St Genevieve Parish in Twisp is one of only four parishes in the United States named after the French saint, Genevieve of Paris (ca 422-500 AD), whose deep faith reportedly helped save her city from Attila the Hun in 451. The name for the parish church was the choice of parishioner Sophie Therriault Peters, a French Canadian woman who donated the land on which the structure was built. St. Genevieve was the name of her family’s home parish.
Records show that by 1907 Mass was being celebrated in Twisp by Fr. Joseph Luyten, who would bundle himself into a horse-drawn buggy and make a bi-monthly trek to the area from Waterville. He said Mass for about eight families in private homes and also in the lodge hall of the town’s old opera house.
In 1916 a Fr. Fritz served the area. He had the distinction of being the first visiting priest who owned a car. Mass was held in the upstairs of the town’s old opera house. In time a house on the property was remodeled and used for Mass and living quarters for Fr. Fritz. Around the year 1922 Sophie Peters purchased the residence to the south of her home (the site of the present church). Mass was celebrated there monthly for several years by Fr. Joseph Sondergeld. Lay women taught catechism classes weekly; two Sisters came two weeks each summer to teach the children their catechism. Bishop Charles D. White came from Spokane for Confirmations. The history of the time is sketchy because a fire in the parish residence destroyed many parish records.
In 1925 parishioners transformed the residence into a church. With his team and wagon Vernon LaMotte helped John Smith haul gravel from a nearby gravel bar along the Twisp River to build a concrete foundation for the church building. Windows were installed from the abandoned Willow Creek Church located three miles east of Monse.
When Father Carl Phillip was assigned as a resident pastor in 1934 when St. Genevieve formally was established as a parish by Bishop Charles. White.
Church facilities have undergone times of renovation since the mid 1950’s. At that time, while Fr. George Howard Morbeck was pastor, parishioners dug a basement and moved the church forward. An addition built on the west end of the church made room for a new sanctuary and sacristy. Many of the church’s accouterments were made by the hands of the parishioners. In 1987 parishioners added the vestibule, double-door entrance and porch. In 2004 they put together funds and labor to install a ramp entrance, new sacristy and restroom. The year 2010 witnessed the installation of stained glass window facades, designed by the parishioner Ginger Reddington.
History has formed a faith community at St. Genevieve’s which is a mix of long-time families and relative newcomers. Visitors come in the winter as well as the summer, attracted by the variety of outdoor sporting activities available in the Methow Valley. Enamored by the isolation, beauty and peacefulness of the area, many of those tourists have decided to set up residence.
For decades now the parish has shared a pastor with Sacred Heart Parish in Brewster. Multiple pastors have come and gone, but the parish community has remained active and stable. Father Matthew Nicks was the former pastor from 2011 until 2014. Father Pedro Bautista, who had been a pastor at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and former parochial vicar at St. Patrick/Francis in Walla Walla, is the current pastor of St. Genevieve’s 100+ families since 2015. He travels the forty miles from his other parish, Sacred Heart in Brewster, to offer Mass each Sunday and to care for the spiritual needs of the community. In August 2012, parishioner William Wehmeyer was ordained to the permanent deaconate by Bishop Blasé Cupich and was assigned to assist at the parish where he and his wife, Julie, have been involved in ministry for years.
Even a brief history of St. Genevieve’s cannot be told without mentioning one of St. Genevieve’s most notable former parishioners: Bishop William Skylstad. “Billy” Skylstad grew up in the Methow Valley and served Mass in both Brewster and Twisp. Sacramental records indicate that he was confirmed at the parish on June 30, 1946. The house where he lived still stands on the banks of the Methow River where he has many fond memories of swimming and rafting as a boy with family and friends.
Source: Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Children of the Sun, Centennial 1913-2013, Editions du Signe, 2013, pg 192-193.