St Monica Parish History

Father John A. Walsh was our founding pastor and within a few short months he channeled the enthusiasm of our initial 380 families into a building program.  Countless individuals contributed to the building fund and made special donations and memorials.  By June 1959, property that had been purchased in 1950 by Archbishop Connolly was cleared and contracts signed to erect a church, a ten-room school and a ten-room convent at the cost of $516,063.  The Parish increased by nearly 100 families in 1960 and the first Mass was celebrated in the new church on June 26, 1960.

In addition to tending to the congregation’s spiritual needs, St. Monica was a parish that grew through prayer and socialization.  Many will remember the first parish activities.  First, the choir was formed.  How many recall singing Christmas carols on Jean Bourdeau’s festooned boat while cruising around the island?  The Bentlers, Rambaldinis, and Weigands began a square dance club, which, after three years, became St. Monica’s Social Club.  The first parish dinner, held in 1966, was to be a break-even event, but it raised $1,800.  From that year forward, the dinner was a moneymaker event and it laid the foundation for today’s auction.

In February 1977, Father Walsh was reassigned as Pastor of St. Thomas Church in Riverton.  He left behind memories of laughter and his favorite Irish Blessing.   Sadly, less than five months later he died.  As Walter Parietti wrote in a  memorial dedication “His spirituality was such that it inspired us all to be close to God.”

Father James Gandrau succeeded Father Walsh as pastor.  Father Gandrau had been a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Everett where Father Walsh was first assigned, and was inspired by Father Walsh to enter the seminary.  Father Gandrau continued “building” at St. Monica.  He strengthened the faith community with his Inquiry Classes and Parish Renewal.  He placed a high priority on developing a solid religious program in the school and parish, and he continued to develop the youth and young adult programs.  Through his spiritual guidance, a Perpetual Adoration Chapel was opened, and a grotto to house the Madonna of Mercer Island was built (above).  Under his leadership, the Annual Parish Auction Dinner grew and “The Friends of the Needy” was established.  Father continued to build.  Through efforts, St. Monica received a remodeled sacristy, a memorial to Father Walsh, a new gym and Family Center, and finally a Carillon Bell Tower. In June of 1990, Fr. Gandrau was transferred to St. Alphonsus parish in Ballard.

In July 1990, Father Bowman became the third pastor to shepherd the people of St. Monica.  He beautified the grounds with careful landscaping projects.  He renovated the interior of the Church with new windows, carpets, lighting, as well as a new pulpit and altar.  The newest building project was completed in the fall of 2001: a new wing to the north end of the school building to house the middle school, a new library and media center, up-to-date computer and science labs, and administrative offices.

Father Bowman enriched the community with his total support of the parish and school.  Parishioners were offered two daily masses, private Baptisms, a professional choir and opportunities to celebrate events throughout the liturgical year.  Father was a positive presence in the school and parish religious education program.  He visited the children in the classrooms and lunch room, he participated in retreats, and was often seen at CYO events.  Father Bowman dined with families, taking time and delight in listening to the young family members read.  This allowed the children to know their pastor on a personal level.

In July of 2002, Father Bowman was transferred to St. Luke Parish in Shoreline, and Father Dennis Kemp came back to St. Monica as Pastor.  Father Kemp, when he was first ordained in 1973, assisted Fr. John Walsh in his pastoral duties here.  In his words, this was a “return home” for him.  And as each pastor has different talents and priorities, we saw subtle changes to our parish community.  For example, our annual parish picnic was re-instituted, as well as more social gatherings such as a parish luau in January, and a St. Patrick's Day Dinner Dance in March.  A finance commission was created.

In July 2007, Father Kemp left St. Monica and Larry McDonald became our Parish Administrator. In November of that same year, Larry McDonald was ordained a deacon. Our parish rejoiced with him! With the help of Deacon Jack Warfield as Liturgical Coordinator, as well as the rest of Parish Staff, the parish continued to thrive as we celebrated Christmas and Easter. On March 30, 2008, it was announced that we would be welcoming a new pastor in July: Father Patrick Freitag.

Father Freitag has come back to our parish, having been very active in parish ministries when he was a parishioner back in the 1990s. Father Freitag brings his faith and devotion to St. Monica as he shepherds the community in our faith journey and growth.  Along beside him is his dog Sophia.  She loves all the attention she gets from the parishioners families.  She goes with him wherever he goes and as often as she can be the center of attention, she is!!

With the help and inspiration of the clergy, teachers, alumni, and parish members, and staff,
St. Monica continues to grow drawing new members every week!

Many thanks to Ginny Wolfe Lynch who compiled much of this historical data.






Saint Monica Our Patron Saint

Saint Monica was born to a Christian family in Tagaste, Africa in 332 AD.

Saint Monica's marriage to her pagan husband, an official of Tagaste, was not a happy one. Monica, however, did not leave her husband; rather, she persisted in being a faithful, loving wife and was the model of a devout Christian. Her example and prayer finally paid off, as her husband converted to the faith. Then, by her tears and unceasing prayers, she converted her lazy, wayward son St. Augustine of Hippo, who is now regarded as one of the greatest Doctors of the Western Church.

She died at Ostia in the year 378.

Her Feast Day is August the 27th and she's the patron saint for married women and mothers.

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