Our History

1929 – Our Founding

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On July 16, 1929, Bishop O’Dea appointed Father Matthew S. Beglin pastor of the new north end parish known as St. Catherine of Siena. It was formed from areas previously under the care of Blessed Sacrament and St. Benedict parishes, with a small area from Assumption parish. It extended from Northeast 70th Street on the south to the Snohomish County line on the north and from 1st Avenue Northeast on the west to 20th and 25th Streets Northeast on the east. The first Mass was said for 160 parishioners by Father Beglin on Sunday, July 21 in a dry goods store at 8916 Roosevelt Way, rented from Mr. F.C. Naef for $2.50 per Sunday. Construction of a “temporary chapel” –the original church, now the gym/social hall–was begun on August 1, 1929, under the direction of Father Beglin. The stuccoed, modified Spanish Mission style church was completed at a cost of $9,338.53, and the first Mass was said in the new church on September 29, 1929. A Solemn High Mass with Bishop O’Dea presiding marked the formal opening of the church on October 27, 1929. This was the day before the “Black Monday” stock market crash of 1929.

1930’s–Building Continues

Despite many financial cares, the parish, under the leadership of Father Beglin, began an ambitious plan of upgrading the church and building a rectory and social hall for the new parish. Shrines, sacristies, a balcony, a baptistry and stained glass were all added to the church between 1930 and 1932. The rectory, originally located on the corner of Northeast 85th Street and Eighth Avenues Northeast, was completed in April of 1930. In 1931, a social hall (now the basement of the school) was built. This building phase entailed quite a bit of fundraising on the part of the new parish; bazaars, dances, and card parties not only helped raise funds, but also enhanced the social life of the parishioners. Many parishioners also gained employment in some of the construction projects.

1940’s—School Bells Ring

Many north end families desired a Catholic school for their children. In May of 1941, the bishop approved plans for the construction of a 4-classroom school for the parish. Construction began immediately, and the school opened in September of that year with the Sisters of Providence staffing the school. 180 students attended St. Catherine School that first year, with 19 students graduating in June of 1942. The population boom in the north end continued, and the school soon became overcrowded. In 1944, St Catherine received permission from the War Production Board to add a second story to the school. Over the summer of 1945, this second story was completed, adding five more classrooms and a music room to the school. School opened that fall to 281 students, including, for the first time, kindergarteners. CYO Sports became very popular, as did numerous local contests including the “Old Woody” contest (a pitching contest) and Quiz Bowls.

1950’s—Changes Begin

Father Beglin, who had so faithfully served the parish for over twenty years, died unexpectedly in 1951, and Father Joseph Brennan became pastor of the parish. Many changes, including the opening of Northgate Mall and the establishment of three north end parishes (two of which—St. Mark and St. Matthew—were carved out of St. Catherine’s territory) affected the parish, yet the parish continued to move forward. By 1952, enrollment at the school exceeded 550 students, and a two-classroom portable building was added to the school. Plans were made to build a new, more spacious church and in 1957, the rectory was moved to its current location to make room for the church. The construction of the church was begun in 1958, and the new church, built in a “contemporary Romanesque basilica” style, was officially opened and blessed on Sunday, March 1, 1959. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and square dancing were popular activities. Forty Hour Devotions and Parish Missions every two years strengthened the spiritual life of the parish. A few parishioners, including Fr. Bill Slate and Father Lawrence Low, were ordained during the fifties. Sr.Lucille Dean, St. Catherine student, parishioner, and later principal of St. Catherine (1967-1972), also made her religious vows as a Sister of Providence in the fifties.

1960’s—Upheaval

In 1961, the former church was remodeled to serve as a gym and social hall. Vatican II brought changes, including the use of the vernacular during Mass and the priest facing the people. On January 31, 1967, Interstate 5 was opened, cutting a large swath right through the parish, with the complex interchange between Bothell Way (now Lake City Way) and the freeway necessitating an even larger than usual right-of-way in the area. Also in 1967, a new convent for the nuns who staffed the school was built on the corner of Eighth Avenue NE and 86th Street.

1970’s –Laity Become Involved

Father Brennan retired in 1971, and with that came a succession of pastors. The role of the laity was strengthened and St. Catherine established its first parish council and education board. Eucharistic ministers were trained. Religious education, from preschool through adult, received a new emphasis in the church, with St. Catherine being one of the first parishes in the diocese to hire a religious education director. The interior of the church was redecorated and the musical element of the liturgy was emphasized. In 1975, after a thirty-year mutually beneficial relationship, the Sisters of Providence withdrew from St. Catherine Parish. In 1979, the parish celebrated its golden Jubilee with a Mass celebrated on October 21 with Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen presiding.

1980’s—Renewal

Due to several factors, including the need to greatly increase tuition, the school census dropped to less than 150 students in the early 1980’s. In 1985 Fr. John Patrick Doherty became pastor at St. Catherine. The former convent was remodeled to serve as parish offices and was officially named “The Siena Center.” The Altar Society sponsored a very popular fashion show and luncheon every year around St. Patrick’s Day as well as running the traditional Bazaar just before Thanksgiving. In the late eighties, the Renew process energized the spiritual development of parishioners. At the end of the process, many Renew groups continued to meet. School attendance rose, and in 1988, new portable classrooms were purchased to serve as the kindergarten and preschool.

1990’s—A Succession of Leadership

Fr. John Patrick Doherty succumbed to cancer on November 8, 1992. Several priests, including Fr. John Koehler, pitched in to serve the parish’s spiritual needs. In 1994, Fr. David White was assigned as pastor. Father White retired in 1998. 1999 saw the appointment of our first Pastoral Life Director, Victoria Ries, as well as our Parochial Vicar, Fr. Lyle Konen, C.Ss.R. The school census stabilized at about 200 students each year. The Young Mother’s Support Group met weekly and was quite popular through much of the early to mid nineties, as was the parish youth group. The basement of the church, where coffee hours were held, was brightened with new paint and flooring. Delayed maintenance at the church and school received renewed attention, with the parish office receiving a new roof in 1998, and the school receiving much need seismic work in 1999.

2000’s—Looking Back and Looking Forward

The new millennium saw several changes, beginning with the replacement of the roof on the church in the fall of 2000. At the school, a new computer lab was installed and several cosmetic improvements in the school buildings were undertaken with the aid of funds raised by parents. Remodeling of the interior of the church was begun in early 2002, with completion by September. Many parishioners participated in the planning and construction phases of the remodeling. The remodeling featured recycling of marble from the former communion rail and altar, an inlaid terrazzo design for the floor, a more central altar and dais, a new baptismal font, an ironwork icon screen, and a new, lighter, “Siena” paint scheme. 2002 also brought forth revelations about priest abuse of children that had occurred at St. Catherine in the sixties and seventies as well as elsewhere in the archdiocese. Several meetings were held to discuss parishioners’ thoughts in regards to the abuse and to aid in healing. In July of 2003, Fr. Lyle retired from parish ministry, but continued his work as prison and jail chaplain. Fr. Tony Bawyn, who is also the canon lawyer for the Archdiocese, was appointed as Parochial Vicar. Today, our community numbers about 550 families. We have come a long way from holding Mass in a storefront on Roosevelt Way. We have had our share of both sorrow and joy. We look forward in faith and confidence to the journey ahead.

 

 

 

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