St. Mary Parish was established in 1887, when Fr. Francis Beck became the first resident pastor. The first regularly scheduled Masses were said in a church bought from the Methodists and moved to 11th & Willamette. A four-room school was established and built alongside the church in 1889.
St. Mary’s second church building was built specifically for the parish at 11th & Willamette during the pastorship of Fr. James O’Farrell. It was dedicated on March 24, 1907.
Circa 1920, the bulk of St. Mary’s present city block was purchased, the old church was moved from 11th & Willamette to the 11th & Lincoln corner of the block, and the old four-room school was moved to the Lincoln Street side of the block and expanded. Fr. Edwin O’Hara was pastor during this time.
On February 2, 1927, ground was broken for the present St. Mary Catholic Church. It was completed and dedicated on October 12 of that same year. The church was built in modified Gothic style. Windows from the old church building were incorporated into the walls of the new north and south transepts. The main altar was built in Italy using Botticini marble and reredos of red Verona marble. A large crucifix was mounted above the altar and backed by a dark blue and gold brocade drape. The altar rail and baptismal gates were made by hand. The 1,398-pipe organ still in use today, was built and installed by the Reuter Organ Company.
St. Mary’s buildings and grounds have undergone many changes throughout the years. During recent building, renovation, and restoration on the block, special attention has been given to recognizing and working within the style and tradition of the main church. The block now houses St. Mary’s sanctuary, Adoration Chapel, Shrine of Our Lady of Guadelupe, Parish Hall, Teen Center (formerly the Auxiliary Hall), offices, conference rooms, library, classrooms, nursery, and courtyards.
While much has come and gone on St. Mary’s city block, the parish now enjoys an exceptional complex in which to celebrate, educate, and serve as a parish community. As the physical parish continues to grow in size and in age, special attention will continue to focus on maintaining and restoring it in keeping with traditions and history passed down through the years by its many good stewards.