Catholic Church
Ashland, Oregon

There is an updated history for OLM here.

“This is a brief sketch of the transition of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary to Our Lady of the Mountain. To the best of my ability, the dates and incidents are correct” -Gladdie Higgins 1985, Rev. 1987

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary – 1858
Our Lady of the Mountain – 1959

In the lives of the pioneers that came across the plains in the 1800’s religion was important. [It] was imbedded in their hearts. However, because of their hardships, church came second.

Evidence of the early churches, or actual churches may still be seen today. This is true of the Catholic Churches in the valley. Catholic Missions were introduced into the State of Oregon as early as 1833, and by the year 1847 there were eight missions, 26 priests, 16 churches and chapels. It was quite some time before Catholics established churches in Southern Oregon.

A letter to the Archbishop, dated Sept. 20, 1853, from Fr. James Croke, who was visiting Jacksonville at the time, shows there was a definite need for a priest in the area. The letter states,

“I have visited all the towns in Southern Oregon and I think I have acquired a pretty correct idea of the religious prospects of the country. Though not so bright and cheering as a missionary may desire, still, they are not altogether hopeless and I am sure, that in the course of time and with persevering exertion aided by a reasonable amount of money some good might be affected in this part of the country. A permanent missionary post with at least two priests should be established in some central position from which countries could be conveniently and regularly visited. The Catholics here are so few and in general, so lukewarm, that it requires some time for a priest to hunt them out, and then it is not only in one day he can inspire them with the proper dispositions. He must have an accurate idea of the country, and above all be supplied with the funds necessary to defray his expenses, and then, with the Grace of God, some good may [reasonably be] expected to result from the missionary labors.”

This letter shows that the Catholics needed some type of organization in Southern Oregon and a church was established in Jacksonville in 1858. The history of the Catholic Church in Ashland is closely tied to that of Jacksonville since it was from Jacksonville that priests came to say Masses in Ashland. The idea of building a church in Ashland was entertained as early as 1875, when Archbishop Blanchett provided $200 for the purchase of a building lot. Since there was no church, priests celebrated Mass in the home of Mr. H. Judge. It was not until the spring of 1887 that a church was finally built in Ashland. Fr. Fabian Noel was the leader of the project. The first church was located at 6th and “C” streets. (The church is still standing today)

On Sept. 18, 1890, the Church was dedicated to “Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary.” Archbishop Gross of Portland performed the ceremony. Following this dedication, Fr. F.F. Faber and Fr. L.P. Despares respectively, were pastors of the Church. There was a succession of priests following Fr. Levesque. In 1909, the parish was turned over to the Jesuits. Fr. Mackin arrived in Ashland on Aug. 17, 1909, to become the first Jesuit Pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church. In writing to his superior in 1910, Fr. Mackin shared his disappointment of the parish:

“We have not much to tell. We are grateful to have been able to hold our own and to make some advances. We have only 97 Catholics (out of 2643 people) including everyone in the parish.”

Sunday followed Sunday with the usual Rosaries, Benedictions and meetings of the Altar Society. There were collections for Catholic U., frequent exhortations to receive Holy Communion, and an occasional burst of impatience. In 1912, Fr. Mackin bade farewell to the City of Ashland. The parish was then returned from the Jesuits to the Archbishop. At this time the parish again became a mission. It was not until 1915 the church had a resident pastor. Fr. John F. Dolphen served until he was replaced by Fr. E.J. Conoty in 1917. Fr. Conoty served the parish until 1923 when he died while in residence. Sometime after 1912, the name of the church was changed from OUR LADY OF THE HOLY ROSARY to OUR LADY OF THE MOUNTAIN.

The exact circumstances surrounding the change are not known. The change did occur following a huge storm in Ashland and there are several stories as to how the storm affected the renaming of the Church. One of the stories is that the roof leaked and a picture of Our Blessed Lady was formed on the wallpaper that was in the church at the time. The other story agrees but it adds that the Greenspring Mountains were also formed in the silhouette. Whatever the story [is], the name of the church was changed at this time.

In 1923, Fr. Carmody was assigned Pastor. He was with the parish for two years then there was no resident pastor until 1929. Priests that served from 1929 were:

Fr. T. Jackson 1929-1931
Fr. W.J. Dwyer 1935-1936
Fr. Wm. Meagher 1936-1946
Fr. Pius Baur 1946-1951
Fr. J. Green 1951-1954
Fr. A.O. Manzonetta 1954
Fr. Ernest Jackson 1954-1958
Fr. Wm. S. Walsh 1958-1968
Fr. Cathal Brennan 1968-1969
Fr. Charles Scott 1969-1973
Fr. A. Dernbach 1973
Fr. E. Schwab 1973-1977
Fr. Denis Reilly, O.P. 1977-81
Fr. Bede Wilks, O.P. 1981-87
Fr. David Farrugia, O.P. 1987-94
Fr. Anthony Rosevear, O.P. 1994-1999
Fr. Gerald A. Buckley, O.P. 1999-2002
Fr. Joseph Betschart 2002-2007
Fr. Sean Weeks 2007-2012
Fr. Angelo Te 2012-2014
Fr. Maro Escano 2014-

In 1977 the parish was conferred to the Dominican Friars and was staffed by Dominicans of the Western Dominican Province until 2002. The Sisters of St. Mary of the Valley, Beaverton, came to the parish in 1967, to teach CCD classed, and help with the Newman Center. The Newman Center was bought and given to the parish by Fr. Walsh’s family.

