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 Sept. 10, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

From the Inland Register
Volume 17 – No. 52
August 7, 1959 — 50 Years Ago

Parish Histories: St. Joseph Founded by Jesuits in 1890

Established in 1890, St. Joseph Parish, 1507 W. Dean Avenue, Spokane, was the direct result of the Jesuits who, until that year, were charged exclusively with the spiritual welfare of the Catholics of Spokane Falls – as the Lilac City was called in those days.

The first modest St. Joseph Church was dedicated on May 15, 1890, by Bishop Aejedius Junger. On May 16, the property on Dean Avenue was transferred to the Diocese of Nisqually (later known as the Seattle Archdiocese) – and the parish comprised all that portion of Spokane east and north of the Spokane River, and west of Howard Street.

With St. Joseph handed over to the diocesan priests, the Jesuit effort did not end – for years, due to a scarcity of assistants, the “Jebbies” from Gonzaga were the semi-official assistants at the parish.

Spokane was growing – and growth forced almost immediate expansion of parish facilities of St. Joseph. Two lots were added to the existing property accommodate expansion, the old wooden church sold for $300 and moved two blocks west, the rectory sold for $200.

By 1903, the new brick veneer at St. Joseph was blessed by Bishop O’Dea.

Next need of the still growing parish was a parochial school – and a brick veneer building (still in use) was erected in 1905. In its early days, it was a substantial three-story combination convent and school and for a time the curriculum included not only the eight primary grades, but a full four year high school course as well.

Growth Fosters Growth

Spokane and St. Joseph Parish continued to grow. By 1909, the church was enlarged to include the present transept and sanctuary. The work barely finished, the extensive territory north of Indiana was lopped from St. Joseph to become a new parish – Holy Ghost and St. Anthony.

The impact of World War I was felt for many years in the growing parish. Belgium-educated Father John de Kanter, first resident pastor of St. Joseph, embarked on a vacation to his native Holland in 1920 after serving his congregation for 25 years. A ruling of the German government forbidding American citizens to travel on Dutch ships forced him to await the Armistice and passage in early 1919 to the U.S. He returned to Spokane – but to St. Ann Parish.

His record at St. Joseph had been impressive — new church, splendid pipe organ, new school and convent, new rectory and auditorium.

Like all “old” parishes, St. Joseph has weathered long years of poverty, disappointment, strife – plus fire. In March of 1922, fire destroyed the third story of the school building which contained the Sister’s apartments, leaving a roofless, water-soaked school. A new convent was erected and ready for occupancy in August of 1923, a two-story brick building at the rear of St. Joseph School.

In 1928, a new auditorium and gymnasium replaced the old wooden structure – a $25,000 venture which raised the parish indebtedness to $49,290.

Then came the Great Depression. Reduction of the debt to the $40,000 mark by September of 1936 represented not only heroic work but real self sacrifice on the part of St. Joseph parishioners.

But loyalty to their parish and hard work to support its needs have been a tradition at St. Joseph. In 1951, parishioners donated seven months of labor remodeling and redecorating the 20-year-old auditorium and paying for new light fixtures and heating plant. Parish Boy Scouts hauled concrete blocks and tiles; helped members of the Altar Society and Home and School Association in the gigantic job of clean up after renovation was completed. In November of that same year, St. Joseph became the first parochial school in Spokane to launch a hot lunch program.

Recently, property adjacent to the school was purchased by the parish, and the houses thereon razed, to provide a playground for the school youngsters.

St. Joseph has many distinguished alumni – among them Jesuit Father Edmund W. Morton, President of Gonzaga University, who offered his first Mass at St. Joseph on July 20, 1947.

Pastors at St. Joseph

Father L. Van Gorp, S.J., Founder: 1890-1891
Father John de Kanter: 1891-1918
Father W. J. Metz, V.G.: 1918-1930
Father John J. Callanan, R.D.: 1930-1936
Father John F. Fahy: 1936 -

From the Inland Register
Volume 42 – No. 5
Sept. 4, 1984 — 25 Years Ago

(A recent news report states that the movie Red Dawn is being remade in Michigan, with the action scenes supposedly taking place in Spokane. The original review of Red Dawn 25 years ago appeared in the Inland Register as written by now-editor Deacon Eric Meisfjord.)

‘Red Dawn’ is macho, right-wing film

How’s your paranoia quotient?

If it’s fairly high – if you see thingies instead of shadows under the bed, and considered Hubert Humphrey a borderline communist, and still believe that the Kennedy family was really just an infiltration plot that’s finally been brought under control – stay away from Red Dawn.

Red Dawn starts off with a bang – almost literally. High school students in Calumet, Colo., are peacefully getting their day in gear when parachutes are seen behind the school building.

Lo and behold, before you can say Rudolf Nureyev – and with just about as much warning – the entire country is under attack from Cuban paratroopers.

(Someday, some theater owner with a sense of humor is going to pair this film with Jonathan Winters’ The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. But then again, maybe not.)

A half-dozen high school students, all of whom speak with backcountry Georgia accents, hop into a pickup truck driven by the school’s quarterback. As they race through town past the invading communist troops, the question arises as to what they’re afraid of: They pass five feet from the fiends, and escape unscathed.

What’s to worry about? Getting tripped?

The group heads for the hills. They stop at a gas station/grocery store/civilian armory along the way and stock up with the usual sorts of things one needs for survival, like sleeping bags, canned foods, guns, ammunition, knives...

They set up camp in the hills. At first, their only goal is survival.

But as they learn first-hand of the atrocities being committed by the invasion forces, they turn guerilla. Once passive survivalists, they are now active terrorists.

The film starts in September. Ostensibly, these kids are hiding out in the mountains of Colorado – exactly where is never specified – but for Colorado mountains there’s purely a paucity of snow, even in December. So much for dreaming of a White Christmas.

There are many points to ponder within the context of Red Dawn. Most of the ideology of this film stands slightly to the right of the Klan. As already noted, there are some problems with realism as well.

Save the politics for another day, another evening around the campfire cleaning and shining the Smith and Wessons.

There are moral issues prevalent here as well. This is not, you should pardon the expression, a pretty picture.

The essential message is an old one. It has to do with a return to masculine qualities which haven’t been taken seriously since men wore suits that weren’t either gray, black, or dark blue.

For one thing, this film preaches that it is bad for men to cry. Far better to let the anger and frustration of loss fester and burn and turn into hate.

Real men certainly don’t eat quiche.

Physical men make better leaders than intellectuals. The high school student body president is also present in the group, but he’s the one who wants to head right back down the mountain and surrender during the first 15 minutes of the film. His father is another sellout artist.

The jocks shall inherit the earth. Colorado, anyway.

Don’t think; act.

Furthermore – and more importantly – there is no such thing as right or wrong. There is no morality in a conflict. The object – the only object – is to win.

Winning is good; revenge is better. Being able to watch your enemies die is better still.

Killing prisoners of war is par for the course. It is not a fluke; it happens more than once in the course of this film. Soldiers who are wounded, soldiers who are dying, soldiers who are tied up; all are summarily executed, as is a traitor.

To win, find the lowest common denominator.

Lower yourself a step more.

Then win.

Red Dawn teaches us that winning is the only object, and the end justifies the means. Absolutely. In every case.

It’s clear that this is really an excuse to exercise the PG-13 rating for excessive violence. Red Dawn has the dubious distinction of being the first film to receive the new rating.

While gore is not in evidence, plenty of blood is.

It’s one thing to assault people’s sensitivities to vicarious pain and bloodshed.

It’s more of a pity that the filmmakers felt they had to blow apart common decency and morality as well.

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


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