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St. Al’s turns 100

Trees frame St. Aloysius Catholic Church as parishoners head in for Sunday services. (Christopher Anderson)
Trees frame St. Aloysius Catholic Church as parishoners head in for Sunday services. (Christopher Anderson)

Catholic and Gonzaga communities continue to enjoy ‘gift to the city’

Having St. Aloysius Catholic Church on the campus of Gonzaga University open 365 days a year for 100 years has given people the opportunity to enter and pray for more than 36,500 consecutive days.

“It’s our gift to the city,” said Don Weber, parish administrator.

Each morning, Weber sees people sitting in the sacred space to ponder how their faith and lives intersect.

“Most churches are locked because of security,” he said, “but with St. Aloysius on campus, campus security is nearby,” he said. “There’s always activity in the neighborhood.”

As the church and campus share a namesake – St. Aloysius Gonzaga – there’s collaboration between the two institutions. The parish includes the faculty, staff and students of the university, as well as the university neighborhood.

St. Aloysius Church offers a Sunday evening liturgy, which many students attend. It also draws students into its ministry, involving them in liturgy, youth group, Sunday school, St. Aloysius School and internships, Weber said.

“It’s life-giving to have the energy of young people,” he said.

In addition, because many Jesuit priests teach at Gonzaga, many help in the parish and preside at or help in liturgies.

For college students, Weber added, it’s a place to take off headphones and turn off cellphones.

“We live in a noisy world,” he said. “Young people have little silence.

“To ‘be still and know that I am God’ means being quiet and listening, at least for a few moments,” he said. “Other buildings in our lives are not quiet and lack the sacredness a church has.

“Often answers to our prayers come through people or the common energy of a group,” Weber added.

From March 10-18, the 85th annual Novena at St. Aloysius continues a Catholic tradition, drawing people for nine days of prayer: People pray for their children, their families, their friends, and particularly for health concerns, Weber said.

“There’s something about praying in a group, sharing needs with others. There’s strength in numbers,” he said.

People put prayer petitions in a prayer box and the prayers are read.

The parish of 1,800 households with about 3,000 individuals includes an elementary school and a preschool, which serve 500 children, about 30 percent of whom are not Catholic. Weber is their administrator.

As a practical person, he’s there to help the church as it struggles with practical matters such as making budgets, paying bills and raising income.

While the building is 100 years old, the parish began in 1890.

Weber said the parish used three years leading up to the building’s 100th anniversary as an opportunity to bring the building into good shape so it’s ready for more years of service. The parish has raised almost $1 million for this purpose.

“The building is an important symbolic part of the parish life and a gift to Spokane,” he said. “People often come to tour through it, so it’s also important to keep it open and restored for that reason.”

A ramp makes the basement accessible for a senior lunch on Thursdays.

The building is also a gathering point for symphony and choral concerts, ecumenical speakers, group meetings and public lectures.