St. Theresa a gem of the South Shore |

St. Theresa a gem of the South Shore

“Long before the big casinos and South Lake Tahoe’s famed ski resorts, a tiny Catholic church anchored the center of town.”

Tribune Web editor Jeff Munson wrote those words for our weekly 50th anniversary feature published Thursday.

He was referring, of course, to St. Theresa Catholic Church. In a city dominated by tourism and with approximately 70 percent of its residences owned by second-home owners, it’s heartening to know some things don’t change.

Or if they do, it’s for the better.

The Rev. Patrick Lyons inaugurated St. Theresa in 1951. The modest wooden structure helped define a town that had yet to emerge as an international vacation spot. The church’s congregation at the time numbered about 20 families; it now has more than 2,000.

That’s impressive, especially for a city that’s lost families over the past few years because of prohibitive housing prices, few well-paying jobs and the lure of better prospects in other markets.

The availability of churches, synagogues and other houses of worship often are important criteria for people considering where they want to live. For Catholics, St. Theresa can be just that magnet.

Through Lyons and other pastors such as John J. Grace, Monsignor Murrough Wallace, Mark Richards and current pastor Michael O’Reilly, the church has flourished through the years. St. Theresa began its latest chapter in April 2000, when it dedicated the current church on Lyons Avenue.

Father O’Reilly, who assumed church leadership in July 2006 after several years in the late 1990s as a St. Theresa assistant, exudes optimism about the church’s future. Current church members may be younger, but they’re passionate and faithful about their community, he noted.

That bodes well for the future of South Lake Tahoe. Institutions such as St. Theresa promote community cohesion and spirit, provide focal points for public discourse and offer guidance to those in need.

Here’s to another 57 years and more.

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