The beginning 1904
Fr. Henry Arts celebrates Mass
- In the fall of 1904, when the division point was moved from Kalispell to Whitefish the town consisted of a few buildings among a sea of stumps. There was no electricity, no city water and very little sidewalk. Those we had were built on top of the stumps.
- We had no church, but Reverend Father Henry Arts who then had charge of all Flathead County which is now Lincoln, Lake and Flathead, came as often as he could. Mass was celebrated in the old Mathews Hall over what is now the Hobby Spot. It was always on a weekday. There were very few Catholics here at that time but those few who were very anxious to have a church and a resident priest.
- One afternoon in the fall of 1905 the women met at the home of Mrs. C. H. Brawley, at Lakeside, and the first Altar Society was organized. Those present at the meeting were: Mmes. C. H. Brawley, H. T. Senay, Hennessy, William Ferguson, Solista Pickette, Ed Grant, Louis Micho, Luke Dillon and R. J. Weller. Mrs. Grant was chosen president and plans were made to hold our meetings at the various homes.
- (When Whitefish became the Great Northern division point and began to grow, Father Henry Arts, who was the pastor of the parish in Kalispell, began to include the railroad town in his missionary itinerary. Father Arts first said Mass in Whitefish in Matthews' Hall in 1904. In the summer of 1905 the Most Reverend John P. Carroll, Bishop of Helena, made his first visit to the town and encouraged the building of a church. Then began a series of social events to raise funds for the new church in Whitefish.)**
Fr. Ryan 1905
Fr. Ryan with the aid of John Hennessy put on a drive for money to build a church.
- In the winter of 1905-06 we held bake sales, card parties and apron and fancy work of work sales and sponsored a couple of dances in the hall. From these we realized a nice sum for the beginning of the church fund. In the Spring of 1906, Reverend Father Ryan came and with the help of John Hennessy put on a drive for money to build the church. A very humble building was erected that summer and after that we had Mass there as often as a priest could come.
- (In March, 1906, with the appointment of the Rev. P. D. Ryan to Columbia Falls and Whitefish, the work of construction was begun, and the church was completed in May, 1907. The same summer the Rev. Charles B. McGlynn replaced Father Ryan, and was the first priest to take up his residence in Whitefish, with Columbia Falls as a mission. In August, 1909, Father McGlynn died and the Rev. J. M. Venus was named pastor. In 1910 he was transferred to Butte, and the Rev. C. M. Van Aken succeeded him. Father Van Aken purchased a home at 304 O'Brien Avenue, and this became the parish rectory for the pastor. Father Van Aken was in charge of the parish until 1916.)**
Fr. McGlynn 1907
Fr. McGlynn is appointed pastor.In the Spring of 1907, Reverend Father McGlynn was appointed our pastor. Mrs. C. H. Brawley was our president at that time and in the fall of 1907 we had our first Bazaar. It was held in the Mathews Hall and lasted five days. As we had no city water and no electricity, we had to carry the wood for the twenty women who worked. It netted us about $1,750 which helped to get some furnishings for the church and to pay our pastor's salary.
Death of Fr. McGlynn 1910
Fr. Venus replaces Fr. McGlynn for a few months.Our progress was very slow. Father McGlynn was with us until his death early in 1910 and had accomplished a lot toward the founding of the parish and instruction of the children. After Father McGlynn's death, Father Venus who was later, Vicar General under Bishop Gilmore, was here for a few months until the appointment of Reverend Father C. M. VanAken.
Fr. VanAken appointed Pastor 1910
Rectory purchased.Father C. M. VanAken, during whose Pastorate the Parish House was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Jack Mathews. By this time quite a number of Catholics had come to Whitefish and the Altar Society had grown to twenty-five members. Those of Father VanAken's parish who still remain are the Voorman families, Mmes. Raiber, Braig, Walters, Hill, Hansen, Jacoby, Friend, Strom, Bonner, Shoaf, Brindle, Avery and Weller. The work of the Altar Society went on as usual--bake sales, dinners and bazaars. Mrs. Brawley, Mrs. Ferguson and Mrs. McGee served as Presidents. After the building of the Masonic Temple we rented the banquet hall for all our large affairs.
Fr. Joseph P. Carroll becomes Pastor 1916
Enlargement of church.
