Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

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 March 20, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

From the Inland Register – Vol. LII, No. 44
Fifty Years Ago: March 1, 1964

St. Vincent Academy to Celebrate 100th Year March 1; 1st Catholic School in Walla Walla Valley

by Sister Mary Christina FCSP

The (anniversary of the) opening of the first Catholic school in the Walla Walla Valley will be celebrated March 1. This 100th anniversary marks a century of Catholic education by the Sisters of Providence in what is now the Spokane Diocese. Since this first opening of the St. Vincent Academy, the growth of Catholic education changed and enlarged the early settlement. Now St. Patrick Grade School and DeSales High School serve Catholic students of the area, while St. Vincent Academy still serves as the residence of the Providence Sisters teaching at the grade school.

The official centennial celebration will take place April 11, with a Solemn High Mass at 10 a.m. in St. Patrick Church. Bishop Topel will preside, and the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Hugo Pautler, pastor of St. Patrick, will be the celebrant. Father Bernard Schiller will preach the sermon. A noon banquet will be held in St. Patrick School cafeteria; and at 2 p.m., the Sisters will hold receptions at St. Vincent Academy and St. Mary Hospital.

Early events in the opening of this first Catholic school in Eastern Washington are chronicled in the master’s thesis of Sister Anna Clare, FCSP, who is the daughter of the early Duggar pioneer family. Just nine years after Governor Isaac Stevens negotiated peace treaties with the Indians east of the Cascades, the Sisters of Providence came to the trading outpost of Walla Walla; and in 1864, they began the works of charity, teaching the young, nursing the sick and visiting the poor.

Sister Anna Clare, who is now teaching at DeSales High School, tells of this centennial event to be noted March 1.

“The new school was officially opened on the first day of March for registration. The usual branches of study were to be taught, including a course in practical English, needlework and embroidery. When the number of pupils enrolled would be sufficiently large, French and music would be taught to those who wished to make use of this opportunity. At the time of the opening of the school, no resident pupils could be accommodated because of the lack of living quarters. Boys were admitted under 10 years of age. The terms for day scholars were $10 per 11-week quarter. It was to be paid in coin and in advance, and the pupils were to provide their own books.”

This was the work undertaken by Sister Mary of the Nativity, Superior; Sister Columban; and Sister Paul Miki, who came at the request of the missionary priest and pastor, the Very Rev. J.B.A. Brouillet, Vicar General of the Diocese of Nisqually. It was he who begged Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart to come to Walla Walla from Vancouver, Wash., to see for herself the great need of Sisters in the missionary territory. It was here that the first permanent school in the Diocese of Nisqually was established, as the mission school opened at Fort Steilacoom had to be abandoned because of the shift in the population in 1985 to the new town of Tacoma.

The new school in Walla Walla, named for the apostle of Charity, had an enrollment of 80 pupils, including both boys and girls in the first year. This number is impressive when compared with the population of the town at that time – a small community of approximately 50 families. In addition to the teaching apostolate, the Sisters immediately responded to the need of nursing the sick and visiting the poor.

According to the account of Sister Anna Clare, “This charitable office continued as a part of the program of the school until 1879 when St. Mary Hospital was built to take care of this urgent need in Walla Walla Valley.... Not only did the Sisters teach and care for the sick in the homes, but as the need arose, closed the school and turned it into a temporary hospital during the time of epidemics.

“In 1879, it became apparent that some plan would have to be made to care for the sick of the town independently of the school. Construction was started on a three-story brick building on the western half of the Sisters’ property. It was to face Poplar Street and be completed within a year. This edifice was to be known as St. Mary Hospital.”

The Sisters of Charity of Providence now operate St. Mary Hospital and teach at St. Patrick Parochial School and at DeSales High School.


From the Inland Register – Vol. 46, No. 11
Twenty-Five Years Ago: March 2, 1989

Thoughts from the Bishop: Walla Walla centennial celebration

by Bishop Lawrence H. Welsh

(The first of six church celebrations to commemorate the Catholic Church’s part in the 100th anniversary of the State of Washington was held in Walla Walla on Thursday, Feb. 23. I would like to share my homily given at the Eucharistic celebration.)

I repeat my welcome to all here present as we gather to celebrate the Eucharist in one of the most historic parishes in the State of Washington. Walla Walla, as you all know, was the first diocese in the State of Washington. The Diocese of Walla Walla was created July 24, 1846 and Augustin Blanchet, the blood brother of the archbishop of Oregon City, was the first bishop assigned solely to what would become the State of Washington. It was here at St. Patrick Parish that the first priests were ordained in the State of Washington on Jan. 2, 1848.

