THE EARLY YEARS
In 1911, Mrs. Joseph Dailey asked Father DeDecker, the priest who had charge of the Nisqually Indian church near Roy, Washington, to come to baptize her baby daughter. Again, in 1912, she asked Father Mally of Olympia to baptize her baby boy. She then found that there were several Catholic families in the area and wrote Bishop O’Dea in Seattle, asking for a priest to offer Mass for them occasionally.
On Saturday, June 28, 1913, Father M. Kreutzer from Tacoma, said Mass in a hall above the barbershop in McKenna. This Mass continued to be offered once a month for the entire year. When Father Kreutzer was no longer available to come to McKenna for Mass, Mrs. Dailey wrote the Jesuit Fathers for a priest and they suggested that she ask St. Martin’s College for a priest to come to Yelm. In January 1915, Father Matthew Britt, O.S.B. from St. Martin’s in Lacey, began offering Mass on the last Sunday of each month in the same hall formerly used by Father Kreutzer. In March 1916, Father Raymond Neary, O.S.B., also from St. Martin’s was given charge in place of Father Matthew Britt.
At this time the congregation fluctuated from between 10 to 20 people.
In those days automobiles were not common. Therefore, Father Raymond Neary boarded a train in Lacey, traveling to Tacoma where he boarded a train for McKenna. The train trip took from Saturday morning to Saturday afternoon. Father spent the night as a guest in the home of one of the parishioners. The next morning (Sunday) he offered Mass and then made his way back to St. Martin’s in Lacey again by train.
A NEW CHURCH IS BORN
In 1921, an application was made to the Extension Society through Bishop O’Dea for $500 to assist in building a church in McKenna. The money was obtained with the stipulation that the church be named St. Margaret Mary.
St. Margaret Mary was built according to a plan loaned to the people by an architect. The superintendent of the McKenna Lumber Company obtained a 99 year lease on land from the lumber company where the church was to be built and also obtained the lumber from the McKenna Lumber Company at cost. The first Mass was offered in the new St. Margaret Mary Church on June 12, 1921.
Church attendance grew to more than 100 parishioners by 1923. St. Margaret Mary was used for 37 years until it could not accommodate the number of parishioners for lack of space.
GROWTH INTO YELM
This necessitated the purchase of a building in which to have Mass. Yelm was chosen as a site. On Easter Sunday of 1958 Father William Maat, O.S.B. offered the first Mass in a building which is part of a parish hall, formerly a garage, built by Barney Clark. Beginning in 1965 there were two Masses each Sunday in Yelm and one Mass at St. Margaret Mary in McKenna. In 1981 Mass was discontinued at St. Margaret Mary and all parishioners were then members of St. Columban Church in Yelm. St. Margaret Mary Church was then sold.
From that time to the present several other priests from St. Martin’s served the people of St. Columban parish. With the exception of Father Alphonse Fuchs, O.S.B. who preceded Father William, they were Father Luke O’Donnell, O.S.B., then Father Bede Ernsdorf, O.S.B., followed by Father Damian Glenn, O.S.B. In 1981 Father Felix Wirth, O.S.B. became pastor and was actually the first resident pastor at St. Columban Parish. Father Felix died during his pastorate in 1983.
From 1983 Fathers Edward Receconi, O.S.B. and Patrick Dahlquist, O.S.B. were interim priests who conducted the parish until 1984 at which time Father Terence Wager, O.S.B. was installed as pastor. In 1983 St. Columban parish building committee initiated plans for fundraising and for the building of a new Church in Yelm, located on the same parish property not far from the old Church. Ground breaking for the new Church was in 1989 and the new Church was completed in June 1990.
The Rite of Dedication was performed June 10, 1990, and was commemorated with a booklet. Archbishop Hunthausen consecrated and blessed the new church.
Father Wager continued as pastor until his death in early 2010. Archbishop Brunett appointed Fr. Duc Nguyen to the parish, as priest administrator beginning in July 2010.