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


Compiled by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the July 16, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

From the Inland Register – Volume LIV, No. 12
Fifty Years Ago: July 18, 1965

St. Joseph’s Children’s Home observes jubilee; orphanage to celebrate 75 years of service to Diocese of Spokane

by Sister M. Consuella, Superior

Diamond Jubilee celebrations will be held next Sunday, July 23, at St. Joseph’s Children’s Home with a 75th Anniversary Mass celebrated by Bishop Topel at 7:30 a.m. and an “Open House” from 2-7 p.m.

The home, formerly known as St. Joseph’s Orphanage, is a pioneer institution in the area. Its history includes the names of early Church and Lay Leaders who were instrumental in launching the project. The idea was first conceived by the Very Rev. Charles Mackin, SJ, then president of Gonzaga College, forerunner of the university of today, who saw the need of an institution to care for orphans and homeless children. Serving in the dual capacity as president of Gonzaga and pastor of the sole Catholic church in Spokane, Father Mackin interceded with Father Joseph Cataldo SJ, who donated land in the Sinto addition near the Spokane river for the project in 1890. Generous citizens of the area responded and funds for a small frame building were raised.

It was the hope and prayer of those brave citizens that the Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia could be induced to take over the tiny orphanage. These Sisters had won an enviable reputation, mainly in the East, through their operation of orphanages, hospitals and industrial and parochial schools. They had launched their first house in the west, St. Francis Academy in Baker, Ore.

In the spirit of their founder, they cheerfully accepted the invitation to come to Spokane. Can you imagine the trip across the continent in those early days? Sister Barbara as Superioress and three Sisters of the Order reached Spokane from Philadelphia on Aug. 22, 1890. Two others followed later. The little frame building was not quite ready for them and Mrs. James Monaghan took them into her home until it was completed. From that day, the women of Spokane have taken a keen interest and a prominent part in the affairs of St. Joseph.

When the orphanage opened a few weeks after the arrival of the Sisters, there were just six children to be cared for. The orphanage soon became known, and by 1891 there were 70 children. In 1893, the number increased to 115. It was quite apparent that the frame building was not large enough for such a family. Then, as now, they tried to solve the problem by reducing the population. A small addition was erected and the orphanage was formally blessed by the president of Gonzaga on Nov. 2, 1891.

Applications for admittance became so numerous and so pressing that in April 1899, construction work on the present building was started. It was dedicated on March 20, 1901. It gave the Sisters a four-story pressed brick building with slate roof and iron cornices, 174 feet on Superior St., with a main depth of 45 feet. The cross on the dome stands 83 feet above the sidewalk.

Such a building furnished classrooms for boys and girls – a school being part of the services during the first 50 years – apartments for the Sisters, dormitories for boys and girls, an infirmary, a chapel and other needed facilities.

The chapel, considered one of the most beautiful in the west, was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Sweeney. They had also given $10,000 to the building fund of the orphanage. When it was completed and about to be dedicated, an unpaid balance of $28,000 remained. Mr. Sweeney gave his personal check for the full amount, a total of $38,000 including the chapel. The Sweeney donations represented more than half of the total cost of the orphanage.

John Huetter, contractor, gave the statue of St. Joseph, which stands in front of the building. Its erection was an event, as it weighed 1,150 pounds. The statue was dedicated on March 20, 1901, and the orphanage itself on March 25, with Bishop O’Dea of the Diocese of Nisqually officiating. It was estimated at the time that the orphanage with its 44 rooms represented a cost of $63,000.

Several Franciscans prominent in the Order have had a large part in the operation and development of St. Joseph’s.

Sister Mary Eugenia is considered the builder of St. Joseph’s. She served as Superior for 30 years. Sister Mary Oswalda opened the orphanage at N. 1016 Superior in 1892. At her death, she had served the Order for 43 years. She was one of the first Sisters to come to Spokane in 1890. For many years, she was a familiar figure on the city streets with her white horse and buggy as she made her rounds collecting funds and supplies for the support of her charges. Even in the present day, many of the old timers of Spokane recall how during planting season, Sister Oswalda’s vegetable patch had to be carefully cultivated because “That was for the orphans.”

