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

St. Paschal Parish: a place for a ‘strong encounter with God’s Spirit’

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Aug. 23, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

St. Paschal Church, located at Park and Marietta in the Spokane Valley, was quiet on a recent Thursday afternoon — reverently quiet. Eucharistic Adoration is held at the church each Thursday and people come to pray throughout the day and into the evening. Eucharistic Adoration is most fitting in a parish named for St. Paschal Baylon, a Franciscan brother in 16th-century Spain who was deeply devoted to the Real Presence.

The parish was started in 1916, only two years after the Spokane Diocese was formed. Bishop Augustine Schinner, Spokane’s first bishop, asked the Franciscans in California to assist him in his efforts to establish parishes. Three Franciscans answered the bishop’s call. Among them was Father Capistran Damek. To him went the territory in the Spokane Valley that became St. Paschal Parish.

The official parish starting date was July 9, 1916, and the first Mass was offered July 16 in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Stolz. The parish history lists the names of the 27 people — including the choir — who attended that first Mass.

Father Capistran, described as an experienced builder, wasted no time preparing to erect a church. His first step was to buy property. Parish records state he purchased a 156x335-foot parcel, between Trent Avenue and the Spokane Valley, near what is now Felts Field, for $800.

St. Paschal parishioners continued to worship at the Stolz home until November when, thanks to parish volunteers, the church was completed. The crew included the hardy Father Capistran. He dug the basement with a team and plow and when it was finished, he wrote, “I am mighty glad it is over. My bones and muscles need a rest.”

Bishop Schinner dedicated the new church on Nov. 30, 1916 — Thanksgiving Day that year.

In 1938 parishioners decided to build their own school. They also made another important decision: that their church was no longer centrally located in parish territory. Father Frederick Bromham was now pastor. He paid $800 for the first parcel of property, two acres at Vermont and Park. The two-room school opened in 1940 with 42 students. Other rooms were added on in 1942.

< Other adjoining properties with homes were later purchased for a rectory and a convent. Eventually a new church would be built in that location.

The simple wooden church near the airport was used until 1943, when it was leased to the government. It was later sold, boosting the parish’s next egg dedicated to a new church. Parishioners attended Sunday Mass in a chapel in the basement of the school for 11 years until they could build again.

The dream was realized in 1953-54. Franciscan Father Edgar Sever was pastor when the new church was built, again with much volunteer labor. Carroll Martell of Spokane was the architect. The church was designed in European style with high ceilings and tall narrow windows “to draw the mind and heart to God.” It was dedicated by Bishop Charles D. White on March 20, 1954.

New windows, made of acrylic, were installed in 1998. Image Quest of Greenacres used computers to design the 12 windows, plus the beautiful rose window in the choir loft. The designs were then etched onto the window material. The rose window with the Holy Spirit in the center is the same design as a rose window in St. Peter Basilica in Rome.

The church and school are connected by a breezeway, and a glance at a parish bulletin shows that many activities are connected with the school. The parish also operates a busy day care center.

The Franciscans staffed St. Paschal for over 50 years. When they left in 1968, Father John Prince became the parish’s first diocesan priest pastor. The present pastor, Father Dan Wetzler, was assigned there in 1992.

Besides his parish duties, Father Wetzler is the co-liaison for the Charismatic Renewal in the Spokane Diocese. That position has had an impact on the parish. St. Paschal parishioners have demonstrated throughout their history that they are committed, dedicated Catholics with a willing spirit of volunteerism. However, their spirituality and commitment deepened with the greater understanding of the renewal and its “life in the Spirit.” This is expressed in parish worship which is lively and exuberant, with plenty of music, singing and sometimes even dancing. It’s also expressed by parishioners’ service to others.

The altar society, started by Father Capistran in 1916, and its many guilds are very active as they continue to serve parish needs. The parish’s Knights of Columbus Council has about 50 members and there is never a lack of volunteers for a KC project. Eucharistic Adoration is held weekly; several small faith-sharing groups meet regularly. Daily Mass has good attendance.

Olive Harrison has been in the parish 63 years. She counted parish volunteers recently, and, to her surprise, discovered that 100 people were involved with some kind of ministry that week, from assisting at Mass to social outreach.

Harrison herself is one of those volunteers. She helps make quilts for charitable organizations such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society and belongs to a small faith-sharing group. “It’s a great parish,” she said. “We’ve had lots of improvements, physically and spiritually.”

Teenager Shannon Davis is a newcomer to St. Paschal and to Catholicism. She said she likes being “part of the church; everyone is friendly and happy.” She’s a volunteer, too, and helps out by serving at Mass.

Frank Cheyney is the Grand Knight of the parish KC council and chairman of the finance council. He has been in St. Paschal Parish for four-and-a-half years. He was away from his Catholic faith for some years, but found his church home in the St. Paschal parish community. “They are a group of loving, caring, good, solid people who feel a love for God and for each other. There’s a strong encounter with God’s spirit,” he said.

Living out the Gospel — how that is done — is important in the parish, he said. “It’s not just going to church each week and that’s it, but that we’re here to serve.”

Said long-time parishioner Vivian Gregson, a co-president of the altar society: “We’ve kept the old, but we’re not afraid to try the new.” As a physical example, an immersion baptismal font was built by parish men at the south entrance to the church, incorporating marble from the church’s old altar. On the spiritual side, worship at St. Paschal is animated and joyful, yet the reverence of parishioners and their appreciation of tradition shines through.

Gregson summed it up: “It’s a jewel of a church.”

Inland Register archives

© The Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved