St. Thomas Parish is a very active Parish. The Altar Society is composed of hard-working and dedicated women of the parish, as are the men involved with the Knights of Columbus. St. Thomas celebrates its Feast Day on July 3rd, the Feast Day for St. Thomas, with a parish dinner/potluck. The Altar Society and Knights of Columbus are co-sponsors of this annual event. Other groups/organizations in the Parish are:
* Daily Mass
* Four weekend masses (one Saturday evening at 5:30p.m. - three on Sunday mornings)
* Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (Daily 8am to 8pm and 24 hours on Fridays)
* Right To Life Committee
* Divine Mercy Group (English and Spanish languages)
* Religious Education (Pre-K through 8th grade)
* Youth Ministry
* Baptismal Preparation Classes for Parents and Godparents (English and Spanish languages)
* Marriage Preparation Classes (English and Spanish languages)
* St. Vincent de Paul
* Adult Bible Study Classes (sessions in the Spring and Fall with over 120 participants this
* Contemporary English Language Choir (Saturday evening Mass)
* Traditional English Language Choir (Sunday 10am Mass)
* Spanish Language Choir (Sunday 12 noon Mass)
* St. Thomas Academy (Pre-K through 5th Grade)
* Star-Lite Gala (Annual fund raiser for Building Fund)
There is a very large Hispanic population in attendance at the 12 noon Mass on Sundays. They sponsor fund raisers for the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe and also for the Building Fund.
St. Thomas has been in its new church since March, 2004, and the Parish Hall/St. Thomas Academy was completed in June, 2012.
This past year 62 youngsters were Confirmed at St. Thomas and 63 received their First Holy Communion.
A Brief History of St. Thomas Parish
The year 1941 was a memorable year for many of us, not only as "Pearl Harbor Year" and start of World War II, but it was the year of the establishment of St. Thomas Parish, no longer a mission church under St. Francis Parish and the Capuchin Franciscans of Bend. St. Thomas was canonically erected by Bishop Joseph F. McGrath on August 6, 1941, with the missions of Prineville, Madras, and Warm Springs attached to it. Father John O'Donovan, former pastor of St. Alphonsus parish in Dufur was appointed the first pastor on August 6, 1941, and took charge of the parish on August 23. Father O'Donovan was originally from county Tipperary, Ireland.
Redmond's first church was located on 5th and Black Butte. It was used as a mission church until it became a parish. It was funded through the Catholic Church Extension Society, which is set up to build churches in missionary areas. The benefactor was a Missouri lady, Mary MacCormack.
Father O'Donovan rented a room at the hotel and later a two-room house until the following year when the home and property of Jim Short was purchased for $7,500 with the Diocese giving a donation of $6,000 and the Catholic Church Extension Society $1,000. The land where our prior church stood was covered with beautiful roses grown by the Shorts. John Manning, a parishioner for over 50 years, tells us that Father O'Donovan sometimes had to write home to his father in Ireland for money to keep the church running. How times have changed!
The mission of Prineville was erected as a parish in July, 1943, leaving Redmond with only two missions, Madras and Warm Springs. Father O'Donovan was pastor until his death on February 14, 1948, at 34 years of age. A solemn High Mass was celebrated for the repose of his soul by his brother, Father Thomas O'Donovan of St. Augustine Church in Florida, and the deceased's classmate, Father James O'Connor, delivered the sermon. He was buried at Mount Calvary Cemetary, Klamath Falls, on February 18.
Father Michael Ahearne, born in County Waterford, Ireland, then pastor in Chiloquin, was appointed the new pastor of Redmond. The old church built in 1912 was entirely inadequate for the needs of the growing Catholic population. It was decided to erect a new church adjacent to the rectory then called Mountain View Addition. The Catholic Church Extension Society donated $5,000 toward the construction of this church on August 9, 1949. A contract was signed on September 12, with Riverman and Sons of Portland. Work began immediately, and the gothic brick church was competed in March, 1950.
The first Mass was celebrated on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1950. Archbishop William D. O'Brien, President of the Catholic Church Extension Society dedicated St. Thomas Church, on June 24, 1951. Bishop Francis P. Leipzig presided at the Mass, and the sermon was delivered by Archbishop O'Brien. The first adult baptized was Lorraine Sly Ivancovich. Phil and Dorothy Dahl had their twins, Rick and Roxanne, baptized on that Easter Sunday. The first couple married in the new church was Norm and Janice Weigand on April 16, 1950.
