KIRKLAND – In the last 100 years, members of Holy Family Parish have worshipped in three different buildings, including one that was destroyed by an arsonist who was never brought to justice.
Established Nov. 8, 1915, the Kirkland parish was one of the first Catholic churches on the east side of Lake Washington, said Father Kurt Nagel, the current pastor. “We like to think of ourselves as the first seed,” he said.
What started as a mission of St. Anthony Parish in Renton has grown into a parish of 1,800 families with a thriving school. Holy Family serves the parish and community with ministries focusing on everything from social justice and outreach to prayer and Bible study.
“We think of the church to be aging in some places, but here it’s still a young church,” Nagel said.
Even in its infancy, the parish served a multicultural community. In the early 20th century, Catholics in the area were of Irish, German, French, Italian and even Syrian descent, according to parish records. While demographics have changed, Father Nagel said, the community’s multicultural nature hasn’t. Because of its proximity to the Microsoft campus, the parish draws families from all over the world, he said.
Holy Family was established as a mission in 1913, and the first baptism occurred in March 1914, according to a church history prepared by parishioner Bob Sifferman. Later that year, parishioners donated their time and labor to start construction on the first 200-seat Holy Family Church. In 1915, Bishop Edward O’Dea established Holy Family as a parish and appointed Father Thomas Madigan its first priest.
The original Holy Family Church was erected in 1914 in Kirkland, and the parish was established on Nov. 8, 1915. Photo: Courtesy Michelle Ahearn
The parishioners finished the first church on Oct. 18, 1914. As the parish grew over the years, more room was needed. A new complex with a church, rectory and school was built in 1958. After being destroyed by fire, the church was rebuilt in 1990.
Holy Family’s school opened in 1957 with 226 students in six grades. Longtime parishioner Frank Rosin, who taught sixth grade from 1960-70, said the first administrator was a Dominican nun, Sister Evangela.
“The kids would say she was stern,” Rosin said, “but I thought she was a sweetheart.”
Today, the school has a capacity for 270 students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
Holy Family marked its centennial with a yearlong celebration that included events from picnics to pilgrimages. Rosin said he most enjoyed the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel in Roche Harbor, where the original church’s former back altar now resides.
The year of celebrations culminated with a Nov. 8 Mass concelebrated by Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Father Nagel and two former pastors, Fathers Jim Dalton and Gary Morelli.
In the last 100 years, the city of Kirkland “has grown up and gotten more sophisticated and we’ve grown with it,” Father Nagel said.
As a lifelong Holy Family parishioner, Rosin has seen a lot of changes, “but we have a nice group of people in Kirkland and it’s a nice place to come,” he said.