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‘A long time in coming’

For 50 years, parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima Church have held Mass in schools and gymnasiums, but never in their own permanent church.

Until Friday, that is.

“It has been a long time in coming with a little delay here and there,” Bishop William Skylstad said in the first homily given in the church. “But here we are. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to you.”

About 300 people gathered Friday night for Fatima’s Mass of Dedication. Parishioners have been working on the plans for the new church for the last few years.

“We have a lot of strong personalities here, and it’s only through the Holy Spirit that they got along,” said pastoral associate Joan Leeds. “It all came together so beautifully.”

Things weren’t looking so great in November, when a loan the parish needed for construction fell through because the Diocese of Spokane declared bankruptcy. Although the work was about 90 percent done, completion of a permanent church, which had been expected in time for Christmas, was delayed indefinitely.

“That was black Friday around here,” Leeds said. “We were pretty low.”

But parishioners upped their pledges. One anonymous donor gave a six-figure amount, and within weeks construction restarted.

“The response has been phenomenal,” Leeds said.

About 635 households attend Our Lady of Fatima. Sixty percent donated to the building, Leeds said. More than 100 parishioners worked on construction planning efforts, and dozens volunteered this week to ready the church for its opening.

Fatima members said Friday’s dedication was momentous, especially for members who have waited decades for a churchier worship space. Maryellen Johnson, who grew up in the parish, traveled from California to share the Mass with her family.

“For 42 years, I’ve been hearing one day we’ll have a church,” Johnson said. “This is such a special night for my parents.”

In March 1956, the Diocese of Spokane announced the creation of Our Lady of Fatima to be built at 33rd Avenue and Perry Street. The Hutton School gymnasium was rented for its first Masses. After the parish school was built, Masses moved there. A temporary church was opened in 1959 and was slated to become the school’s gym once a permanent sanctuary was erected. Instead, it served as the church for 45 years, and in the meantime, a new school gym was built next door.

In March, the parish emptied the “temporary” church and set up quarters in the newer gym while the permanent Our Lady of Fatima was built over the temporary one.

Some of the old structure remains, but it is unrecognizable. The cross from the old church was placed on the front of the new one. Inside, the Stations of the Cross and statues of Mary and Jesus also are from Fatima’s previous sanctuary.

Friday’s Mass started in the hall where the congregation has worshipped for almost a year.

“Welcome to St. Gymnasium for the last time, and if anybody wants to cry, we have Kleenex,” the Rev. Jim Kuhns, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, said when he started the ceremony.

The congregants then walked to the new church and celebrated Mass.

Audrey Robertson attended the parish’s first Mass at Hutton School when parishioners were asked to bring their own pillows to kneel on.

“It’s only taken 50 years to get our own church, and we’re all thrilled,” Robertson said just before the dedication Mass began. “This church means a lot to me.”



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