Father Walsh

Father Walsh came to Ashland on his first assignment after retiring from the Army as Lt. Colonel Chaplain. Fr. Walsh had a dynamic personality, and saw the need of a church large enough for the growing congregation. The little old church, as it was called, held 97 people. His inspiration and drive saw the new church, hall and rectory built in one year. Fr. Walsh came to Ashland in 1958, offered Mass in the existing church and a year to the day later, offered Mass in the New Church, which we enjoy today. June 23, 1960, the “New Church” was dedicated by Archbishop Howard. Many of the parishioners who have lived in Ashland for many years will recall the work and frustrations in building the church. First, the property had to be found, bought and cleared. Much of the ground clearing was done by the young people of the parish.

Jack Batzer, following the plans drawn up by Alex Diffenback, did the major construction. However, it was the dinners, bake sales, and rummage sales put on by the congregation that brought the project to completion. Fr. Walsh was very generous with his own money for many expenses of the church.

The bell in front of the church is from the old church. Most Rev. Archbishop Christy, whose name is on the bell, baptized Fr. Walsh. The statue of Our Lady in the front of the church is of Carra Marble from Italy. (The same marble Michelangelo used for his statues). One of Fr. Walsh’s disappointments was the statue did not arrive in time for the dedication. The statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph are hand carved and are also from Italy. It was a grueling ten years for Fr. Walsh and on January 5, 1968, he retired. Fr. Walsh died Sept. 25, 1972.

Fr. Cathal Brennan was pastor in 1968, following Fr. Walsh. In 1973, he was transferred and Fr. Charles Scott was pastor for a short while. In June 1973, Fr. Elwin Schwab was assigned to the parish. Fr. Schwab was very much like Fr. Walsh with his drive and determination. Many projects in the parish, such as broadening the scope of the Council and understanding and presenting the parish in the decrees of Vatican II can be attributed to Fr. Schwab. Fr. Schwab being a fine chef enhanced the social life of the parish. During the time Fr. Schwab was pastor, Fr. Ken Olsen was chaplain of the Newman Center. With the advent of the Dominicans, Fr. Olsen joined the Byzantine Rite of the Canadian Diocese. He has a parish in Kamloops, B.C.

1977:  Fr. Denis Reilly was pastor, Fr. Cassian Lewinski, Campus Minister, and Bro. Daniel Thomas assistant to both the Newman Center and the parish. Bro. Pasquale Manalio was a student at Rogue Valley Community College, studying nursing. The church took on new dimensions with the Dominicans. The interest in parish affairs was enhanced. The Newman Center became very active for the college students. The intent of the Dominicans is to bring the parish together as a unit, and this they have done and are doing. There are more parishioners involved with Church affairs now, more than ever before. The initial commitment of the first Dominicans assigned to the parish was for five years. Fr. Cassian left first, to study in Pittsburgh in 1980, Fr. Reilly in 1982 to be prior in the House of Studies in Oakland, CA, and in 1983, Bro Daniel to study in Israel. Bro. Daniel will be remembered most for his Liturgical celebrations. Fr. Kent Burtner took Fr. Cassian’s post at the Newman Center until he was transferred to the Cathedral in Alaska. Fr. Kent was very knowledgeable about cults and used his expertise in many ways throughout the country. In 1982, Fr. Frank “Bede” Wilks became pastor, Fr. Jeremiah Burmeister became Newman Center Chaplain and Bro. John Adams was a student at S.O.S.C.

Fr. Bede celebrated his Silver Jubilee as a priest while in the parish and the parish gave him a big celebration. Fr. Bede left the parish in August 1987 for a sabbatical year of study. Fr. David Farrugia became the new pastor, coming to us from a year’s sabbatical of study. Fr. Jeremiah noted that while at the Newman Center, students at Mass tripled. The Newman Center suffered a fire in the Fall of 1985 and had to be rebuilt on the inside. It was completed in early 1986. Fr. Raymond Finnerty arrived sometime in August to take Fr. Jeremiah’s place as he was transferred to Oakland to become an itinerant preacher and do some writing.

[Following is information written by Doug Legg in 1996 for the 150th anniversary of the parish]

The Dominican’s arrival in Ashland to staff both the parish and the Newman Center brought additional assistance to parishioners.  Dominican brothers and seminarians were usually in residence to strengthen parish life. Brother John Adams returned to the seminary after leaving Our Lady and was ordained in June, 1996. Brother Charles Dennis conducted a ministry to the hospitalized and the homebound for years. Bro. Charles died from cancer in December, 1995, depriving the area of one of its most beloved members.

The passage of time, growth of the congregation and changing needs forced many alterations in parish physical aspects after 1977. These include: a major expansion of the rectory’s accommodations (1978,) remodeling the parish hall and enclosing the breezeway between the hall and church (1988-89,) purchase of an upper parking lot and paving of both parking lots, and sale of the lots across Hillview from the rectory.

Recent changes went beyond merely physical alterations. In 1990 a new Faith Formation Board came into being to oversee the education function and to work with the two other existing advisory bodies: the Pastoral Council (overall operations) and the Administrative Council (financial matters).

Additionally, the Pastoral Council determined the desirability of obtaining a detailed overview of parish activities and their resource needs. In four major monthly meetings between February and June 1996, the Council interviewed spokespersons for seventeen different functioning organizations which make major contributions to parish life.

As of February, 1998, Our Lady of the Mountain serves approximately 750 families.