capped off a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary Saturday with a mass that included a that demonstrated one of the many ways that the church has grown since 1960.
The church has grown from 700 young families meeting in the Sammamish High School cafeteria, to more than 4,300 families and a school with nearly 450 students.
The church's 50th anniversary year was eventful, said pastor Fr. Tom Belleque. The church marked the entire year, with the construction of a new faith formation and school building, a trip to Rome and Paris to honor the church's patron St. Louise de Marillac and her ministry partner St. Vincent de Paul and fundraising at the start of the anniversary year for the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
The church started on Feb. 14, 1960 with 700 families and first began meeting in the Sammamish High School cafeteria. Many of the first families were young families with children.
"There were only 13 teenagers when I moved here," said Rita McHale, who moved to Bellevue within the first year of the church opening.
"We didn't have a funeral or a wedding for a long time," said Sharon Haggerty-Anderson, another one of the first parishioners at St. Louise.
And some of those families stayed with the church through the growth of Bellevue and the neighborhood.
McHale, who moved a few doors away from the church within a year of its opening, has been a parishioner through 47 priests, Belleque said. McHale worked at the church in many capacities including housekeeper, cook and administrative assistant. McHale was honored for her service to the church during Saturday's ceremony.
Today, the church has grown to more than 4,300 families, according to the chuch website.
Like Bellevue, St. Louise Catholic Church has also become more diverse since the 1960s. The church celebrates the different Catholic patrons of the parishioners' ethnic backgrounds, including Our Lady of Guadalupe from Mexico, Our Lady of La Vang from Vietnam, Our Lady of Vailkanni from India, and Our Lady of Antipolo of the Philippines.
"I can't believe that those families that gathered 51 years ago on the 14th of February could have ever imagined the transformation of this neighborhood over the course of those 51 years," Belleque said. "No one could have ever believed when they named this area crossroads how apt that name would become."
-- Photos by Ava Van. Text and video by Venice Buhain