Our history as a worshiping community began on February 22, 1976, when the Catholic people of Evergreen first gathered to celebrate the Eucharist in the facilities of Calvary Lutheran Church.
The ecumenical spirit of our Lutheran neighbors has been a powerful and blessed witness and has undoubtedly helped to form the spirit of fellowship which is a continuing hallmark of Risen Christ Parish.
In the summer of 1976, the Diocese of Helena purchased land on Evergreen Drive in anticipation of one day establishing a new parish to serve the area. In July, Father Gary Reller was assigned to minister in Evergreen while still on the staff of St. Matthews Church. Father Reller and members of the Evergreen community (Ed Hey, Bob Neitzling and Jerry Turner) worked on a survey to determine the need for and feasibility of establishing a parish in the Evergreen area. Marilyn Lalum, Bob Neitzling and Don Neu, members of St Matthew Parish Council, were appointed to the first Risen Christ Parish Council. (Don was president from 1976 until the building was completed in 1983). Other early council members who attended the first Mas at Calvary Lutheran were Jack Barrett, Jack Gorton, Louise Herbold and Jerry Turner. David and Michael Slobojan were altar servers for that first mass.
Bishop Elden F. Curtiss formally establish Risen Christ Parish on July 10, 1978, and named Father Reller the first pastor; an agreement was made with St. Matthews Parish to share the ministry and service of two sisters, Sister Judy Schaefer, OP and Sister Mary Jo Baldus, RSM.
The first baptism was of Clarence Pitcher, a convert, while we were celebrating in Calvary Lutheran, and the first child baptized was Brent Brockman, Clarence’s grandson.
After the first year, the people began to discuss the need for building their own facility. William Simons, a local architect was employed by the parish to develop drawings and cost for a building. Fred Hansen, realtor, handled the purchase of the property from the Fetveit family. Later, property was added to the east and to the north.
In August, a contract was awarded to R. W. Ross Construction and ground-breaking ceremonies were held on September 13, 1980. Jack Gorton, then working for Equity Supply, was asked if he could supply two gold shovels for the ground breaking. They came to $300 each, so we settled for gold painted shovels. St. Matthews’s decided to transfer the money that people had donated there who became Risen Christ members that year.
The first comment that was made was that a woman should have designed the kitchen. The council and the architect decided not to include a pass through between the kitchen and social area. And there was quite a controversy over which trees should be salvaged and which should not. It was decided not to include a confessional and the building was planned to accommodate adding on to the south. In the early phases of construction, the building had to be raised several feet because of high water. The residence on the property was moved to Mountain Brook and Ray Deily was contracted to construct the rectory.
As the project progressed, the diocese accepted work in lieu of down payment, so parishioners did painting, cabinet work, grounds preparation, landscaping, laid sod and seeded grass. Jack Barrett supplied the tractor to help work on the parking lot and to help with snow removal. (Jack is still taking care of snow removal). Robinson Gravel donated fill gravel. Jack Barrett, Jack Gorton and Bob Neitzling worked on dinners to raise money for the parish. Bob Healey created the stained glass with help from Anthony Turner. We asked Les Welliver to carve the Risen Christ figure and the raised design on the tabernacle door. Later, Les’s son Patrick carved the Stations of the Cross. Dan Harmon donated crane service. John Smithlin donated beef and did the cooking for beef dinners; the grandfather clock was made and donated by Dr. Robert Kellenberger. Roy Neugent donated the upright piano and hymn books in memory of his wife, Anna. The well was drilled by McClarty Well Drilling.
On October 4, 1981, the people celebrated the first liturgy in the new building and on October 25, Bishop Curtiss joined the community in dedicating the building and consecrating it to the service of the Lord. Pastor Stordall from Calvary Lutheran Church attended the dedication.
With the help of a $15,000 grant from the Extension Society, a new rectory was completed by the time of the dedication in October.
