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

Prayer, food, and memories mark Walla Walla parish’s centennial

the Inland Register

(From the November 19, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Parishioners, staff, and guests, old and new, joined in the centennial celebration for St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Walla Walla. (IR photo courtesy of St. Francis of Assisi Parish)

It was with much pride and joy that parishioners gathered at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Walla Walla, Wash., Sunday, Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, to celebrate 100 years. Invitations were sent out and 244 responded, filling the church and hall to capacity.

Bishop Thomas Daly led the community in Solemn Evening Prayer with Benediction. Many priests from throughout the Spokane diocese who had been assigned to Walla Walla in the past joined together with parishioners and guests to be a part of the centennial celebration.

Just as Jesus had his 12 disciples, Bishop Daly presided with 12 priests beside him, including the current pastor, Father Matthew Nicks, and Fathers David Gaines and Kyle Ratuiste, the current parochial vicars. Also present were Fathers Jeff Core (Sacred Heart Parish, Pullman), Brian Sattler (St. Joseph Parish, Colbert), Kevin Oiland (St. Mary’s Presentation Parish, Deer Park), Pat Kerst (St. Mary Parish, Spokane Valley, and St. Joseph Parish, Rockford), Mike Savelesky (Holy Rosary Parish, Rosalia, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, St. John), Joe Sullivan (St. Boniface Parish, Uniontown, and St. Gall Parish, Colton), Kevin Codd (Sacred Heart Parish, Spokane), and two priests “sprung” from Walla Walla: Fathers Steve Dublinski (St. Augustine Parish, Spokane) and Mark Pautler (Diocesan Chancellor and Judicial Vicar).

Also present were Deacon Jim Barrow and five women Religious, including Sister Sharon Bongiorno of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, who was well known and remembered as the pastoral minister at St. Francis for 16 years. Stephanie Pung, who followed her in service, was also present. The other Sisters were Providence Sisters Helen Mason, Margaret Botch, and Margarita Hernandez, and Sister Kathy Roberg of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

After the Solemn Prayer Service with Benediction, people gathered on the lawn for delectable antipasto from Cugini’s Italian Imports and Deli, which was coupled with great wine. They reassembled in the parish center for a delicious dinner, prepared by Fazzari’s Finest, with the menu choice of lasagna with red sauce or chicken alfredo.

Centennial Committee members were Marguerite Daltoso, Wendy Kimball, and Rosalie Lesko, assisted by Father Gaines. The committee invited the returning priests and Sister Sharon to have a memory ready to share from their time at St. Francis. The sharings were the highlight of the night.

Though not present, Father Tim Hayes sent a story to be read by parishioner Greg Tompkins. He shared his very relatable and somewhat comical first experience of a St. Francis parish dinner after a funeral.

“I was ushered over to the tables in front of the kitchen and began to dish up a plate – only to have one of the ladies whisper in my ear that she wanted to talk to me before I finished dishing up. Taking myself just a little too seriously, I thought it was going to be a question about the funeral, or confession, or something equally important. She whispered in my ear, ‘I set aside some meatballs for you in the kitchen – they’re wrapped in foil on the counter, so make sure you take them when you leave.’ Little did I know the opening salvo of the Meatball Wars had begun!

“As I made my way back to my plate and place in line, several others assured me that I had to try their meatballs…. At that moment, the whisper campaign began – ‘Father, you don’t want to take too much of those meatballs – she doesn’t soak her bread in milk,’ or, ‘you won’t like her meatballs, she uses basil and oregano both in her meatballs.’

“One by one, the master cooks of St. Francis offered all their advice on how a real Italian meatball is made – and every one was different! While the pews were divided between the Milanese and the Calabrese upstairs, the real separation is all about the meatballs!”

St. Francis of Assisi Parish was built in 1915. The many Italian immigrants who had settled in Walla Walla felt a great desire to build their own church, but most were not wealthy and did not think it could be done. St. Francis Cabrini, an Italian immigrant herself, traveled to Walla Walla in the early 1900s and visited with many of the Italian immigrants who lived here. She encouraged them to work together and pool their resources to build their own church, and so they did. Today, St. Francis is home to roughly 300 families, many of them connecting back to the original parishioners.

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