In September, 1953, the missions of Madras and Warm Springs were attached to the parish of Prineville. As a result of this change, two Masses could be offered in Redmond every Sunday.
In 1956, the old church was torn down by parishioners because it was a fire hazard. Wally Lehnertz and Roy Burk took the building down carefully so the lumber could be used again. They reported the timbers to be in exceptionally fine condition despite their age. The lot was sold for $7,500 to help raise funds for a hall. The original cross on the steeple has been saved and is displayed in the old church hall.
The Central Oregon area has long been a favorite spot for recreationists, especially in the sister area some 20 miles west of Redmond. To serve the Catholic tourists in the summertime and the Catholics living in Sisters and Camp Sherman, Mass was offered at nearby Camp Sherman beginning June 1, 1958.
Since there were no facilities for the religious instruction of the children in the Redmond parish, it was decided to build a hall with classrooms, and an auditorium, a stage and a kitchen. A contract was signed with Riverman and Sons of Portland for $53,000, and on May 28, 1959, construction began. The project was completed in December, and on December 13, it was dedicated by Bishop Francis P. Leipzig. Dr. Raymond and Irene Jones donated $10,000 to furnish the hall in memory of the first pastor, Father John O'Donovan. The first couple to have their wedding reception in the new hall was Dave and Linda (Pankey) Vallie on March 12, 1960.
Father Michael Ahearne was transferred to Ontario on February 8, 1961, after being in Redmond 13 years and was succeeded by Father Francis McCormack who was born in County Longford, Ireland. The debt of the parish was paid in full on December 27, 1961, and the burning of the mortgage took place on February 25, 1962. On April 6, 1964, Father Francis McCormack celebrated his Silver Jubilee as a priest which was the first-ever celebrated in St. Thomas Church.
In 1962, Mr. and Mrs. Rex Trowbridge donated land for a building site for a church at the East end of Sisters near a small state park.
The Extension Society donated $10,000. The Meehan Family of Chicago were donors and named the Mission Church, St. Edward. Under the guidance of Father McCormack and the planning committee headed by Pete Leithauser and Rex Trowbridge, the new church's contract was awarded to Hilgers Construction Company of Bend and to Robert Mention, architect of Bend, on July 13, 1963. On Christmas Day, 1963, Mass was celebrated for the first time. Bishop Francis P. Leipzig dedicated it on April 5, 1964. The cost of the church was between $22,000 and $25,000. On May 6, 1969, all the projects at both St. Thomas Church and St. Edward Mission were free of debt and in celebration, parishioners of both communities held a "burning of mortgages" party at the Remond Parish Hall.
Between 1965 and 1966, Father McCormack spearheaded the donation by parishioners, for seventeen beautifully stained glass windows, in memory of loved ones. They were designated by Willemse Stained Glass Studios in Scappoose, Oregon, to bring light into the souls of those who see them. They are not merely openings in a wall, but each have a story of its own. Two windows are in memory of former pastors, Father John O'Donovan and Father Michael Ahearne.
In 1966, the people felt a new rectory should replace the house that was being used as a rectory since 1942. A brick veneer rectory, located between the hall and the church, was designated by Frank Kendall, architect from Portland and was constructed by E.E. Steinlicht of Bend for $33,826.
On June 20, Father William Stone, a native of Athena, Oregon, was appointed Pastor replacing Father McCormack. During his pastorate, the St. Thomas Parish Council was formed in July, 1969.
Father Stone served until June, 1972 when Father Thomas J. Moore, a native of County Limerick, Ireland, arrived in June, 1972, and served as pastor until his death on November 10, 1976. Bishop Connolly celebrated the funeral Mass in Redmond, and Father Moore was buried in our local cemetary.
Monsignor Timothy P. Casey was then appointed Administrator on November 15, and served until December 1, when Father Brian McGovern was assigned pending the arrival of the new pastor. Father Bernard Keating, a native of County Dublin, Ireland, filled that assignment on December 1, 1976.
