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. Mary’s Presentation, Deer Park: ‘The parish community is just astounding’

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the March 20, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Members describe St. Mary’s Presentation Parish, Deer Park, as family-oriented. (IR photo)

St. Mary’s Presentation Parish in Deer Park is a simple country parish north of Spokane. But this simple country parish has a generous heart, one that not only keeps giving but looks for ways to give.

For example, the parish quickly reached its goal for the 2003 Annual Catholic Appeal, and then went over by 20 percent. The parish usually surpasses its ACA goal, and earned a special award from the diocesan Development Office because of it.

Another example: Father Al Grasher, the pastor, made a request at recent Masses for clothes for the Greenhouse, a Deer Park agency that serves low-income people. Parishioners surprised the Greenhouse staff with their many visits to bring clothing.

The giving continues with a food drive during Lent. Parishioners have been asked to bring food items to Mass during the church’s penitential season. Deacon Dan Ritchie took four boxes of food to the Greenhouse just from the Masses on Ash Wednesday. “I’ve got stuff to take again now,” he said, “from the past weekend Masses.” Deacon Ritchie began his assignment in the parish Dec. 2.

Father Grasher and Deacon Ritchie serve in a parish that was founded by Jesuits, served by Franciscans and now is staffed by the diocese. An article printed in the Inland Register in 1962, the parish’s 50th anniversary year, tells the details.

Catholics in the area were first served by Jesuit priests from Gonzaga College (now university). In 1910 Jesuit Father Balthasar Feisi, who was pastor at Chewelah, made a monthly trip to Deer Park to say Mass in a place called “Kelley’s hall.”

Pioneer Catholic F.J. Reuthinger donated the land at Fourth and Main for a church. The first contribution for the church building fund came from a Jewish merchant in Chewelah by the name of Emmanuel Oppenheimer. He gave $10, a princely sum in those days.

The first church was built in 1912. It was constructed of cement blocks in the style traditional for those years. Among its distinctive features are huge stained glass windows.

The Jesuits continued to serve until 1916, when the Franciscans came to the parish. The cemetery was acquired in 1930, the parish hall in 1931, and the rectory in 1952.

The Franciscans headed the parish until 1968 when, because of a shortage of priests in their order, they had to reorganize their mission in the Pacific Northwest. Pastor at that time was Franciscan Father Julian Girardot. He had served the parish almost 12 years.

The first diocesan pastor was Father (now Monsignor) John Donnelly. The pastor who served the longest was Father Edward Caffrey, who ministered in Deer Park for 19 years. Father Grasher replaced him in July 2002.

The parish counts about 200 families in its census. The parishioners overflow their small church at the three weekend Masses. Any event in the hall is crowded as well. Even though there are dividers, the religious education classes that meet in the hall have to whisper, said Father Grasher, to keep from bothering their neighbors. Deacon Ritchie said some classes meet in the rectory. The junior high meets in the local funeral home.

Discussion has started on the possibility of building a new church and hall. Parishioners filled out surveys this month about the issue. In addition to the property at Fourth and Main, the parish owns about 10 acres of property to the east, where Holy Redeemer Cemetery is located.

The current church is located four blocks from Deer Park’s downtown business district. The old church stood to the north, where the rectory is now situated. “We built the new church first,” said Joe Krizanic, who is pastoral council president. “Then we tore down the old church and built the rectory there.”

Krizanic recalled the old church “as a beautiful place,” but as is the case with many churches, the parish community outgrew the building.

Also, said former parishioner Al Fackenthall, who was on the parish building committee during that time, “it wasn’t fuel efficient.” Fackenthall had first-hand knowledge of fuel use at the church. Since he lived close by, he would build the fires to heat the building for Masses and other events.

Fackenthall recalled that some parts of the old church were reused. The new roof that had been put on the old church was salvaged and hauled about five miles down to Dennison and put on a building there. Some of the windows from the old church were also saved, to be scaled down and placed into the new structure.

The new church was built and furnished in 1968 at a total cost of almost $75,000. The work went quickly because of its simple design. Father Donnelly was pastor then. The church was dedicated by the late Bishop Bernard Topel on Dec. 8, 1968, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The church reflects the simplicity of the country lifestyle. To the right of the entry doors is a brick panel. On the panel is a wire rendering of the Blessed Mother. Next to it is the parish name: St. Mary’s Presentation. Both were made by Johannes Herzog, Fackenthall’s son-in-law.

Entering the church foyer is to enter a bright red luminescent space. The west wall of the foyer is built mostly of red windows and even on a cloudy day, they cast a warm, reddish glow. A large window on the east wall of the gathering space allows people to continue their participation at Mass if they should need to leave the nave for any reason.

The back wall of the sanctuary has a panel of alternating wood and gold foil strips. Near the top of the panel is a larger-than-life-size Risen Christ, one of the first to be placed in a diocesan church. The tabernacle is located on this wall and two wider wooden strips are angled toward it, giving an extra emphasis.

The church interior seems barren right now but that’s because of Lent. The statues and Risen Christ have been covered with purple cloth and other decorations have been removed. At other times in the liturgical year, three-tiered stands of green, growing plants are situated on either side of the sanctuary. And fresh flowers are always placed by Mary’s statue.

Three sets of two stained glass windows from the old church help illuminate the south wall. Each set has a different pattern. A sliding door on the north wall of the church opens to allow access to the parish hall if additional seating is needed.

About 75 young people attend religious education classes in the parish. The groups meet on Sunday mornings, before and after the Masses. The high school group, led by Father Grasher, is sponsoring two Lenten soup suppers during the season. The high schoolers also plan to attend the Catholic Youth Celebration in Spokane this coming weekend.

Fackenthall remembered that the parish had a group called the St. Mary’s Helpers, a girls’ social group started by Father Eugene Mulligan. “He took the bunch out to dinner at a nice restaurant at Shadle Park (in Spokane) and for some, it was the first time they had ever been out to dinner,” he said. The parish has had Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls, too.

The parish altar society held its first evening meeting recently, which was a “Recognition Night” for parish volunteers. Author and teacher Kathy Finley of Spokane was a special guest and there was “a good turnout,” said Nola Koesel.

“We have a good mixture of all ages,” said Judy Koesel, Nola’s sister-in-law. She has been in the parish since 1951. “There are a lot of families and it’s very family-oriented.” In addition, she said, “lots of them are willing to work for the parish, whatever is needed, mowing, refurbishing....”

She remembered that space for religious education was cramped in earlier days, too. “I even felt sorry for the priest; his house was so tiny,” she said.

Deacon Ritchie, who is still getting familiar with his new parish, appreciates their generosity. As soon as his assignment was put in the bulletin, along with his e-mail address, he started getting e-mails welcoming him to the parish. “The parish community is just astounding, “ he said, “not only at church but in and of itself where they live.”

Pastoral council president Krizanic said he likes “knowing everyone, when someone is sick...” or has other needs or joys. “That’s what nice about it.” What’s also nice is that his parish is “very giving,” and he sees that as the greatest of his community’s strengths.

Karen Hathaway has been in the parish six years and she likes its small size. She also likes the parish’s “solidarity and how everyone pulls together. They know each other and help each other,” she said.

“They’re good down-to-earth folks,” said parishioner Ann Winkler. “I like the giving hearts and how the parish is quietly humble about what they do.” Many people have to drive some distance to get to Mass “in all kinds of weather,” she said, “but we do it. We take pride in our parish and we’re excited about the future.”


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