|St. Joseph Catholic Church, Yakima Washington|
After 140 years serving Catholics in Central Washington, Jesuit priests are departing from St. Joseph's Parish in Yakima. The announcement came during Masses at the downtown church on Sunday. It means that the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province (the Jesuits) will no longer assign parish priests to St. Joseph's Church in Yakima beginning July 31, 2011. It also means that the four Jesuit priests who currently serve there will leave July 31. The Rev. Michael Pope, who is pastor, and the Revs. Eugene Delmore, Neill Meany and Alan Yost, associate pastors, will begin new assignments in other Oregon Province ministries. St. Joseph's will become a diocesan parish, similar to the three other Catholic churches in Yakima. The church has always been owned by the Catholic Diocese of Yakima but has always been staffed by Jesuits.
"I think I'm still in a state of shock," said Marcella Mulcahy, who said she may be the longest-attending member of St. Joseph's. She's been a parishioner there for all of her 82 years. "It's very sad. It's hard to believe," she lamented about losing the priests.
The Rev. Patrick Lee, the provincial of the Jesuits' Oregon Province, attended a meeting at St. Joseph Monday night to explain changes to parishioners. He told the gathering of about 50 people that he doesn't know yet if the Jesuits will be withdrawing from other parishes in the Northwest. The Jesuits first came here in 1871 to serve at the St. Joseph Mission on Ahtanum Road in what is now West Valley.