzgerald.
  • Msgr. Hugo Pautler served the most years as pastor, in two different assignments totaling 18 years. He was pastor from 1942-1953, and again from 1968-1975. He retired from active ministry after his second term of service in Clarkston.
  • One parish feature is a somewhat mobile church bell. The bell, which was cast in Oregon in the mid-1800s, had hung in the old church. It had a home at Assumption Parish in Spokane for a number of years. Finally, in 1999 the Knights of Columbus brought the bell home. A sign at the parish tells the bell’s history.
  • A huge event sponsored by the parish in days past was a Vocations Festival. Representatives of Religious orders would come to give out information. Holy Family Parish held three such festivals in the school auditorium in the mid-1960s. The 1965 festival hosted 19 groups, including the White Fathers of Africa. Reports indicate that students were fascinated with the men’s traditional white Religious garb and red fezzes. That festival drew some 2,800 visitors. Everyone in the parish, including the school students, helped with the festivals.

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