- In the fall of 1916 Father VanAken was succeeded by Reverend Father Joseph P. Carroll who proceeded to finish the upper story of the Parish House and put on a drive to enlarge the church to the present size of the new Parish Hall. Mmes. C. H. Brawley, L. J. Sissell, William Crowley, F. J. Brindle, C. H. Brawley (again) and Weller served as Altar Society Presidents at intervals from then on. At that time we were holding our meetings in the banquet room of the Odd Fellows building. We had two meetings a month and we did a great deal toward parish expenses and payments on the debt.
- In 1927, we bought and paid for the furnace which is now in the Parish Hall.
- In 1928, we had the church repainted inside and out and as vandals had broken nearly all of the windows we had them replaced and covered with screens. By this time we had acquired a silver service for 100 and some dishes and linens.
- As Father Carroll had purchased the property on the lakeshore, which is now called Rest Haven, and built a hall which he had hope would be a recreation center for the parish, we entertained some of the smaller convention groups such as the P.E.O. there and had our parish parties and picnics for the children. There were 33 names on our roster then. Of the new ones of that time we still have Mrs. Lucy Neville who has been a boon to the parish ever since. Mrs. Tombrink became of of us about that time too. Also Mrs. Nic Herriges and Mrs. R. N. Arnold.
- During Father Carroll's time we sponsored a group of girls called the Children of Mary. There girls were a great help in the work of the church. Of that group the only one remaining here is Marcella Brindle. Later we organized the leadership of Mrs. Neville, Mrs. Ferguson and Mrs. Arnold.
- (In October, 1916, the Rev. Joseph J. Carroll succeeded Father Van Aken as pastor and proceeded to enlarge the church to almost twice its previous size.)**
Death of Fr. Carroll on Palm Sunday 1930
Fr. OShea becomes pastor.
- On Palm Sunday of 1930 our parish was saddened by the death of Father Carroll. Father Henry Arts who was then Chaplain at the Mercy Hospital in Kalispell took charge of the parish until the appointment of Reverend Father James P. O Shea in August of 1930. The Altar Society cleaned, redecorated and partly refurnished the Parish House for Father O Shea's occupancy. At that time we were holding our meetings in the Masonic Temple, which did not please our new pastor so he conceived the idea of excavating under the Parish House to make a small hall of our own. As that was during the depression, Father was beseiged by hungry men asking for help so he hit upon the plan to ask each man to do an hour or so of work on the excavation. In a few months it was ready for occupancy. Nic Herriges kindly donated the wiring and Frank MacDonald built the cupboards. We had the long tables built and purchased card tables, dishes and linens. Although it was far from ideal, in a good many ways it provided a place where we could keep our things and entertain the children.
- (The death of Father Carroll in 1930 brought the appointment as pastor of the Rev. James P. O'Shea. In this time a parish hall was provided in the basement of the rectory for all parish meetings. Other achievements were the modernization of the heating equipment with oil furnaces and stokers, enlarging of the sanctuary of the church, and the payment of the parish debt.)**
Sisters arrive August 1930
Sisters from Kalispell come to catechize our children.
- Father OShea reorganized the National Council which had not be active the last years of Father Carroll. Mrs. Weller was President of both Altar Society and Council the first year. Afterward, Mrs. Neville was N.C.C. President succeeded by Mrs. Avery, Mrs. Arnold and Mrs. Weller. We had the honor of having two of our members, Mrs. Neville and Mrs. Bradley elected to state offices. Mrs. Neville - State Treasurer; and Mrs. Bradley - State President. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine was also organized. Our study clubs met in the Parish Hall and also in the Parish House and occasionally in the members homes. We did everything possible to ear money to help our pastor in the stupendous task which was his to do. A dime was harder to get than a dollar today. We helped to entertain and encourage the boys in the C. C. Camps which were stationed near here. We worked on relief boards and did all we could to provide food and clothing for destitute families. And to send all the help we could to our own orphanage and House of the Good Shepherd.
- In 1931, Father O Shea began having the Sisters from Kalispell come to teach the summer school and the first few years the Altar Society financed it. We had full responsibility for the care of the church.
- In 1932, Mrs. W. B. Avery was elected President and the work went on as in the previous years with some progress being made toward the payment of the debt. Two happy years.
- In 1934, Mrs. Avery was succeeded by Mrs. Arnold during which time the church was redecorated and the Altars changed. Our pastor became very ill and was granted a leave of absence to go to Ireland; and again Fr. Arts came to fill the vacancy. The Altar Society continued on as usual doing what they could until the return of Father O Shea. All the time doing all we could to help pay the parish debt. Mrs. Jacoby took over the Presidency in 1936 and by this time it became a little easier to make money on the dinners and bazaars and all the things we did.
