Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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. Francis Xavier Parish to celebrate centennial on Dec. 2

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Nov. 15, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Jesuit Father James Rebmann was the first pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Spokane. (IR photo from St. Francis Xavier Parish, courtesy of the Jesuit Oregon Province Archives, Gonzaga University, Spokane)

Last winter, Yvonne Moen and Peggy Cloke, of Spokane’s St. Francis Xavier Parish, spent weeks poking around in archival materials at Gonzaga University’s Foley Library and in the archives of the Diocese of Spokane.

The two women searched for anything they could find to include in a book to commemorate the centennial celebration of their parish. “We put a notice in the parish bulletin looking for old photographs,” Yvonne Moen said, “but we didn’t get any response.”

St. Francis Xavier was founded as a Jesuit parish in 1906, and the first parish church, located at the corner of Byrne Avenue and Standard Street, opened in November of that year. The founding pastor was Jesuit Father James Rebmann.

“Faith and determination were behind the building of the first St. Francis Xavier Church,” states an anonymously authored brief historical essay on the parish. “It was organized by a group of ‘Black Robes’ from Gonzaga University, headed by Father Rebmann in 1906…. When the site of our original church was chosen in Lidgerwood Park, there were dirt roads and few homes. In the winter the streets turned to mud, and dust in the summer. The first Mass was celebrated Nov. 25, 1906, on the feast of St. Catherine…. By 1909 there were 450 members.”

In 1918, Father Rebmann acquired land for a new church at the corner of Standard and Providence streets, site of the current church. In 1922, Father Rebmann celebrated his golden jubilee as a priest, and on this occasion he turned over the parish to the Diocese of Spokane.

The Great Depression and World War II prevented new construction, however, and it wasn’t until 1950 that a new church was completed. Bishop Charles White laid the cornerstone in 1949 for the church and rectory, which have now served the parish for 56 years.

A booklet published in 1981 for the parish’s 75th anniversary included a list of significant events in the history of the parish, among them: “The first couple married in the (original St. Francis Xavier) church: James T. Brennan and Alice A. O’Connor (March 16, 1907)…. The first baby baptized in the old church: Edward Aloysius Xavier Hanley (Dec. 6, 1906).”

The official observance of the centennial will be Sunday, Dec. 2, with Mass in the morning and dinner in the afternoon, said Cloke.

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