Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Assumption Parish, Spokane, closes golden jubilee year celebration
the Inland Register
(From the Aug. 20, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Msgr. John Donnelly, pastor of Assumption Parish from 1976-87, breaks ground for the parish church on Aug. 15, 1978, the 20th anniversary of the parish. (IR photos courtesy of Assumption Parish, Spokane)
In Oktoberfest style, Spokane’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish has closed out its golden anniversary year. Honoring the Blessed Virgin at a special Mass on her feast day, The Assumption (Aug. 15), the parish gathered August 16 for a special parish-wide celebration after the last Sunday Mass.
By special decree on Aug. 15, 1958, Bishop Bernard J. Topel, the third Bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, formally established what was at the time one of nearly a dozen new parishes in the Spokane area. Anticipating an expanding population to Spokane’s northwest and seeking to meet the future needs of the local Church, Bishop Topel called on the faithful to “gather around the Eucharist and to commit their resources to fostering the Catholic Faith in new and creative ways. Your community should be known for its witness to faith and especially its concern for the poor.” The new parish on the ancient travel way of the original Americans (Indian Trail Road) took up the challenge and has been flourishing ever since.
History has not disappointed Bishop’s Topel’s dreams. During its first several months, the new community gathered in Westview School for Sunday Mass. Founding parishioner Leonard Riley notes that the (then) single 8 a.m. Mass was referred to as the “Irishman Mass.” Since then the parish has lost its Irish character and from the original 240 families “sliced off” from neighboring St. Charles Parish to form the new parish, has expanded to a present roster of nearly 1,000 families. Since its beginning hundreds of other families have come and gone, following careers, business obligations and family needs.
Since 1958, parishioners have constructed a K-8th grade school (doubling for years as its worship space), a gymnasium/social hall, rectory, office building, a large church building, and middle school classroom wing. Over the years parishioners themselves donated time, talent and even materials to see their dreams come true. On the first anniversary of the parish (Aug. 15, 1959), the community gathered for Eucharist in their own (school) facility where the Dominican Sisters from Kettle Falls started a lasting tradition of educating and forming the children of the parish in the light of the Gospel.
Bishop Bernard J. Topel presides at the groundbreaking ceremony at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Spokane, in April 1959, anticipating construction of a school building which also would serve for many years as the parish church. Assisting him at left is Father Edward Caffrey. Standing at far right is Father Ralph Schwemin, Assumption’s first pastor.
One parishioner observes, “More important than all the construction has been the building up of the Body of Christ that has taken place here at Assumption all these years. Buildings are wood, stone and mortar. The parishioners are the flesh and bone of the living Gospel.”
When he established the parish, Bishop Topel appointed Father Ralph Schwemin as its first pastor. Long-retired from active ministry, Father Schwemin still speaks with affection and pride about his years of service to the Assumption community. He has since been succeeded by six other pastors – one of whom, Father William Skylstad, by unique circumstances, became the chief shepherd of the diocese in 1990 – and 11 parochial vicars. The parish currently is served by Father Michael Savelesky, pastor; Father Lucas Tomson, parochial vicar; and Deacon Kelly Stewart. Sonia Flores-Davis is school principal; Emily Klein, Director of Religious Education; and Wendy Thomas, parish secretary/administrator.
In closing out the jubilee year, Father Savelesky said to parishioners, “Fifty is no small measure of years. When it comes to people, it’s over half their normal lifetime. As with individuals, a certain sense of maturity grips the heart in mid-life; different decisions need to be made and long-exiting commitments call for renewed affirmation. Assumption Parish does not escape the challenge of moving to deeper faith and greater commitment. We learn from the past, cherishing its blessings and seeking to avoid repeating its errors.
“Time does not just move on, as if a heavenly clock were merely measuring out another 50 years for our parish,” he said. “Time is the plane of God’s expanding grace. The people of God at Assumption Parish are challenged to do more than just continue programs or create new ones. Like every faith community, we together are called to remain open to the Spirit and our responsibility to incarnate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the service of others. In many ways our mission has just begun! Just imagine what some future gathering of the Church will have to say about our next 50 years!”
Joyce Duclos is one of those original parishioners transferred from St. Charles Parish to the new Assumption. Like so many parishioners over the years, she and her late husband, Ray, were active in various ministries of the altar, Religious Education, school support, Altar Society, men’s group, fund raisers, bereavement ministry, and all the occasional physical upkeep projects related to the parish facilities. She seems to capture well the spirit of many parishioners: “I have always been proud of Assumption Parish. I plan on being here until God calls me home!”
The mission of the Church at Assumption Parish truly does continue. A glance at the weekly Sunday bulletin identifies more than a score of ministries and activities in addition to the sacramental life of the parish. Since its beginning, the community of the faithful has known the pain of birth. In 2002 a “slice” of Assumption Parish was added to a similar parcel from Mary Presentation Parish (Deer Park) to form the new Our Lady of the Lake Parish in the Tum Tum/Suncrest area.