- All of this time we did all we could to keep our young people interested. We had picnics, parties and dances for them in vacation time and we had to our credit many fine young men and women, sons and daughters of these women who have gone out to take their places in the world, and are a credit to our community.
- In 1938, Mrs. Fay Rider was our leader, for one year. She was followed by Mrs. Walters. Everything went on quite smoothly. Mrs. Louis Kinschella took over after Mrs. Walters but had to resign early in 1942 because of their moving to Kalispell.
Fr. OShea begins planning for church 1942
Plans for new church.Fr. OShea begins working on plans for a new church.
Fr. Edward Taylor becomes Pastor 1944
Fr. Taylor is sent to Whitefish.
- In May of 1944, Father OShea was called to Butte and Reverend Father Edward Taylor was sent to us. Father Taylor began a very vigorous campaign for funds for the new church and we had two very busy years.
- In 1944, Mrs. Claude Brittelles became President and was reelected in 1946 but resigned to join her husband who had reentered the Army. Mrs. Cripe the Vice-President finished the term. Mrs. Cripe was followed by Mrs. John Lindsay. In the Fall of 1946, Father Taylor was also called to Butte and our present, beloved Pastor, Fr. John Cronin came to us.
- I hope I may be permitted these few personal remarks. From the beginning St. Charles Altar Society has deserved great credit for the progress of the work of the church. Through every discouragement they have stood loyally ready to help all of the fine pastors who served us so unselfishly through the years. And I thank Almighty God that I have lived to see the fulfillment of their dreams.
- (Father OShea was pastor until May, 1944, when he was transferred to Butte, and the Rev. Edmond Taylor from Libby became Pastor. ) **
Fr. Cronin becomes new Pastor 1946
Father Cronin comes to town!In 1946 Father Taylor was transferred to Butte, and the Rev. John F. Cronin, just returned from service as chaplain in the Southwest Pacific area, was appointed pastor.
New church built 1963
Begins funding for new church.
- By this time the debt had been paid and Fr. O Shea began a fund for a new church. He appointed Mrs. Weller to finish the unexpired term of Mrs. Kinschella. As this was war time, we had the food and gasoline rationing to contend with but in spite of it we were abl to add to the fund for the church and keep everything going along as usual. We had a high Mass the first Sunday of every month for the members of the Armed Forces. Mrs. Weller remained President until 1945.
- Respectfully submitted,
- Theresa Weller
- P.S. The rest of the story may better be told by some of your later Presidents as I have not been in very close touch with the work of the last seven years. God bless you all.
- (Note from Fr. Ken - It is exceptionally moving to note the incredible dedication and strength of those who have come before us. They who sacrificed, worked hard and prayed diligently for the faith of the Church in our midst. May we always remember them in prayer and be grateful for their service, and follow in their footsteps.)
- (A new church and rectory was built in 1953. The first Mass was celebrated in the new church on November 22 of that year. The church was dedicated by the Most Rev. Joseph M. Gilmore, Bishop of Helena, September, 1954.
- The former rectory on O'Brien Avenue was sold. Due to the generosity of the parishioners of St. Charles Parish, the debt on the new church and rectory was paid off in eight years.)**
Fr. Cronin returns to Whitefish 1970
Fr. Cronin returns!
- (On July 1, 1970, Father Malloy was transferred to Butte. On this same date Father Cronin was transferred from St. Anthony Parish, Missoula, to return to Whitefish as pastor.
- At the time of this writing, November, 1971, Father Cronin remains pastor of St. Charles Church.)**
- **Taken from "Stump Town to Ski Town: the Story of Whitefish, Montana. By Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter. The Whitefish Library Association, Inc., Whitefish, MT 1973, Canton Printers, Ltd. Caldwell, ID 83605
Bell Tower added. Late 1970s
New Bell Tower is erected at the parish.
- Original church bell from first church is placed in the bell tower.
- Our Bell Tower at St. Charles Borromeo was designed and fabricated by long-time parishioner Reg MacDonald. He was initially approached about the project by his step-mother Dorothy MacDonald in the late 1970s when she asked him to build a tower to house the bell from the original St. Charles Church.
- Mr. MacDonald agreed to this request and submitted his design for the tower to the St. Charles Building Committee which accepted it.
