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PROVO CATHOLIC CHURCH PLANS A HOST OF CENTENNIAL ACTIVITIES

The St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church is 100 years old this year - perhaps even older.

Determining when the parish was officially founded has been difficult, said the Rev. Garret Edmunds, pastor at St. Francis. Guess dates include 1890, 1891 and 1892.Early church records were destroyed in a fire at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, so the Diocese determined 1992 as the centennial year, the Rev. Edmunds said.

Throughout 1992, St. Francis is holding a number of "centennial" activities, culminating with the Feast of St. Francis on Oct. 4.

Although officially established with purchased property in 1892, the Provo parish didn't have a resident priest until 1914. "That's the first time we see any (parish) rec-ords," the Rev. Edmunds said. "Before then, Bishop Scanlan would come from Salt Lake City to say Mass for the 10 to 12 families living in the area."

Using a home as a meetinghouse, the parish - originally called St. Peter's - served a narrow band of territory from Provo south to Arizona, including families in Richfield and Kanab. By the 1920s, the basement of the current church on the southeast corner of 200 North and 500 West was built.

Each decade following brought changes and additions to St. Peter's and its congregation. Nuns came to Provo in the 1930s, even though the parish numbers remained small.

In the 1940s, the parish made giant leaps in population - thanks in part to the new Geneva Steel mill and the influx of employee families. Membership rose again when members of the Franciscan Monks came to Provo, resulting in the name change to St. Francis of Assisi.

The church was consecrated in 1945; it remains as the only Catholic church besides the Cathedral of the Madeleine to be consecrated in the state.

By the 1950s a parochial school was built on 900 East. Only grade-school students attended originally, but by 1962, it reached full capacity at all grades through high school.

Parish numbers peaked in the 1960s. By 1972, the school was closed, and the 16 nuns serving as teachers left.

Church membership has remained essentially the same during recent years, the Rev. Edmunds said. "There hasn't been a decline, but there hasn't been a continued growth either," he said.

More than 650 families are registered in the parish, representing diverse ethnic, economic and social backgrounds. While nearly 40 percent are Spanish-speaking individuals, the congregation also includes Orientals, Filipinos and Polish emigrants.

The church offers a number of organizations, including the Newman Club for college-age students. Some 125 BYU students participate in St. Francis' Newman Club.

Members also participate in the fraternal order of The Knights of Columbus, the Women of St. Francis, the Guadalupanas, the Parish Council and Youth Ministry program.

For more information and meeting schedules, visit the church at 172 N. 500 West, or call 374-5001.