With new building, Holy Cross Catholic Church’s two congregations can finally be one

The scent is fresh paint, not an ancient aroma left by decades of lighting candles and burning incense. Holy Cross Catholic Church is brand new.

Last weekend’s Masses for Palm Sunday were the first services held in the church, one of three new parish buildings at Lochsloy, between Lake Stevens and Granite Falls.

“Holy Week, Easter, this is really our inauguration,” said the Rev. Jay DeFolco, pastor of both Holy Cross and St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Snohomish.

From the look of the church in a nondescript building, drivers zipping past on Highway 92 might see Holy Cross as an upstart, a development as new as the housing projects springing up nearby. Looks can deceive. The church has a long history.

On what’s now Cascade Avenue in Granite Falls, Holy Cross Church has served the town’s Catholics since 1903. Once a wilderness outpost, for a century Holy Cross was a mission church, a satellite of St. Michael’s in Snohomish.

While the small, white wood-frame church served Granite Falls, Lake Stevens had no Catholic church at all. Until 2004, Catholics in Lake Stevens traveled to Snohomish, Everett, Marysville or Granite Falls to worship.

In 2004, the Archdiocese of Seattle, which oversees Catholic churches in all of Western Washington, designated Holy Cross as its own parish serving Lake Stevens and Granite Falls. Since then, Holy Cross has held Masses at Northlake Middle School in Lake Stevens and at the old church in Granite Falls. All the while, the people of Holy Cross have been working toward this week, when the two communities join in their new church.

“It’s been like an old-time barn raising,” said Ed Miller, 57, vice chairman of the Holy Cross parish council. Miller, who raises pigs on his land outside Granite Falls, said it hasn’t always been easy blending two very different groups. “It’s an old logging town and a community that’s more upscale,” Miller said comparing Granite Falls with Lake Stevens.

While Lake Stevens worshippers are leaving a middle school, those from Granite Falls are saying goodbye to their 105-year-old church. The old Holy Cross building will be sold, DeFolco said.

“There’s sadness, grieving, letting go,” the priest said. Even so, DeFolco said Thursday at the new church, “the Granite Falls contingent has been here with flowers, they’ve been doing the decorating.”

Diane Mattingly, 38, comes to the new church from Lake Stevens, where she lives with her husband, Chris, and three school-age children. She was a co-chairwoman of the church’s capital campaign.

With many members of the parish, which includes about 265 households, she and her husband worked long hours on the buildings. “It was great to see the whole parish pitch in and make it their own,” she said.

The archdiocese bought the 31-acre site in 1998 for $143,000, DeFolco said. The $1.2 million project — a church, parish hall and administration building — was built largely by volunteers, said Bill Clough, project director and chairman of the building committee.

Clough, 62, and his wife, Irene, drove across the U.S. 2 trestle every Sunday to Everett’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church before Holy Cross began services in Lake Stevens.

Mattingly said all the time spent in toil “has given us time to prepare for the merge, and prepare to leave Granite Falls.”

“The Granite Falls people and the Lake Stevens people could really become a parish,” she said.

Holy Cross was one of three new parishes approved by Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett in 2004, said Greg Magnoni, a spokesman for the archdiocese. The others are Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Woodinville and Holy Innocents in Duvall. There are about 577,000 Catholics in Western Washington who belong to churches, and another 400,000 who identify themselves as Catholic, Magnoni said.

“It’s growing,” Magnoni said. “Certainly in the Archdiocese of Seattle, it’s a joy to be able to open churches and make the faith available to more Catholic people.”

At Holy Cross, work is far from done. The 20-year master plan calls for a 700-seat church — the current one seats about 180 — plus a larger parish hall and school.

“What we have is our first phase. It looks like a church and feels like a church,” DeFolco said.

Inside the new Holy Cross, the past is evident. On the walls, Stations of the Cross figures, representing the final hours of Jesus, were taken from the old Granite Falls church, along with a statue of the Virgin Mary and a baptismal font.

Up the road in Granite Falls, a note taped to the old church door lets visitors know Easter Masses have been moved “to the new site at Lochsloy.” The old church will be quiet on Easter morning. At the new Holy Cross, years of celebration have begun.

“It’s a new birth,” DeFolco said.

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

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