- According to MacDonald, the tripod and triangular base and bell-housing symbolize the Holy Trinity, the base of our Catholic faith. The two triangles of the base and bell-housing are offset to form a Star of David symbolizing the roots of the faith in the Old Testament. The bell itself is a symbol of the Word of God. The ringing of church tower bells summon the faithful to prayer and announce the Word of God.
- The twelve-spoke wheel at the center of the tower symbolizes the twelve Apostles and was originally to be embolized with the phrase "Sursum Corda" which means "Lift up your hearts."
- When the tower was complete it was erected by Bill Driscoll and Larry O'Shaunessey.
- For the Diocese of Helena Millennium celebration, each church was asked by the Bishop to submit a quilt square representing their parish. Our own artist Tom Costich drew a likeness of the Bell Tower on our square and nimble fingered Jean Driscoll embroidered it for us. A great symbol of St. Charles Borromeo Parish!
Fr. Patrick Brown becomes Pastor 1979
Parish welcomes Fr. Brown.The beloved Fr. Patrick Brown is appointed as pastor to St. Charles Parish. Unfortunately, Fr. Brown was tragically killed in the rectory fire in Eureka in 1981.
Fr. John Robertson is welcomed to Parish 1981
Fr. Robertson is welcomed to the parish.After Fr. Brown’s death, Father John Robertson comes to celebrate with the Whitefish community. In 1983, Father is transferred to the Chancery in Helena.
Fr. Hunthausen becomes Pastor 1983
Fr. Hunthausen makes improvements to the parish facilities.Under the leadership of Fr. John Hunthausen, the parish center (later dedicated to the beloved Fr. Strom) is updated and a second floor was added to the facility for catechetical instruction classrooms. The dining room in the rectory was divided in two so a “Pastoral Office” would be available.
Fr. Roman becomes Pastor 1991
Fr. Roman becomes pastor.
Fr. Patton becomes the 17th Pastor 2004
After Father Roman retires from active ministry, Father Patton comes to the parish.
- Father Patton, having left the military chaplaincy, returns to the diocese and comes to the parish. Father updated may aspects of the parish.
- Father adds the Crucifix to the front courtyard of the church.
Fr. Fortney becomes Pastor 2011
Fr. Fortney becomes pastor at the retirement of Father Patton.
- July 2011, Father Fortney comes to the parish from Sanders County Catholic Community. After having served 4 churches in Sanders County, Father welcomes being in a one church community.
- During the eight years of his ministry in Whitefish, many changes have come to the Church facilities:
- 1. Purchased new Rectory
- 2. Baptismal font is updated with a new bowl and placed at the front of the church.
- 3. New linoleum is placed under the pews in the church.
- 4. The brick base was replaced with rock on the base of the Bell Tower.
- 5. A defibrillator was purchased for the parish.
- 6. New walls were built in the classroom in the Catechetical Center.
- 7. Security system was added to the parish complex.
- 8. New holy water Fonts were added for uniformity and two “children” fonts were placed under the fonts at the entry of the church.
- 9. The former rectory “Living Room” was updated to be the new Parish Office.
- 10. The wall separating the former Office and Dining Room was removed, making the former 2 rooms into a Conference Room.
- 11. New windows replaced the in-efficient windows in the Office Center.
- 12. The Office center was insulated.
- 13. A new Credence table was placed in the Sanctuary.
- 14. The Four Gospel writers icons are placed in front of the Ambo.
- 15. Updated LED lights are added to the main body of the church.
- 16. Air-conditioning is a welcomed addition to the church.
- 17. Lighted Exit signs are placed at doors throughout the parish complex.
- 18. A new parish sign is added at the front of the church.
- 19. The statue of St. Francis finds a new home in the Office Center courtyard.
- 20. A statue of St. Joseph is donated to the parish.
- 21. The statue of St. Charles Borromeo is placed in a new niche at the entrance of the church.
- 22. A new sidewalk and lighting is added to the entrance to Father Strom Hall.
- 23. New metal roof caps church facilities.
- 24. New Entrance doors are place at the church vestibule.
- 25. New windows are placed in the Faith Formation classrooms and the upper bedrooms of the Office Center.
- 26. New marble tops are made for the main altar and the tabernacle.
- 27. Air Conditioning for the guest rooms in the Office Center
- 28. Air Conditioning for Fr. Strom Hall
- 29. The project for a stain glass window depicting St. Charles begins installation in the spring of 2019.