History of St. Edward’s Parish
Although the Catholic Church in Mason county was not formally organized until 1890 by the Rev. Father McReavy, information in the parish archives indicates that Mass was offered in Shelton as early as 1884.
During the early years a priest would travel by boat several times a year from Olympia and Tacoma to offer Mass in private homes, in Dan Keelty’s Hotel on Oakland Bay, and in Kneeland Hall.
In 1892 a petition was circulated by Thomas O’Neill to raise funds to build the first Catholic Church on the corner of First and San Joaquin Streets (behind the present site of the City Center Motel). The property for the church was donated by David Shelton to the Bishop of Nisqually for the sum of one dollar.
On March 18, 1892, ground for the new church was broken by contractor Eliab Dunbar. The agreement was to build a wooden church for the sum of $585.00 that was 24′ x 50′ and which would accommodate 150 persons. This did not include a belfry or inside furnishings.
The first services in the new church were conducted on May 20, 1892.
In 1893 Mason County was placed under the charge of the Benedictine Fathers. St. Edward’s had no resident priest until July of 1935; but from the time when St. Martin’s Abbey was built in 1895, the Benedictine Fathers from St. Martin’s have taken care of St Edward’s parish.
In 1901, when Father Wolfgang was serving as pastor, church membership stood at 100. Services were held only once a month and later increased to twice a month. It was not until the late 1920’s that Mass was offered on a weekly basis in Shelton.
In 1903 the present site of St. Edward’s Church was purchased from William Walter for the sum of $100.00, and the wood frame church was moved from its original site to Third and Pine Streets. The property at First and San Joaquin Streets was sold to George Getty for $35.00.
In 1931 the Rev. Father Fabian Sexton, assisted by a committee of seven, undertook the construction of our present church. The brick church, which was dedicated on December 13, 1931, was designed by architect Paul Thiry in Norman Gothic style. The church seats 300 persons and cost $15,000 to build.
A year before the present church was built the original wood frame structure was moved to one end of the church property and was used as a residence for the pastor, Father Fabian. During the 1950’s this building was sold and moved to Mountain View where it served as residence for the minister of the Church of God and classroom space for Sunday School.
As the years passed and the congregation grew, St. Edward’s acquired the half block across the street from the church. During the late 1940’s Father Mark Welchman decided to build a Catholic School on this property, but the city of Shelton refused to grant a building permit. Following several suits and counter-suits, the city finally did agree to issue the permit, but by that time St. Edward’s had decided against building a school. The present parking lot was paved in the late 1950’s.
During the 1950’s the rectory, which currently stands next to the church, was built. In 1951 Father Mark celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest and was honored with a Golden Jubilee testimonial dinner at St. Edward’s.
It was with an eye to future growth that in 1964 the parish purchased ten acres in the Mountain View area. Then, in 1965, St. Edward’s purchased the old Methodist Church to house its religious education program and various church related activities. This large wood frame structure was located directly behind the church where the gravel parking lot is now located. It was torn down after our new Parish Hall was built in 1984.
After serving as pastor of St. Edward’s for a full 30 years, from 1935 to 1965, Father Mark retired at the age of 90. Father Gabriel Donohue replaced Father Mark as pastor. Upon Father Gabriel’s death in 1973, Father Michael Feeney took over as resident pastor of St. Edward’s. Father Michael was assisted on weekends by Father Placidus Rieschman who had also assisted Father Gabriel.
In 1975 Father Michael undertook the task of having some renovations done in both the church and the parish hall. It was also in 1975 that the parish had grown to a point that it was considered the right time to hire a full-time Religious Education Director to serve the needs of the parishioners, both children and adults. It was also under Father Michael that the Parish Council was re-established in St. Edward’s.
On October 2, 1975 Holy Cross Cemetery, which had originally been deeded to the church by David Shelton, was deeded over to the Shelton Cemetery Association.
On January 1, 1979 Father Kieran Cunningham came to St. Edward’s and served as its pastor for the following eight and a half years. Under Father Kieran, St. Edward’s parish saw the start and completion of the beautiful new Parish Hall in 1984. After the new hall was completed, the old Parish Hall was demolished and the area turned into an additional parking lot.
In July of 1987 Father Edward Receconi became the pastor of St. Edward’s Parish. Only five years after its construction in 1984 Father Edward had the pleasure and privilege of burning the mortgage to the new Parish Hall in 1989.
On September 1, 1993, Fr. Dominic Hahn, OSB was named pastor by the newly elected Abbot, Neal Roth, OSB of St. Martin’s Abbey and approved by Archbishop Thomas Murphy, DD. After pushing the community to look toward building a new church, the parish community asked Fr. Dominic to begin the process in February of 1988. A building committee had been working on the master plan. See the Building Committee News links on the first page for the latest information on the new church.
The new pastor of St. Edward Parish, Fr. Ron Belisle, came to Shelton on July 1, 2005. Fr. Belisle is a diocesan priest who reported to Archbishop Alexander Brunett of the Seattle Archdiocese of the church. He studied at St. Edward’s Seminary and received his doctorate of ministry at St. Thomas the Apostle Seminary, near Seattle. He also earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Portland.
As he steps into a new church he looks forward to serving the people of the congregation, encouraging faith formation and celebration of the liturgy as he teaches people. Fr. Belisle puts a strong emphasis on catechesis, on teaching people, believing faith education allows people to strengthen their lives.
Fr. Belisle has also been assigned to develop a plan for St. Edward’s to replace its existing church, which the congregation is outgrowing. The current church dates back to the 1930s. On July 12, 2009, the new church was completed and consecrated by Archbishop Alex Brunett.
The dreams of many decades and the labor of many faithful have brought us through numerous meetings and brainstorming sessions to erect a building that will stand to the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Our plans have been undergirded by prayer, and been brought to fruition through the generosity of countless people.