St. Aloysius Church (Spokane, Washington)
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Jesuit missionaries arrived in the Pacific Northwest between 1842 and 1866. Among them was Father DeSmet, S.J. who eventually founded Gonzaga University in 1887. The first location of worship for the Jesuits who attempted to found the university was the St. Joseph church, a rudimentary wooden structure. Under the direction of Father Mackin, a project to construct a new church for the university was proposed in 1904. Due to controversy and rumors that the church would be erected without the support of resident worshipers, the project was delayed. In 1909 the project resumed under the supervision of Father Goller. The St. Joseph church was relocated and space for the new St. Aloysius church was ready for construction. Estimated cost for the building was $100,000, half of which had been promised by donors and $30,000 already collected. The first published sketch of the building appeared in the Spokesman-Review on October 10, 1909. The first cornerstone was laid on October 24. Accompanied by a ceremony with large attendance numbers, a parchment was laid inside the stone that read:
"The First Cornerstone of this Holy Temple, Dedicated to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, was laid and blessed, in the presence of a great concourse of clergy and people, and with due solemnity, by the Rt. Rev. Edward John O’Dea, Bishop of the Diocese of Seattle. To the Greater Glory of God." 
The final mass of the St. Joseph church was held on October 11, 1911. St. Aloysius was opened on October 12, almost two years after the construction began. Of the thousands of people that showed for the opening mass at St. Aloysius, only 200 were admitted. Celebration and a large banquet ensued for all attendees with speeches from many influential religious leaders of the time.
St. Aloysius Church was designed by Preusse & Zittel of Spokane, a prominent design firm in Washington at the time. The church is described as having adapted Romanesque-style architecture. Romanesque architecture incorporates large circular windows, large doors, and vaulting ceiling and roof structures. This type of architecture attempts to emulate a Gothic ambiance. The church seems as if it has vast amounts of space and allows natural light to illuminate the space. Perhaps most important of the Romanesque-style architecture, is the priority of structural strength and solidity.
St. Aloysius Church is famous for its twin steeples that can be seen from many locations across the Gonzaga University campus and Spokane. Illuminated by 40 lights, the crosses atop the steeples are meant to be seen at every hour. Inside, the church features oak woodwork, Italian marble altars, and one pipe organ. The firm responsible for designing the church’s Stations of the Cross was the Mayers’ Studio of Germany. Mayers’ was also tasked with designing the stained-glass windows surrounding the church that depict Jesuit saints and the life of St. Aloysius himself. In recent years, four new windows have been added.
Many Jesuits, members of the Roman Catholic church, make their home at Gonzaga University, utilizing the St. Aloysius Church as one of their primary centers of worship. Jesuits belong to the Society of Jesus, a religious order founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Jesuits serve a special role as versatile and nomadic priests trained to handle any case regarding the Church. As an organization with a firm foundation set in doctrinal practice, the Society of Jesus utilizes the Constitutions and Spiritual Exercises written by St. Ignatius.
As an institution founded upon Jesuit values, Gonzaga University represents an important part of the Catholic community in Spokane. Gonzaga University and the St. Aloysius Church are overseen by the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. This particular diocese, established in 1913, encompasses an area of 24,356 square miles and includes 80 Catholic parish communities. In 2017, Gonzaga University constructed the Della Strada Jesuit Community, a religious center close to the Gonzaga campus, as an acknowledgment of the Jesuits’ involvement in the academic and religious community. As part of the Della Strada community, Jesuits provide education, religious guidance, and assistance to the surrounding community.
Both Gonzaga University and St. Aloysius Church inherit their namesake from Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, the “Patron of Youth” and Catholic saint of enviable piety. Saint Aloysius Gonzaga lived a rather brief but impactful life, one admired by followers of Catholicism to this day. Aloysius, known at the time as Luigi de Gonzaga, was born on March 9, 1568 to a family of Italian aristocracy. Many events throughout his upbringing led him to develop a distaste for the opulent lifestyle his family led. Upon discovering a book about Jesuits, scholars and agents of the Roman Catholic religion, who were working in India, he was inspired to join their ranks as a member of the Society of Jesus. For years he struggled with his family as they tried to dissuade him of his decision, but he eventually gave up rights to his inheritance in order to pursue a life of religious devotion.
Aloysius Gonzaga, the Latin form of St. Aloysius’s Italian birthname, is known to have lived an incredibly pious life. His dedication led him to Rome, where he committed his time to caring for those afflicted by the plague of 1591. Despite his superiors’ wishes, he continued to tend to the sick and eventually contracted the plague, which led to his death at the age of 23 on June 21, 1591.
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