The Downtown Seattle Association estimates there are now more than 55,000 people living downtown. In 2008, the Kress IGA Supermarket opened on Third Avenue, adding another piece of needed community infrastructure.
Now downtown is about to get another institution that often helps form a neighborhood or community: a new church. The Archdiocese of Seattle this weekend (Aug. 28-29) will dedicate its first new building-based parish (as opposed to parishes for ethnic or other groups) in 42 years, when Christ Our Hope Parish officially opens in the Josephinum on Second Avenue.
The former high-ceilinged chapel in the building has been remodeled while preserving many of the architectural elements that make the building itself a special place. At the dedication the first pastor, the Rev. Paul Magnano, will be installed by Archbishop Alexander Brunett.
“We’re ready except for a few details here and there,” said Deacon Larry McDonald, one of three deacons assigned to the new parish. “We’re all pretty excited. I know the Archbishop is excited — this has been one of his dreams for years.”
Brunett issued a statement saying, “For some time now it has become clear to me that downtown Seattle needs a Catholic Church to serve the diverse needs of many Catholics in this vibrant and growing neighborhood. Responding to that need, I have created a new parish in downtown Seattle, with a new pastor and pastoral team. The parish will be called Christ Our Hope, the theme that Pope Benedict chose for his pilgrimage to the United States in 2008.”
Magnano, the new pastor, said he hopes “that everyone can come together in this church — the rich and the poor, the old and the young, all the diversity of downtown Seattle, sharing the same place, around the family table, so to speak.”
On Oct. 28, 2009, on the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Christ Our Hope was officially established as a personal parish, a parish that has no geographic boundaries. The new parish may draw downtown workers for daytime services when they are unable to travel to their own parishes during the workday.
The new parish is another signal that downtown Seattle is becoming a true community, changing dramatically from a typical downtown that empties out at 5 p.m. as workers leave to commute to homes elsewhere. With 55,000 people, there is a critical mass of residents now that has changed downtown.
The new parish runs against the grain in some ways and with it in others. Throughout the country, the Catholic Church is closing many parishes and schools in the inner city. So it is unusual for a new parish to be created. The parish also fits in with existing downtown churches such as Plymouth Congregational and the First United Methodist Church, which moved in January to its new site at 180 Denny Way.
First Church, as it now calls itself, also believes that “direct service to the homeless is a cornerstone of spiritual life.” Magnano, a Seattle native with deep family ties to the community, sees the new parish serving the many different populations downtown from high-rise condo dwellers to the homeless.
Magnano was pastor at St. Therese Parish in the Madrona neighborhood. Under his leadership, St. Therese in the summer of 2001 became the first Catholic parish in the area to host a tent city on parish grounds. Speaking of his new parish, he described the church as "downtown's living room."
The building itself is a Seattle landmark. It started as a hotel in 1908 to accommodate the rush of people expected for the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition the following year. The New Washington Hotel hosted such celebrities as President Howard Taft, Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley. The building was purchased in 1963 by the Archdiocese of Seattle, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace were asked to help with the management of the facility.
The building was renamed the Josephinum after the Sisters’ patron saint, St. Joseph. The building continues now to serve about 220 very low-income residents as part of the Archdiocesan Catholic Housing Services.
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