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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

The Rev. Louis Taelman, president of Gonzaga University, told of a moving Christmas Midnight Mass he celebrated at the invitation of the small and impoverished Calispel (now spelled Kalispel) tribe.

A Calispel man rowed Taelman across the Pend Oreille River near Cusick. Taelman discovered that the men of the tribe had worked for two weeks building a little church of log boards. Nearly all 100 members of the tribe gathered in their holiday attire and formed a procession, behind “a big lantern borne aloft,” toward the little church.

“They marched to the church singing ‘Adeste Fideles,’ which had probably been taught them 60 years ago,” said Taelman. “They sang the notes perfectly, the words being in the Calispel language.”

Chief Massalah (today spelled Masselow), “aged 85 years,” said a prayer in Calispel and the entire tribe entered the candlelit church. After the two-hour service, they marched outside and formed a circle around a big bonfire. Each went around and shook hands with other members of the tribe, singing in unison in their language, “Let us be glad and rejoice, for this is the day which the Lord has made.”

They told Taelman it was the first Midnight Mass they had celebrated since a missionary, the Rev. Philip Canistrelli, had been with them 25 years ago.



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