In July, 1983, Father James R. White was appointed pastor of Risen Christ and Father Reller moved to St. Ann Church in Butte. Completion of the building concluded: Father White, with the approval of Bishop Curtiss, requested a $10,000 grant from the Extension Society and plans progressed for the installation of movable wall panels which had been included in the original plans. Father White retired in July, 1986, and moved to Anaconda.
The Risen Christ Quilter began as a craft group making items for the annual CCW Bazaars. In 1983, their interest turned to quilting and the group met weekly for twenty years. When Mary Lawrence, one of the early members, died, the quilters read one of the readings at the funeral. Mary put together a history scrapbook on the parish.
Father Bernard J. McCarthy became pastor on July 9, 1986. Father McCarthy would always smile when a parishioner said, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble”. Dorthy Osterman was am ember of an early Parish Council; her husband Howard enlivened the Good Friday readings one year by falling out of his chair. He said the readings by Don and Jeanette Nau had put him to sleep. Work on the movable panels was completed early in 1987. Father McCarthy commissioned our statue of Mary, “Oh My Son My Lord”, carved by Brad Williamson.
During 1989-1990, Father William Stanaway was pastor. Darrell Logan build the table for the Mary statue and it was completed and installed during this time.
Father Tom O’Donnell was pastor from 1990 through June, 1996. During this time, longtime parishioner Harry Reimer donated the bell and Larry Graham began construction of the bell tower, intending to dedicate it to the memory of his deceased wife Jeanne.
Father James Connor was appointed pastor in July 9, 1996. In 1997, the Pastoral Council recommended that the parish tithe on all income. The tithe is set up with the parishes in Browning and Heart Butte each receiving 2 1/2%; the Christian Brothers School in Browning 2%, Evergreen Food Pantry and Samaritan House each receiving 1/2%; The Parish Partnership Program with a Louisianian parish 1/2% and other causes 1 1/2%. Since 1997, we have contributed $143,552 to these causes. The parish also responds almost daily to requests for food, gas and help with rent, utility and medical needs; this year, we expect to spend $11,004, 5% of the total budget, in pursuing these “acts of love, charity and compassion” (The Mission Statement).
At the same time, the parish began investing in a Parish Needs Foundation and a Religious Formation Needs Foundation which have grown respectively to $19,688 and $19,608. The foundations were set up for future needs and the funds will not be accessed until the annual interest is sufficient to cover a need.
Father Rudolph Bullman was installed and served as pastor from 2001-2011. That fall, The Knights of Columbus Council 8329 installed the Memorial of Life. The corner of land southeast of the church building was purchased with the help of a diocesan loan in 2002 and in 2003, the Confirmation Class finished the bell tower and it was dedicated to the memory of both Larry, who died in 2002, and Jeanne Graham. The mortgage on the land purchase was paid off in 2004.
Over the years, several debts were incurred: the original mortgage on the buildings; cost to install the movable panels; the early addition of land; replacement of the flat roof; and the addition of the final land. The Extension Society gave invaluable help with grants for the rectory, the movable panels and again when the roof was replaced, but it was the continuing generosity of our parish members that allowed all of these debts to be retired.
In 2011, new lighting was installed.
Early 2012 brought us several retired priests who shared their experiences and love of God with the community. Smiling Fr. Hugo Lungo, from Tanzania, spent 3 months enjoying the experiences of the Northwest and the love of our community.
In August 2012, Fr. Stanislaw Rog, our new Pastor arrived. Fr. Stan is originally from Poland and brings a good sense of spirituality, kindness, respect and humor with him to Kalispell. The rectory, which had little renovation since it was built, was fully renovated and furnished for his arrival. New carpeting was also installed in the church sanctuary and additional lights added in 2012. Carpet was installed in the offices during 2013.
As a faith community, we seek to share a vision of Church which was set forth by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council; A Church what calls forth ministry from each of its members; a vision that is expressed in our Mission Statement.