Catholics celebrate new parish in county

After serving Holy Communion recently, the Rev. Joseph “Jay” DeFolco saw a woman with tears in her eyes.

“She had lived in Lake Stevens over 40 years, praying all these years for her own church,” the priest said. “Now, Mass is available near her home.”

There’s news in Snohomish County’s Catholic community. At a time when the church has been hammered by glaring revelations of sexual abuse by clergy, it’s welcome news.

For more than 100 years, Catholics in Granite Falls have been served by Holy Cross Church. Until this summer, Holy Cross wasn’t a full-fledged parish, but a mission or satellite of St. Michael’s in Snohomish.

That changed July 1. The Archdiocese of Seattle, which covers all of Western Washington and serves 548,900 Catholics, recognized Holy Cross as its own parish. In September, Holy Cross began holding services in Lake Stevens at North Lake Middle School.

By 2006, Holy Cross is expected to have a new church on 31 acres the archdiocese acquired near the Lochsloy Store on Highway 92 near Lake Stevens.

The parish will bring the old with the new. In the first phase, plans call for the old Granite Falls church to be moved to the site, and for a multipurpose hall to be built. The old church will be a chapel for weddings and small gatherings, said DeFolco, the full-time pastor at St. Michael’s.

Eventually, there will be a new 700-seat church. The future may also bring a Catholic school.

“We have the room, and the dream is there,” said Fran Shriver of Granite Falls.

For a dozen years, she and her husband, Joseph, have attended Holy Cross in Granite Falls. Now they sing in the choir at the middle school and are active in the new Holy Cross parish council.

“We are really excited about the new parish,” Shriver said. “People from Lake Stevens didn’t have a place. They were scattered to the four winds.”

With Lake Stevens as its center, Holy Cross parish will draw from areas served by St. Michael’s in Snohomish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Everett, St. Mary’s in Marysville and Immaculate Conception in Arlington.

The Lake Stevens School District has a history of providing churches with space for weekend use, said Arlene Hulten, community services manager with the district. Fees are set under a facilities use policy, she said.

Transforming a public school cafeteria into a Catholic church is a logistical challenge. “We have a little trailer with everything in there,” said Shriver, describing how the altar, banners and music equipment are brought in each week.

Holy Cross also has parish offices at 1805 Main St. in downtown Lake Stevens.

DeFolco said 320 people were at Masses between Lake Stevens and Granite Falls last week. “We’re finding that close to half the people coming were not regular members of any particular church,” he said. “We even have some non-Catholics who have come to learn.”

Steve Homiack, administrator for the new parish, is saying goodbye to Immaculate Conception in Everett, where his family has gone to church for years.

“Because Lake Stevens now has its own church, living in that area I think makes it a little more special,” said Homiack, whose 8-year-old daughter starts religious education at Holy Cross this weekend. “We have coffee and doughnuts afterward, just like when we attend at Immaculate. It’s great seeing this community come into its own.”

In a week when the Seattle archdiocese announced that John Cornelius, a priest accused of abusing a number of boys in the 1970s and ’80s, had been defrocked, DeFolco said Thursday that “the greatest emotion I’ve been feeling over the situation is one of sadness.”

“I’m happy the archbishop here has chosen to be very open,” DeFolco added. The archdiocese, headed by Archbishop Alex Brunett, last week released a 15-page report on sexual abuse.

“We have to regain the confidence of our community,” DeFolco said. “We pray for healing, we pray for reconciliation and we pray that we’ve learned.”

“We started three new parishes this year,” said Greg Magnoni, a spokesman with the archdiocese. “That’s a sign of real life and real growth in the church.”

Magnoni expects Holy Cross to grow into a “good-sized parish, 1,500 families.”

“It’s the idea of building community,” Shriver said. “It’s exciting to be in on the ground floor of it.”

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlsteinjulie@heraldnet.com.

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