Our Lady of the Snows

Our Lady of the Snows

When Westwood was established, its Catholic community was a part of the Sacred Heart Parish—it had only been created in 1912 and covered the territory of Lassen and Modoc counties. The first pastor was Father P.J. O’Reilly. There seems to be some confusion as to when the first Mass was celebrated in Westwood. On December 12, 1913, it was reported in the Lassen Weekly Mail: “Father P.J. O’Reilly made the trip to Westwood to attend to spiritual wants of the Catholic Church in the new lumber town.” However, under the heading of Remarks in the Parish Death Register, Father O’Reilly wrote, “Mass was celebrated in Westwood for the first time by Rev. P.J. O’Reilly on 19 April 1914 in the school house situated near the present fire department. Mass is now said in the school situated on the hill facing Delwood Street.” Father also wrote, “The first Catholic funeral that was held in Westwood was on July 24, 1914. The internment was made in the new cemetery, portion of which viz the North East section is devoted to the use of the Catholics who die in and around Westwood for Catholics only. This cemetery is 3 1/2 miles from Westwood.” That internment was for Jose Alvarez, a 22 year-old millworker who died from typhoid fever.

In 1920, after the completion of the Auditorium, Mass was held in that building. However, the Catholic community desired to have a church. In the summer of 1920 an ambitious campaign was launched to raise $4,000 for this enterprise. Red River initially agreed to match dollar for dollar of the money raised.

On October 6, 1922, Father P.J. McCarthy succeeded O’Reilly. Two days later, Father McCarthy gave sanction to the movement to build a church for Westwood. With that blessing the parishioners worked frantically to make the preparations to build their new church. Red River provided a lot on Cedar Street.

On December 1, 1922 ground was broken and work commenced immediately on the church. Mike Pappa from Red River’s carpentry force was in charge of the construction, and the volunteer labor consisted both, Catholic and non-Catholic. Even dealing with harsh winter weather conditions the new edifice was completed in exactly twenty working days. On New Years Eve 1922, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church named Our Lady of the Snows. Total cost: $6,100.

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