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

Compiled by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the July 30, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

From the Inland Register
Volume 17 – No. 49
50 Years Ago: July 17, 1959

Parish Histories: Founded to Serve Italian Immigrants

Some 70 years ago, a group of young Italian farm workers migrated to the Walla Walla Valley, liked what they saw, and decided to stay. Their letters to Italy praising the new “promised land” started a sizeable migration of other Italian men and women in the area. Brides came too – young women often betrothed to their men in Walla Walla before ever meeting them. The new land, as they were to discover, was not all milk and honey and golden streets. There were hardships. But these first settlers were hardy souls – and even the arranged marriages prospered.

Among those first settlers were Frank Saturno, Carl Bono, Joe Taschi, Charles Criscola, Genero Criscola, Natali Magnoni, Joe Columbo, Anthony Locati, and John Arbini. Many of these names still abound in the area.

Those among them who had transportation could attend Mass at St. Patrick Church – but in the years until the Italian community had a church of its own, Mass was often said in the homes – often on the big porches or on the lawns.

Then in 1914, Bishop Augustine Schinner visited the community and decided to establish a parish for that national group. A year later the new St. Francis of Assisi Church was completed on 10th and Alder. Seating accommodated 100 – and the Italians were deeply grateful.

Dedicated on the Feast of All Saints in 1915, St. Francis was not only their “own” church, but there was an Italian-born pastor there as well, Father M. Romauld Balducci. Now for the immigrants floundering in the English linguistic seas came sermons in their own tongue.

Some 98 families made up the new parish – a list that has grown to 438 during the past 44 years.

In 1930, Father Balducci organized the St. Ann Altar Society – and Italian wives, who seldom ventured from their homes, were delighted to attend these meetings – first held in member’s homes, later in St. Vincent Academy, currently in the parish hall.

With Father Balducci’s death in 1936, Rome-educated Father James Lynch became pastor and he, too, could read and write in the Italian tongue.

In 1938, Msgr. Hugo Pautler became pastor of the Italian parish and the new St. Francis Church was built, with accommodation for 500 persons. Distinguished for the dignity of its appointments, its lighting, and the beauty of its rare stained-glass windows, it was blessed on Nov. 26, 1939, by Bishop Charles D. White. Msgr. Pautler, too, was at home with the Italian language. During his tenure, a strong and active CYO was organized in the parish. The adults had great confidence in him and love for him – during his frequent visits to their homes he shared a glass of wine or visited with the families as they harvested their onion crops.

In September of 1942, Msgr. Pautler was transferred to the Holy Family Church in Clarkston, and Father Albert Austen was appointed pastor. Father Austen’s great ambition to provide parochial school education for St. Francis’s children was realized when he purchased several busses to transport the youngsters to St. Patrick.

A second dream of Father Austen’s – a new parish house – was realized in April of 1950.

With the passing of years, the tradition of the Italian community are fast disappearing, but the people’s generosity, hospitality, and respect for their pastors and church are constant.

From the Inland Register
Volume 42 – No. 4
25 Years Ago: Aug. 21, 1984

From the Archives

by Father Edward Kowrach

(The following is a resume of the history of the Catholic Church in the Walla Walla area, taken from the History of the Catholic Church and Schools in Washington by Rev. W.J. Metz.)

From the beginning, Walla Walla was a strong center of Catholicity. Scarcely two years had elapsed since his arrival, when Father John Baptiste Brouillet urgently called for assistance. But Bishop Blanchet could only temporarily relieve him. Father Aegidus Junger went to his aid in 1884 and had to be recalled to Vancouver six months later. That same year, St. Vincent Academy for girls was successfully opened and placed in the charge of the Sisters of Providence.

The Walla Walla district embraced the whole southeastern part of the present State of Washington, and extended as far as the Lapwai mission of the Jesuit Fathers.

With the exception of a short vacation in 1967, when the arrival of Father John B. Brondel in the diocese made a substitution possible, Father Brouillet, relying on the kindness of the Jesuit Fathers at Lapwai in his farthest missions, labored alone in this large territory for more than eight years. In 1870, he received his first permanent assistant in Father Thomas Duffy, who subsequently became his successor.

Two years later we find Father Brouillet in the interests of the Northwestern Indians at Washington, D.C., where he helped to organize, and became the first director of, the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.

After Father Brouillet’s departure, Father Duffy was placed in charge of the Walla Walla district. Like his predecessor, he also had to depend in his missions on the kindness of the Jesuit Fathers at Lapwai, until the arrival of new missionaries enabled the bishop to make more adequate arrangements for the missions in southeastern Washington.

In 1878, the Walla Walla district finally received two additional priests: Fathers Michael Flohr, to assist Father Duffy at Walla Walla, and Peter Poaps, to take charge of the missions.

With the able assistance of Father Flohr, who succeeded him after his death in 1884, Father Duffy immediately proceeded to the erection of St. Mary Hospital in 1879, which he entrusted to the Sisters of Providence, and to the construction of a new brick church, which he dedicated to St. Patrick in 1881.

Meanwhile, Father Poaps had established himself at Pomeroy and organized the new district extending over the present counties of Asotin, Garfield and Columbia. The following year (1879), another missionary, Father M. Cesar, was sent into the same territory and located in Uniontown to take care of the Catholics in Whitman County.

(Father Caswell is archivist and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane, and a regular contributor to this publication.)

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