The pioneer application of the law of the talons – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – was instrumental in the downfall of the Diocese of Walla Walla. The terrible events that transpired at the Whitman Mission and in the Cayuse War which followed drove Bishop Blanchet to Fort Vancouver. In 1850, Bishop Blanchet became the first Bishop of Nisqually (later identified as the Diocese of Seattle) and in 1853, the Diocese of Walla Walla was suppressed by papal decree. The Diocese of Walla Walla re-entered ecclesiastical history again in our own day when Archbishop Eugene Marino, then Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., was named second bishop of Walla Walla. Just last summer Bishop Bernard Schmitz, new auxiliary bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va., was named third bishop of Walla Walla.

The short history of the Diocese of Walla Walla and the events surrounding the Whitman massacre all happened 40 years before the Washington Territory received statehood. The religious warfare and bitterness of the middle- and late-19th century influenced our statehood. Our state constitution is probably the most secular in the 50 states. Reflecting the struggle of religion in the face of the separation of Church and state, the drafters of our state constitution sought to establish a vision of perfect toleration of religious sentiment, with a special concern for the maintenance of public education and total freedom of that education from any religious influence.

Our ancestors in the faith came to this land from bitter and cruel experiences of religious intolerance and the absolute state. Thus the religious sentiment or the lack of religious influence in the new State of Washington was accepted as a blessing – “The sun rises on the bad and the good; it rains on the just and unjust.” This beautiful land with its bountiful harvest became a place of opportunity and vision. Tolerance of differences became enshrined in the very governmental structure under which we live.

“We, the people of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution.” The hallmark ethic of this new state was the experience of liberty for all people. Statehood for Washington, Montana and the Dakotas had been held in limbo by the bitter post-Civil War political debates. Now the citizens of the west were given an opportunity. Liberty – liberty for all people!

My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. This will prove you are children of your heavenly Father.” As followers of the Lord Jesus, we Catholics use the action of civil society as a place of opportunity. By our commitment to justice and good order in society, we seek the fulfillment of the prophetic promise: “Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security. My people will live in a peaceful country.”

The bishops of the State of Washington, collaborating as the Washington State Catholic Conference, try to represent the Catholic people of our state by articulating a consistent policy of human dignity and mutual rights. Over the past 100 years, the bishops of this state have faithfully preached a Catholic vision concerning civil rights, health care, education, and service to the poor. In this diocese, we cannot forget the contribution of Bishop Topel to the ministry to the poor, even to the point of putting up his own money to provide bail for those who could not help themselves.

In Seattle in the 1960s, Archbishop Thomas Connelly was a vocal leader in the struggle for racial justice. Archbishop Hunthausen has been a constant voice for peace in our society. Bishop Skylstad in this decade has taken up the cause of farm workers in the Yakima Valley. What is right and just is not always popular! Yet faithful to the Gospel mandate, we cannot turn our backs on the needy and less fortunate in our society.

The Gospel agenda of our Catholic community is by no means closed. The political struggle over the right to life for the weak and the unborn, the plight of the homeless, the abuse of children and the elderly, the rights of minorities, the protection of the family farm and the agricultural resources of our communities: These issues continue to goad at the conscience of our Catholic community. We will not and cannot be passive spectators to the civil and political processes of our state.

Our celebration tonight is the first of six centennial celebrations which the bishops of the state will attend in the various communities of the three dioceses. I am grateful to all who have assisted in preparing for these celebrations and for the workshops on the efforts of the Catholic Conference. A reflection on the Gospel agenda of our Catholic community and upon our history can provide an impetus for us to renew our commitment to contribute with vigor to the social dialogue in our state.

The Catholic community can be proud of our contribution to these 100 years of liberty in the great State of Washington. We have shared our beautiful land, our abundant resources and the gifts of our people with the nation and with the world. As we pray this night for the blessings of continued peace and justice, we must renew our commitment to a Gospel way of life.

Our commitment is clearly framed in the exhortation of Paul to the people at Philippi as he urged them to focus their lives on “all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise. Live according to what you have heard me say and seen me do. Then will the God of peace be with you.”

May the peace of Christ Jesus reign in our homes, our communities and in the liberty of this State of Washington.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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