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Parish History

1800’s—The Early Church in Washington

The first Catholic priests in the Pacific Northwest were Franciscans who were part of the Perez expedition in 1774. It was not until 1852 that Bishop Demers of Vancouver Island held the first Catholic Mass in Seattle’s history in Yesler’s cook house in the area now known as Pioneer Square. In 1858 the Sisters of Providence opened the first hospital in the Pacific Northwest and in 1867, Rev. Francis Prefontaine founded Our Lady of Good Help, the first Catholic church in Seattle. As late as the beginning of the twentieth century, there were no local Masses available for Catholics living on the east side of Lake Washington.

1914—The Early Local Church

Holy Family Kirkland began as a mission of St. Anthony’s in Renton. Once each month Father Nicholas O’Rafferty said Mass for about twenty Catholics. The mayor of the eight-year old city of Kirkland provided space in the Kirkland City Council Chambers. On March 8, 1914 Father O’Rafferty performed the first baptism. On July 1 of 1914, under the direction of Bishop O’Dea and through the efforts of Fr. O’Rafferty, construction began on a church building at 6th Avenue and 3rd Street in Kirkland. Parishioners donated the time and labor required and the building was constructed without a contractor. The first Mass was celebrated there on October 18, 1914 and Bishop O’Dea consecrated the church the following month.

1915—A Growing Parish

The new church, with its balcony, seated between 150 and 200 people. In the fall of 1915 Bishop O’Dea established Holy Family as a parish and appointed Father Thomas Madigan as the first resident pastor. The boundaries included Kirkland and parts of Bothell, Redmond and Bellevue.

1921-1935—Hard Times

For several years after the end of World War I, Holy Family was without a pastor. Father (later Monsignor) D.A. Hanley, the chaplain at Providence Hospital, said one Mass each Sunday on the Eastside, alternating between Holy Family and Sacred Heart in Bellevue. During a succession of pastors, beginning with Fr. William McDonald in 1921 and Fr. John O’Brien in 1922, the parish purchased a house near the church for use as a rectory and two additional lots as prospective sites for a parochial school. In 1925, Fr. Philip Corboy succeeded Fr. O’Brien as pastor. Once more, the parishioners had regular weekly services. Fr. Robert Ryan became pastor at Holy Family on June 9, 1935, where he served until his death on May 1, 1955.

1950’s—A New Church Building

The early 1950’s saw new prosperity and Mass was offered twice each Sunday with the Sulpician priests from St. Edward Seminary assisting assist Fr. Ryan. In 1955, the Archbishop directed Fr. Donald Conger, who had been appointed pastor on July 22, 1955, to begin construction of a new church building. A ten-acre tract along 120th Avenue NE, north of NE 70th Street was purchased in December 1955. On December 15, 1956, construction began on a church, school, rectory, convent, and parish hall. In late August 1957, five Dominican sisters of the Congregation of St. Thomas Aquinas moved into the convent and opened a school. Two hundred and twenty students in six grades began classes in September. In late October, the rectory was finished and on Christmas Eve, at midnight, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church. The new buildings were dedicated on the Feast of the Holy Family in 1958, and the parishioners could choose from three Masses each Sunday.

1968-1984—Vatican II and Continuous Growth

After the ecumenical council called Vatican II, changes were made in the church building to accommodate the changed liturgy. During this time the Sulpician father continued to assist the pastors until 1970. In addition, many deacons from St. Thomas seminary received their pastoral experience at Holy Family in the years 1968 through 1979. Several priests served as Associate Pastors including Fr. James Dalton who became Pastor in 1984. The number of families continued to grow even though new parishes were established in Juanita at St. John Vianney in 1971 and St. Jude in Redmond in 1978.

1988-1990—Fire and Rebirth

On Saturday night, July 9, 1988 an arson fire destroyed the church. Despite the tragedy of the fire, hope remained. Mass was held in the gym that Sunday morning and for the next two years. Other Catholic churches as well as churches of other denominations shared their sanctuaries for weddings and funerals. Although the building was gone, the priests and parishioners remained committed to the parish, working to rebuild the church. A new building was dedicated on November 4, 1990. Because the Dominican Sisters no longer lived in the convent, it was converted to a Parish Center and the rectory was remodeled to hold meeting rooms.

Present Times

After 14 years Fr. Jim Dalton was re-assigned. In July, 1997, the parish welcomed Fr. Gary Morelli who developed a master plan for the parish’s continued growth. When Father Kurt Nagel arrived in July of 2007, the little mission of twenty had grown to a parish of 1800 families with five Masses each weekend.

(Photos courtesy of the Archives of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle and Plateau Portraits)

 


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