Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

St. Joseph Parish, Spokane, to celebrate 125 years with all-school reunion, Mass, reception

the Inland Register

(From the May 21, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

St. Joseph Parish has been a vibrant presence in Spokane for 125 years. (IR photo courtesy of St. Joseph Parish)

One year before the great fire of 1889 leveled the booming little community of Spokane Falls, Bishop Junger of the huge Nesqually Diocese asked Father Leonard Van Gorp, a Jesuit, to organize a new Catholic parish to help serve the many Catholics who moved to Spokane Falls to find jobs with the railroad, in nearby mines, farms, and in the businesses opening to service the growing population of the Inland Empire. The Jesuits purchased two lots on Dean Avenue for the purpose of building a church, and thus St. Joseph Parish was founded in May of 1890. The river was the boundary to the south, Howard Street to the east, with the northern boundary extending as far north as Deer Park.

In 1901 the wooden church and rectory were sold for $500 and construction was begun on the brick veneer church still in use today.

The ambitious young church next built a three-story brick school in 1905 to be staffed by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Pennsylvania, who taught 12 grades. In 1921 School Sisters of Notre Dame began nearly 50 years of service to the school. In 1909 the northern parish boundary was placed at Indiana Avenue, making St. Joseph Parish the smallest parish in Spokane.

A few statistics:

• In 1929 there were 400 families in the parish.
• During the first 50 years of existence the records revealed that there were 1,703 baptisms, 558 marriages, and 609 deaths.
• In 1949 there were 20 graduates from the 8th grade.
• A high school existed between 1916 and 1920.
• Two years later the parish population was given as l,075 people.

Many people remember the parish and school as the social center of the neighborhood. Examples include the annual bazaars of the 1940-1960s; fund-raisers such as the Altar Society baked goods sales; and the plays that were put on in the gym during those years.

The school was the glue that held the parish together; when the children were involved in an activity, the parents were there, too.

The Altar Society had a large membership because most women of the parish did not work outside their homes, so the Society was an excellent social time for them. The Altar Society Guilds also functioned as a social outlet for the women while caring for the needs of the church. The women also cleaned the church regularly. The men were involved in their own groups.

There was usually a choir made of the school children who would sing on Sundays and for funerals. The yearly sacramental celebrations (First Communion, Confirmation, etc.) were a big production and everyone was in attendance.

Father Fahy, a pastor in years past, was a very out-going man and usually had an assistant who resided in the rectory, too. Father Fahy was known to cook a meal and invite his friends and parishioners to share the meal.

Between the years of 1983–2012, Sisters were canonically appointed to be the pastor of the parish. They assumed all responsibilities with the exception of conferring sacraments and saying Mass. Various priests took on the responsibilities of celebrating Mass and sacraments.

In 1989, under special arrangements with diocesan administration, St. Joseph Parish became the home of the Hispanics from the Spokane area. Deacon Gonzalo “Chalo” Martinez was instrumental in the original ministry and fostered stability. Originally known as “La Comunidad Hispana de Spokane,” its membership has integrated fully into parish life and the founding covenant has been dissolved.

In the summer of 2012, Father José Luis Millán was named pastor of the parish. The people of the St. Joseph community are proud to be one parish congregation as they come together for various liturgies, for, as stated in Ephesians 4:4a-6, “There is one body and one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

The parishioners of St. Joseph’s are grateful for the long and beautiful history of this parish, for the sacrifices and efforts of the early founders, for the many good priests, Sisters and laity who have ministered among us, nurturing and handing on to us the precious gift of faith.

Former parishioners and friends are invited to the special Mass at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 14, followed by a banquet at The Commons. Advance registration is needed for the banquet. Contact the parish office: (509) 328-4841.

The school reunion is attracting former students from 1935 to when the school closed in 1969. The gathering is Saturday, June 13, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the parish. It will be an open house format, with historical tours, exhibits, and features over 100 photos of classes and graduations. There will be an alumni BBQ dinner and party beginning at 6 p.m. For more information, contact the parish office: (509) 328-4841. 

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