Two church structures were demolished and the congregations lost everything — everything, that is, but one another.
On Sunday, St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Raymond celebrates its endurance — 100 years of service to Catholics in northern Pacific County — despite harsh economic times that caused two congregations to combine into one. They’ll celebrate with a Centennial Mass of Celebration and a dinner, with the Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain, archbishop of the Seattle diocese, and several former priests as special guests.
The original St. Lawrence was located in South Bend. It was demolished after efforts to have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places failed. At the same time, the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Raymond had structural and economic problems and the two parishes combined. The combination took the St. Lawrence name, but located in Raymond.
The altar and stained glass windows from St. Lawrence in South Bend were transported into the new structure and are the only physical representations left of the historic church. Immaculate Conception celebrated its last mass on Dec. 8, 1980.
Longtime parishioners say it was financial and structural issues that forced the parishes to combine.
“Logging went down for a while. … Mainly, we lost our children, they had to go elsewhere to find jobs,” said Marlene Green, who has been a member of the parish for 56 years. But throughout the years, Green says, the parish has always been there for her, something she has been especially appreciative of lately. Green recently lost her husband and was diagnosed with cancer.
“I’m in chemo now. … They help through their words, through cards. And I know they’re praying for me all the time,” she said. “You cannot know what prayers mean.”
Green said she is “very fortunate” in that two of her daughters chose to stay and live in town, as well as two older grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
St. Lawrence’s current structure, located at 1112 Blake St. near Raymond High School, has gone through big changes over the years, according to the Parish’s priest the Rev. Paul Kaech, who splits his time between St. Lawrence and a Catholic parish in Seaview.
He says priest-availability is becoming more and more of a concern. Kaech, himself, who is originally from Pacific County, worked at three different parishes in the Seattle area within a period of two years before heading to his current job in which he drives back and forth between Seaview and Raymond multiple times a week. He said he does wish he had more time with each parish.
Green says she remembers a different time when each parish had its very own priest who lived permanently within the community, known by virtually everyone. The priest was always around and thus essentially became a member of the families whom he led, she said. “I miss times like when I was a child,” said Green, who recalled a certain priest of the parish’s past who came up to her after an Easter Mass and asked, “So, what’s for dinner?”
“My husband didn’t like many things, so it was salmon patties and mac and cheese, maybe fried potatoes. … He said, ‘sounds good to me,’ and he came,” she said.
Kaech said one of the biggest problems currently for the church is attendance.
“There are a lot of Catholics (in the area), but they don’t come,” he said, adding there are many who come for the “big ones,” Christmas or Easter Mass.
He said there are around 75 families in the church, and says there are many newly joined from the Hispanic community. He said that their youth group, which currently has around 10 to 12 members, could easily have 40 or 50, but that they do not attend as frequently as they should.
“It starts with mom and dad. We are the product of environment, why aren’t moms and dads here?” he said, adding while there is a lot of distraction in modern day life, he believes going to church frequently is as important as frequenting one’s gym. “This is a lifeline of support, we’re not in this world alone, we need to keep up our relationship with God.”
The Centennial Mass of Celebration will be this Sunday, Sept. 29. Call 360.942.3000 for more information.