Parishioners at St. Edward’s plan 100th anniversary June 27
Parishioners and friends of St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Twin Falls will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of St. Edward’s with a special Mass on June 27 at 2 p.m. led by Bishop Peter Christensen.
A celebration follows in the Twin Falls City Park with food, music, dancing and fun for the family.
Tours of the church will be offered every 30 minutes after the 2 p.m. Mass until about 6 p.m. Photos of St. Edward’s throughout the years will be dis-played. Memorabilia may also be on sale.
The following story is written by Patricia Marcantonio, a parishioner at St. Edward’s and author of “On Holy Ground – The History, Art and Faith of St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church.” The book is available through Amazon.com
by Patricia Marcantonio
“History is in the making in Twin Falls, religious and ecclesiastic history, which is what counts.” Those were the words of Bishop Daniel Gorman at the dedication of St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church on June 28, 1921 in Twin Falls. Now as the church celebrates its 100th anniversary never have those words become more meaningful.
With its beautiful architecture, the church is a well-known landmark in the city, but the history of St. Edward’s is also that of the Catholic community in Twin Falls.
That community had the humblest of beginnings.
In 1904, a pastor of the Catholic Church in Shoshone was directed by Bishop Alphonse J. Glorieux, the first Bishop of Boise, to “open channels of God’s grace for Twin Falls.” The town had been founded one year earlier by businessman I.B. Perrine.
Before the first church was built in 1905, the faithful in the Magic Valley worshipped in homes, schools and hotels. Bishop Daniel Gorman, second Bishop of Boise, is third from right. (ICR file photo)
The priest did find a number of Catholics in Twin Falls and arranged to celebrate Mass. Thirty people were said to have attended the first Mass, reportedly celebrated in early November 1904 at the home of a Catholic family. Later, Masses were celebrated in other homes, school houses and even a hotel. Eventually, the Twin Falls Canal Company donated land at the corner of Second Avenue East and Fifth Street East and a small wooden church was built in 1905. The men of the fledgling parish did most of the work while the women collected money for the project. Empty nail kegs and planks were eventually replaced by second-hand pews. The name of St. Edward was selected for the new church because the building had been completed near the Feast of St. Edward’s on Oct. 13. One year later, the church register recorded some 350 baptisms and 105 marriages.
The Twin Falls Canal Company donated the land to build Twin Falls’ first Catholic church in 1905 on the corner of Second Avenue East and Fifth Street East. (ICR file photo)
But the parish’s growth did not stop. The parish secured property at Sixth Avenue East and Second Street East, opposite the Twin Falls City Park, for a new and larger church. Ground was broken in the spring of 1920. The church was completed in June of 1921 with a construction cost of $93,106. The building was an amazing feat considering the Catholic community raised that much money to pay it. For perspective, back then a new pair of shoes cost $5.45.
The dedicatory Mass for the new church was celebrated by Bishop Daniel Gorman on June 28, 1921.
In 1920, Bishop Gorman blesses the cornerstone of what will become St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church. (ICR file photo)
“You could see the faith in their lives, their deep devotion to the church and their deep devotion to everything the church represented to them,” said Father Perry Dodds, a longtime pastor about the parish’s early pioneers.
The building of red tapestry brick and cream terra cotta is something to behold. Although Twin Falls is located in the high desert of Idaho, architect Ernest Gates designed a structure right out of the Italian Renaissance.
“The façade of St. Edward’s could be any one of many parish churches in Venice. It’s very Venetian,” said architect Charles Hummel. Hummel’s father, Frederick C. Hummel, was also an architect and was a longtime friend of Ernest Gates.
In her book, “Twin Falls County – Idaho Architecture,” Patricia Wright called St. Edward’s “one of the finest in Idaho, of Renaissance Revival architecture. Its twin towers ... their belvederes surfaced with light terra cotta, catch the low light of morning and evening in a distinctly North Italian manner.” From available histories, it was unclear what direction church leaders provided to Gates to come up with such a design.
Compared to the small wooden building that previously served the parish, the new church near the City Park was erected for growth at 62 feet wide by 120 feet long. The seating capacity of the first floor is 600 with room for 75 more in the choir balcony.
The ceiling of the nave – the central part of the church from the main entrance to the altar – is 36 feet in the center. The towers rise to a height of 75 feet above the sidewalk.
The stained glass windows were created by Emil Frei Art Glass of St. Louis, noted creators of stained glass windows for churches.
The interior cornice decoration reflects the grape and wheat design,
“symbolic of the sacrifice of the New Testament,” Gates wrote. In addition, there are carvings of some 400 angels inside and outside of St. Edward’s, some singing.
There are so many ornate details in the church that even longtime parishioners can always find something new to discover, such as: the carved heads of lions symbolizing St. John in the Byzantine tradition; the harps on the cornice under the choir balcony; the stories told in the stained glass; the solemn faces of the angels with tapering wings in front of the church; and the beauty of the lighted twin towers in the evening.
June 28, 1921, was a day of celebration for Magic Valley Catholics as Bishop Gorman dedicates St. Edward’s Church in a beautiful location across from the city’s park. (ICR file photo)
In 1978, St. Edward’s was included in the Twin Falls City Park Historic District as well as on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
The church’s physical beauty is complemented by the faith of its people, as evidenced by the births, marriages and other sacraments celebrated inside its walls.
A three-room school was opened by St. Edward’s in September 1921 with the Sisters of the Holy Cross serving as teachers. In 1938, 15 students graduated. By the time school closed in 1971, more than 300 students attended the eight grades. Thanks to the work of parishioners, the school reopened in 1985 with three grades and 73 pupils. The school continues to operate to this day in a building next door to the church.
In 1964, a parish hall was built on Seventh Avenue, across the street from the rectory, at a cost of $162,000. The hall includes a 4,000 square-foot gymnasium. Previously, church gatherings had been held in the meeting rooms in the basement of the church, as well as at the school.
In 1982, parishioners received per-mission to start a Perpetual Adoration chapel. In 1986, a kitchen for the needy was started when then St. Edward’s pastor, Father William Gould, saw people searching in garbage cans and dumpsters for food.
In 2002, more than $400,000 was raised for renovations to the aging church building, with many volunteers working on the improvements.
The entire story of the church, its people and the good work over the past 100 years can’t be told at one sitting.
The upcoming anniversary will give the Catholic community of nearly 800 registered families another opportunity to appreciate the history of the church and consider its future.
“As the pastor of St. Edward the Confessor, the celebration of our centenary is cause for great joy and thanks-giving to God, to the Catholic pioneers who built this church, and those who through the years have cared for and continue to cherish our temple,” said Father Julio Vicente. “I feel honored and blessed to be the pastor at St. Edward during this important milestone of Catholic presence and life in Twin Falls, Idaho,” he said.
Each parishioner probably has a special memory of the historic church, a favorite spot or detail. But perhaps there is no better way to describe St. Edward’s than the inscription above the main doors of the church: “THIS IS NO OTHER THAN THE HOUSE OF GOD.”
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