The parish was once again experiencing growing pains, and in July, 1978, five acres of land were purchased for future expansion. Several years later three houses adjacent to the old church property were purchased. In August of 1979, the parish joyfully celebrated with John and Peggy Manning their reception of the papal honor, "Benemerenti".
In May of 1979, the first Eucharistic Ministers were installed under the direction of Father Keating. In June of that year, Father John Murphy, M. Afr., arrived to care for St. Edward Mission Church in Sisters. In 1984, St. Edward became a parish with Father John Murphy its first pastor.
On June 29, 1982, Todd Joseph Unger, son of Dr. Robert and Pauline Unger, was the first native son of Redmond to be ordained to the priesthood. Bishop Thomas J. Connolly conducted the ordination to the priesthood. Bishop J. Connolly conducted the ordination in the Redmond High School auditorium. Combined choirs from Redmond and Madras sang under the direction of Mrs. Alma Binder. Mrs. Carol Andrews, of Madras coordinated the music and choirs assisted by Stan Hanson of Redmond.
In recognition for faithful service to the Diocese of Baker as well as to St. Thomas Parish, in 1986, Father Keating was named by the Holy Father as Prelate of Honor with the title of Monsignor and was invested to this honor by Bishop Connolly on May 15. For thirteen years Monsignor Keating guided the spiritual and physical development of the parish and laid the groundwork for future expansion. On June 30, 1990, Monsignor Keating retired from the administration of St. Thomas Parish.
On July 1, 1990, Father Leo F. Weckerle, a native of Berwyn, Illinois, became the Pastor of St. Thomas Parish. Father Weckerle had previously served as Chancellor and Officialis of the Diocese of Baker and was pastor of St. Katherine Parish, Enterprise, and St. Patrick Parish, Madras. Under Father Weckerle's direction, development and growth of our parish continued and our new beautiful church was dedicated in March of 2004. After more than 16 years of faithful service to St. Thomas Church, Father Weckerle retired to his residence in Terrebonne. He is ministering as needed in parishes within the Diocese.
On November 6, 2006, Father Charles Nnabuife was assigned to St. Thomas Parish as our Associate Pastor. Father Charles was born in Nigeria and was a businessman in Italy for 10 years before becoming a seminarian at Mt. Angel, Oregon. When ordained he was assigned to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Ontario and at Our Lady of Angels in Hermiston, Oregon.
From June 18, 2007, until June 30, 2009, Father Stan Strzyz, a native of Poland, served as Pastor of St. Thomas Parish. Father Stan was a former missionary in Europe and South America. He served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit before transferring to the Diocese of Baker in 2001. Father Stan was Pastor for four years at Holy Family Church in Burns, Oregon. Under Father Strzyz the Parish paid off the debt on the new church and started designing the new Parish Center to be built next to the church. Father Strzyz retired June 29, 2009.
In picking a new pastor, Bishop Robert Vasa went local. Father Todd Unger, who was raised in Redmond and ordained a priest here 27 years ago, was called to be the new pastor. Father Unger had been the pastor of St. Peter Church in The Dalles for the past 11 years. Father Unger is hoping to prove that a prophet is accepted in his home country. The new Parish Center plans have been revised and more fundraising has begun to build a building that will have 7 education rooms, offices for the Parish and Academy, a gym and rooms for meetings.
From the few families that gathered for Mass in 1941, St. Thomas grew to 400 families in 1991, and now, in 2013, we have about 1,100 families registered at St. Thomas who live here part-time and full-time.
Parishioners who have been here since the 1940's are: Bud Ivancovich, Phyllis Sturza, the Joe and Joan Carpenter Family, the Pat and Shirley Carpenter Family, the Margaret Lehnertz Family, the Dr. Bob Unger Family, and the Ted and Nancy Fehrenbacher Family.
"The Church was established to lead men to God. It is for this reason that St. Thomas Church is always open to solace and guidance to those who seek them. The voice of the heavenly mission of the churches is never silent; it beats softly on the walls of the human heart, not as a great storm compelling entrance, but as the sincere and humble soul seeking safe refuge from the trials and tensions of life."
Father Francis McCormack
Diocese of Baker Directory 1980 History
A Brief History of the Diocese of Baker by Father Dominic O'Connor
Local knowledge from John Manning and Father Todd Unger