EVERETT — After 131 years as its own parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help is set to merge with Immaculate Conception into a new single parish in north Everett, called Our Lady of Hope.
In July, the Catholic church at 2619 Cedar St. will become a chapel for Saturday mass. Parishioners will meet at the current Immaculate Conception church at 2501 Hoyt Ave. for the other daily masses and events.
“They’ve always functioned fairly close with one another,” said Father Joseph Altenhofen, pastor of the two churches for four years.
The Archdiocese of Seattle, which oversees 174 parishes between Canada and Oregon and from the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean, made the decision to merge north Everett’s churches in October. It’s part of the Archdiocese’s larger evaluation of its resources and needs as mass attendance dropped 15.5% between 1999 and 2018. Western Washington’s population grew 28.4% over that time.
Catholic marriages declined almost 46% and infant baptisms 21.5%.
“The amount of people in my seats every week has been going down over the years,” Altenhofen said.
Leadership and parishioners from the two churches have been, and still are, figuring out exactly what it will look like to become one.
They don’t plan to move pews or stained glass. But some of the statues and artwork could get hauled the 14 blocks. Cross-shaped bike racks were likely staying outside of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
“Practically speaking there won’t be a lot of changes,” Altenhofen said.
Everett Sausage Fest-goers can rest assured the church mashup won’t shutter the Bavarian-themed weekend of beer, food and rides around since 1977. If COVID cases are low enough, the church will consider bringing it back, after it was suspended through the pandemic.
Having two parishes meant two priests for a time. Combining them into one church lets the Archdiocese assign one to another parish.
“We have 174 parishes, but we do not have 174 priests,” Archdiocese spokeswoman Helen McClenahan said.
Historically, the parishes sprang up just a mile apart because of Broadway and wet Pacific Northwest weather.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help was established in 1891. The brick church built in 1925 still stands, complete with the original altar and organ, according to Historic Everett.
Brothels, gambling houses and saloons dotted the city when the churches formed.
Horses were still the dominant form of transportation and streets weren’t yet asphalt and cement.
“Broadway was a dirt road at the time and it would become so mucky it would be difficult to cross,” Altenhofen said.
North Everett’s Catholic parishes more formally became closer in the early 2000s when the administrations combined. It helped share and save costs.
Merging them into a single parish continues those financial benefits, Altenhofen said. The church doesn’t plan to lay off any of its employees and instead is adding a member to the liturgical staff.
It also helps the church better manage and maintain its properties. Each parish has a hall, a rectory where priests live or lived.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s former convent, where nuns lived, has been leased to Interfaith Family Shelter for decades.
“We haven’t used these spaces, in terms of their named uses, for over 20 years,” Altenhofen said.
The parishes and the Archdiocese are also in the process of determining how to use those vacant spaces, such as for housing or a hot meal service.