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Hailey’s St. Charles parish to celebrate 140th anniversary

The following story appeared in the June 9 Idaho Catholic Register.



HAILEY – St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Hailey will celebrate 140 years of service to the Wood River Valley with an outdoor Mass on Sunday, June 18, at noon.


Bishop Peter Christensen will preside at the celebration at the church at 315 First Ave. South. The Mass will be followed by a procession with St. Charles, a recitation of the church’s history, a picnic, live music from local parishioners, traditional Mexican dancers, parish awards and games for the children. The parish museum will be open so visitors may experience the church and learn about other events that have happened during the last 140 years.


Father Louis Verhaag arrived in the Wood River Valley in the summer of 1880, where there were 700 residences in Bullion, five miles southwest of present-day Hailey. Father Verhaag celebrated the first Mass in the area at the head of a small canyon.


Father Emanuel Nattini, a native of Genoa, Italy, arrived in September, 1881. Father Nattini, of the Jesuit Order of San Francisco, founded the Wood River Mining District and immediately began his quest for providing the necessities for the church of the future.


As a result of Father Nattini’s zealous efforts, the Catholic Church secured properties for future churches in Hailey, Ketchum, Bellevue and Shoshone. The mining industry boom in the area made it possible for Father Nattini to obtain financing for the construction of a church in Hailey. The original church was a small frame building with a round rose window located next to a large livery stable where Atkinson’s Market is located today.


On June 17, 1883, the church building was dedicated under the patronage of St. Charles Borromeo, a 16th century Italian saint who had become a Cardinal, dedicated to church reform and the education of lay people and future priests.


The church was later moved to 101 S. First Ave. When the church moved, the rose window from the original building was sold and is now in the iconic Reinheimer Barn, south of Ketchum on Highway 75.


A church was built in 1913 at the current location and later expanded several times, most recently in 1985. Today, the 1913 building supports the needs of the faithful in 2023. The parish is currently considering updating and expanding its facilities.


Father Nattini also built a church dedicated to St. Mary in Ketchum in 1884, as well as St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Bellevue and St. Peter Church in Shoshone in 1885. St. Charles Church in Hailey served as the parish hub to these mission churches as well as overseeing the spread of the Catholic faith to places as far away as Pocatello, Montpelier, Rexburg and St. Anthony.


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