KENNEWICK -- In the past century, St. Joseph's Church has grown from a handful of families meeting in each other's homes to celebrating seven Masses each weekend for its 1,800 families.
But while much has changed since St. Joseph Parish began in Kennewick, the core of the Catholic faith has remained constant. And today, St. Joseph's celebrates 100 years.
"Buildings may change, styles may change, language may change, but there is this common thread that we start at the Mass," said Ralph LeCompte, a 25-year member of the parish. "And we receive the body of Christ, and we work outward from there to make the world a better place."
This year, construction has started on the latest building, a new middle school that LeCompte, the principal of St. Joseph's Catholic School, hopes to move students into around Easter.
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It was 1911 when St. Joseph's Parish had its first church on Second Avenue and Washington Street in Kennewick, said Karen Swart, a member of the parish since 1981, who put together the church's history for the centennial.
The original church can be seen on the corner of Third Avenue and Quincy Street in Kennewick, where it was moved after the parish sold it, said Rick Rutherford, a parish member since 1960. Crossroads Bible Church now uses it.
The first Mass in what now is called the old church, or St. Joseph's Chapel, on Garfield Street was on Christmas Eve in 1949.
When Monsignor Desmond Dillon was the parish's priest in 1972, there also was the sister's convent and a school.
The school opened in 1964 with 134 students in grades first through fourth grades. Now, the school has 374 students in preschool through eighth grade, LeCompte said.
A gym was built, and a new school wing added along with fields to play baseball, softball and soccer. The new church was dedicated in 2002 and Dillon Hall was finished in 2006.
All the Masses were celebrated in Latin until the 1960s. Now, there is just one Latin Mass every other Sunday.
In 1976, Ramon Mata, who joined the parish in 1964, said St. Joseph's Church celebrated its first Spanish Mass with about 60 people. Now, one Saturday Mass and one Sunday Mass are celebrated in Spanish for about 1,850 people.
Most of the babies who are baptized, about 50 a month, are baptized in Spanish. There also are 10 to 20 baptisms in English each month, said Lois Rutherford, a parish member since 1958.
In another recent change, the nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet left the parish in June after having a presence at the Catholic school for about 40 years.
They have been missed, especially in the example they provided for the children who attend the school, said LeCompte.
But Dillon, 96, still provides that good example, he said.
By the time eighth graders leave St. Joseph's, LeCompte said they can quote by heart one of Dillon's favorite sayings, "God wants us to be good and happy and successful. He did not make us to be bad and sad. So God wants us to be nice and good."
Today, St. Joseph Parish will celebrate 100 years with a special Mass at 10 a.m. at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.