From 1890 to 1923, St. Joseph’s received no public financial aid. It was dependent entirely on what the Sisters could collect in the way of cash and supplies, clothing for the children and other things needed. In 1923, it became one of the beneficiaries of the Community Chest, better known today as the United Crusade. St. Joseph’s has been blessed with many kind friends and benefactors. It has received numerous substantial gifts and legacies down the years. Many who were blessed with the material gifts of this world shared generously with the orphans because they fully understood what Christ meant when he said, “What you did to one of these, my least brethren, you did to me.”

St. Joseph’s is not exclusively a home for children bereft of both parents; for it opens its door to all dependent children, regardless of creed or color or race. It will accept boys between the ages of 4-19, and girls between the ages of 4-15.

St. Joseph’s, in the true sense of the word, is not a house to place children, but a home where the emotionally disturbed child is nursed back to health, where the child comes to realize that there is someone who cares, where the child once again regains confidence and trust in adults, and where his sense of security is strengthened.

The Franciscan Sisters came to Spokane 75 years ago to take over the orphanage with no income in sight for themselves or for their institution. By their own sacrifices, and through the generous aid of their friends, they have kept the orphanage going through good times and hard times. Today, as we look back on the 75 years we have lived among the people of Spokane and we count our blessings, we ask you to join us in giving God thanks for his Paternal solicitude down the years and for our many kind and generous friends and benefactors.


From the Inland Register – Volume 48, No. 1
Twenty-Five Years Ago: July 5, 1990

Thoughts from the Bishop: Summer

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

Summer is always a time I anticipate with a certain sense of excitement. The pace doesn’t change that much, but the activities are different. For most of us, this time provides space for vacation and enjoyment of warm weather. The changing of the fields from green to gold, the harvesting of crops, the working in the yard provides all of us a good opportunity to reflect gratefully upon God’s goodness to us in creation.

I write these words just before I leave for a summer meeting of all the bishops in the United States at Santa Clara. This is the first time the meeting will be held on the West Coast, and the third time the gathering will be a special assembly.

Several years ago we bishops in general felt it was good and necessary for us to get together for reflection, prayer, and discussion about important topics in our ministry. No business meetings are scheduled.

These special assemblies are about a week long. The first two were held at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. Our last gathering there was memorable when for several days the temperature reached an unseasonably hot 100 degrees.

The theme for the assembly this year at Santa Clara is “The Bishop: A Person Called to be Priest, Prophet, and Leader.” During the middle of the assembly on Sunday, a day of recollection is scheduled. Over 200 bishops from around the country will attend, and I look forward very much to the gathering. I found both of the previous ones to be very helpful and fruitful.

My schedule in early July will be taken up with a retreat for deacons and wives in Tucson, Ariz.; a couple of planning days with the Secretariat of the chancery; and a meeting in Brooklyn of the Bishops’ Committee on Hispanic Affairs.

I plan on vacation time for the rest of July – visiting family, doing some mountain hiking, putting up my ham radio antennas, and possibly spending a little time with some of the bishops at Moose Lake in Montana.

In early August, I plan to take a few days to attend an alumni reunion at the Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, the seminary I attended for my final years of priestly formation. The general reunions are held every five years, and it’s a good time to see classmates, to renew acquaintances, to share stories, and to notice the changes in one another since the last reunion. When you live with classmates for 12 years, one forms a bond that is really never forgotten.

The schedule picks up again in August as another cycle of school year and parish activities begins.

The stational Masses throughout the diocese have been completed, with the exception of a celebration with the Indian community in Nespelem on Sept. 9. For me, these celebrations have been wonderful, and they have provided opportunities of being present with you for the first time. Several of the celebrations have been bi-lingual, to reflect the reality of the local area. For example, in Walla Walla, the reception after the Mass at DeSales High School consisted of presentations of three types of dances – a Hispanic youth group, a Japanese dancer, and an Italian dance group – and the jazz band of DeSales High School. What marvelous diversity!

The children are especially a delight. The questions and comments I receive are many:

“How does that little hat stay on?”

“You sure have a good collection of hats!”

“I hope you have fun being here and being a bishop.” And,

“Bishop, do you play chess?”

My response to this last is that I hadn’t played since childhood days. After further discussion, the little girl was wondering why the bishop always moved diagonally on the chess board. Now, if you’ve got a good answer to that one, let me know.

My prayer for all of you is that this summer will be a period of grace and blessing. As I have indicated, for many this will be a time of vacation and relaxation. For others who are farmers and farm workers, summer means hard work and hoping for the best. In any case, may God bless you and give you peace!

(Father Caswell is archivist for the Inland Register, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)


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