The history of Holy Rosary parish begins on a small plot of land is what we in the West Seattle community call "The Admiral District." It was in 1909 that the Most Reverend Edward J. O'Dea appointed Father Daniel A. Hanley to establish a parish in West Seattle. This new church was located at the northeast corner of Walnut Avenue and Hill Street and would be formed from St. James Cathedral. The new worship community would consist of 35 families and its boundaries would include what is now Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holy Family, St. Bernadette and St. Francis of Assisi parishes. So begins our experience of The House of God (Domus Dei) and The House of the People (Domus Ecclesiae). Big things have small beginnings.
Construction of the English Gothic style church, built entirely of Washington fir with a shake exterior finish, was begun June 6, 1909. Its supporting rafters were visible on the inside. We spent four years worshipping at this location.
Parish records indicate that Joseph Hector Wilfred Goulet was the first to be baptized at Holy Rosary on January 30, 1910. Other "firsts" were to follow. On June 22, 1910, Jacobus R. Kelly married Gladys Dickerson. Theirs are the first names to appear in the marriage register. The first entry in the Death Register on February 4, 1913 tells us that Marian Martin, a nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma, died of typhoid fever. Her gravesite can still be visited at Calvary Cemetery today.
In 1913, Hoy Rosary was on the move...literally! Logs were used to roll the church from its Walnut Avenue and Hill Street location to its new location at the northeast corner of California Avenue and Hanford Street. We worshipped here until 1937, when ground was broken for our present church. Our building and worship space on California Avenue eventually became St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church.
On June 6, 1937, the cornerstone for the new Holy Rosary Catholic Church, constructed in the Tuscan Romanesque style, was laid. Father James F. Lanigan, who was appointed pastor of Holy Rosary on December 5, 1924 (his 35th birthday), served as construction foreman of the project and it is rumored he was its prime architect as well.
Over these nearly 100 years, we've had our share of colorful priests. Our pastors have included Father Daniel A. Hanley (1909-1910), Michael J. O'Callaghan (1910-1924), James F. Lanigan (1924-1962), William J. Power (1962-1973), James van Gogh (1973-1981), James E. Mallahan (1981-1987), David Brant (1987-1992), Jeffrey L. Sarkies (1992-2006), and John Madigan (2006-present). Almost fifty Assistants, or Pastoral Associates as we call them now, have served here. And, for a short period, we had a bishop in residence as well.
The House of God and The House of the People consist on many parts. All these priests needed a place to live and construction of the Rectory, now the Parish Office, was begun on June 1, 1927 and completed in 1928. In the days before the Rectory, the priests lived in two rooms in the school. Construction of our first school begun shortly after Holy Rosary Church was relocated to California Avenue. Thus began a 70-year legacy between Holy Rosary and the Tacoma Dominicans, beginning with Sister Mary Alberta as Superior of the school. Names we will always remember include Sister Mary Carmelita and Sisters Dolorosa, Laurentia, Virginia and Roberta. Overcrowded and inadequate housing led to the construction of the Convent (now the Parish Center) in 1947.
On May 16, 1986, ground was broken for Lanigan Center. At the time we thought it would be used primarily as a school gymnasium and parish multi-use center. On August 3, 1997, after fire extensively damaged the church, we learned the gym could also serve as our parish worship space. We spent eight months in exile there; but it wasn't the first time we were without a church building. It is good to remember that when our current school building opened in 1924, its auditorium served as the parish church.
After months of reconstruction, renovation and restoration following the fire, we were welcomed back to Holy Rosary Church on Passion Sunday, May 31, 1998. Most Reverend Alexander Brunett, Archbishop of Seattle, presided at the Rededication Mass. It was probably similar to the Mass of Dedication in 1938 or the Mass of Consecration in 1951, but it was a chance for us to see The House of God and The House of the People in the present day. It was a chance to see how the beauty of the space and the spirit of the people are a witness to the presence of Jesus in our midst. His presence will move us toward the future and will help each of us write our own chapter in the history of the parish. All together, all one in the Risen Jesus!