History of St. Mary’s Genesee

In the early years of the 1880s, there is evidence that the Jesuit Fathers, including the famous missionary Father Cataldo, visited Genesee occasionally to say Mass in the homes of the town’s pioneers.  By 1887, Rev. Alexander Diomedi, SJ, who was stationed in Lewiston, said Mass monthly in Genesee, and by 1889 that was increased to two Sundays a month when Father Francis Hartleib took up residence in Moscow.

It was in 1889 that efforts to build a permanent Catholic Church began, with initial organizing meetings held in February, and work on the foundation begun in June of that same year.  By April of 1890, construction was completed, painting was being done both inside and out, the altar was finished, and the organ installed.  Finally, on April 25th, 1890, the Genesee Advertiser published, “There will be services at the Catholic Church Sunday.”  St. Mary’s Church in Genesee was formally dedicated in honor of the Immaculate Conception on July 13th, 1890 at a ceremony officiated by Bishop A. J. Glorieux.  Sixteen parishioners also received their Confirmation that day.  The Catholic cemetery in Genesee was also purchased in 1889 or 1890.

The chiming bells were installed in the first Church building in 1893.  The largest of these bells survived the fire of 1961 and is currently displayed in the parking lot of the St. Mary’s Church building.

The Benedictines opened a school in the parish in 1896, with classes held in the sacristy and basement rooms of the old Church.  The first Catholic school building in Genesee was a project spearheaded by Rev. Remi Keyzer in 1900.  The parishioners made the bricks for the school themselves and sold the unusable ones to buy lumber and other items needed for the building. The school was completed and dedicated to St. Joseph in 1900.

In 1900 or 1901, a horse show was held by the parish. This was the forerunner of the Harvest Festival, the parish’s annual fundraising dinner. At first, the event lasted three days and was rather like a midsummer carnival. During the Depression, it evolved into a one day bazaar with two meals, a chicken lunch and a sausage dinner. After the middle of the century, it became a sausage dinner that was served most of the day

In 1904, Bishop Glorieux convoked the first Synod of the Diocese of Boise and it was held at St. Mary’s Church, Genesee.  As the Genesee Advertiser put it, “A gathering of so many Catholic priests is a rare occurrence and that it should take place in our city, reflects no doubt great honor and credit upon the Catholic population in this section.”

The charter for the Knights of Columbus Council No. 1554 was obtained on April 23, 1911.  The Council is still active in the parish today.

On June 29, 1948, newly-ordained Rev. John S. Harrington, S.J. celebrated his first Solemn High Mass at St. Mary’s Church, Genesee.  This was the first time that a son of a parish family had celebrated his first Mass at St. Mary’s.

On March 10, 1958, Court Mother Cabrini No. 1778 of Catholic Daughters of America was organized within the parish.

Ground was broken for a new school on June 9, 1959, and an open house was held there on January 17, 1960.  The school was dedicated on May 3rd of that year.

“St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Genesee was destroyed by fire Saturday afternoon, September 30, [1961] when a fast-moving blaze leveled the structure in 1.5 hours. …Father McCarthy and members of the parish began to prepare to hold masses in the multipurpose room of St. Mary’s school which was constructed last year.”  Genesee News of October 6, 1961.  Unfortunately, the significant debt that remained from the building of the school delayed construction of a new church.

In 1962, parishioners began raising money to build a new church to replace the building that had burned down the previous year.  The ground-breaking ceremony for the current St. Mary’s Church building was held on May 8th, 1964, conducted by Bishop Trienan.

The Catholic School in Genesee ceased to operate in 1968.  The school building served as a parish social hall until its sale in 2016.

As a result of the Vitality Project and the shortage of priests in the Diocese of Boise and the Catholic Church in general, St. Mary’s was downgraded to station status in 1996. St. Mary’s is now a station church of St. Mary’s Parish in Moscow. Fr. Robert Finucane was appointed Parochial Vicar in residence.

In 1998, the local court of the Catholic Daughters disbanded due to a lack of interest.  In 2001, members of the Altar Society and the Catholic Daughters formed a new women’s organization, the Ladies of St. Mary’s.

Upon the death of Fr. Finucane in 2011, pastoral care of the community was assumed by Fr. Brian May, then pastor at St. Mary’s in Moscow.  St. Mary’s in Genesee currently operates as a station of St. Mary’s in Moscow.  The community is smaller than at its high point, but is once again growing and excited about the future.