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June 26, 2022

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Tacoma Catholics to merge parishes

Declining members, aging buildings drive push to combine


TACOMA —Four declining Tacoma Catholic parishes will be merged into one this summer and become the new St. John XXIII Parish.

The new parish incorporates St. Ann, St. Rita of Cascia, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the former Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. The parish will include the mission of St. John of the Woods.

Holy Rosary was merged with St. Ann in 2021 as a preliminary move.

Archbishop Paul Etienne issued decrees that will make the merger final on July 1.

Father Tuan Nguyen, the current pastor of St. Ann, will be pastor for St. John XXIII. The new parish will continue the Vietnamese ministry currently located at St. Ann.

Seattle Archdiocese spokesperson Helen McClenahan said the name could change slightly, perhaps adding “Pope”.

Pope John XXIII served from 1958-1963.

“He’s the pope known for bringing in Vatican II,” she said. His papal post marked a time of change for the Catholic church. “This is a parish that’s going through a transformation.”

The new parish boundaries will encompass those of the merged parishes.

The STEM Academy at Visitation will change its name and move to what is now the St. Ann’s campus, which will become the main campus for the new parish.

No decisions have been made yet on parish assets, including buildings and property.

“We don’t know yet because the focus has been on the people,” McClenahan said. “It will be up to the new parish counsel and Father Tuan.”

Falling ceiling, declining membership

A lack of Catholic priests, declining membership and aging infrastructure are at the heart of the merger.

“We want to have vibrant parishes,” McClenahan said. That includes concentrating parishioners together.

“By bringing more resources together a parish will be better set up to do that,” she said.

“Instead of focusing on the pressing issues of one single parish, I asked parishes in this deanery to work together to assess the current reality at each individual parish and collectively, and then recommend a path forward,” Etienne said.

The archdiocese said leaders at the four parishes supported the merger. Together, the four parishes and the mission represent 1,653 households.

A possible merger had been in discussion for years, according to the archdiocese. The matter became urgent in 2018 when parts of Holy Rosary church’s ceiling fell into the choir loft.

The church was closed and eventually slated for demolition. An independent fundraising campaign was started to raise the $18 million needed to fix and reopen the building.

In 2020, Holy Rosary’s bilingual school was moved to St. Martin of Tours parish in Fife. The old school building is currently being used as a homeless shelter.

The churches:

  • St. Rita of Cascia: 1403 S. Ainsworth Ave., Tacoma. The Hilltop church began with an Italian immigrant congregation in 1922.
  • St. Ann: 7025 S. Park Ave., Tacoma. Established in 1924, the church serves many different ethnic communities.
  • Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 3314 S. 58th St., Tacoma. Dedicated in 1925, the ministry was staffed by Benedictine Sisters of St. Benedict’s Convent in Minnesota. Its STEM-focused school will be moved to St. Ann’s campus.
  • Our Lady of the Holy Rosary: 424 S. 30th St., Tacoma. The current 100-year-old church building, a Tacoma landmark, is under threat of demolition. The church’s bilingual academy relocated to Fife and will not be affected by the merger.

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