Spiritual sesquicentennial: Truckee Catholic Church celebrates 150 years | SierraSun.com

Spiritual sesquicentennial: Truckee Catholic Church celebrates 150 years

Parishioners gathered on the front lawn of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church this week to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

“All the elements came together really well — the whole execution turned out exactly as they wanted it to,” said David Murakami, a volunteer at the church, of the Aug. 15 ceremony. “It’s just terrific.”

The celebration began with a traditional Aztec dance performed by volunteers from the Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Incline Village.

“They dance to thank God and our lady in gratitude for all the blessings they have received and to share the beauty of Mexican culture,” said Thomas Handley, a lector at the church.

The dance was followed by a celebratory outdoor mass led by Bishop Jaime Soto, Bishop of the Sacramento Dioceses. Behind the altar stood the new 15-foot bronze statue portraying the assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary which was created to mark the sesquicentennial anniversary of the parish.

“Each foot of the 15 feet symbolizes each of the 10 years since the church was first formed 150 years ago,” said Handley.

According to Murakami, the statue was made possible by Rev. Vincent Juan, the current pastor at the church.

“I find it appropriate and symbolic that the face of one of the angels on the statue was based on a childhood picture of Father Vince,” said Handley. “Without the perseverance of Father Vince and the generosity of a special group of parishioners we would not have this magnificent statue today.”


The church started as a small congregation of Irish immigrants working on the Transcontinental Railroad line over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1868. The workers who attended mass held by circuit-riding priests became known as the Railroad Line Parish.

In 1869 Father John Mevel, who was assigned to serve the Railroad Line, was able to gather enough support from locals to build a church. The first mass in the Feast of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary church was celebrated on Aug. 15, 1869. The Church became known as the Assumption Church which served the Irish, Italian and Portuguese Catholics in the area.

“I got to learn a lot more about the relationship between the railroads and the church,” said Murakami of the celebration. “It’s very interesting.”

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or hjones@sierrasun.com.

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