St. Theresa Celebrates 50th Anniversary |

St. Theresa Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The sun beams inside St. Theresa Church, shooting from the horizon just above Heavenly Valley, a fitting view.

Elaborate stained glass windows depicting scenes of Lake Tahoe with representations of mountains, water and trees along with depictions of St. Theresa and Our Lady Guadalupe are illuminated in the bright light, a crucifix from the previous church wades in the sunlight at center stage. The church, which seats 700 people, was completed last year.

But for the parish, celebrating its Golden Jubilee or 50th anniversary this weekend, the facilities were not always so magnificent.

“Any time an operation is 50 years old, it is a time of rejoicing,” said Monsignor Murrough Wallace, beaming with pride.

While the celebration will focus on uniting the Catholic community as it always has, the parish has more of reason to celebrate than the accumulation of age. It has the accumulation of growth and accomplishment.

In 1951, when Father Patrick Lyons was appointed pastor, the parish had under 20 families. At the time, the South Shore was little more than a rural community, dotted with a small fraction of the businesses and attractions it has today. During the winter months, when mountain passes were closed, there were days when only one or two parishioners would be at Mass.

The number of families in the parish now reaches 200; and with all its amenities, such as a school, a parish center and a rectory, it is thriving and vibrant like the high altitude California sun. The parish includes many members from the Latino and Filipino communities, and some of the sermons are given in Spanish.

But in addition to the resident Catholic community that gathers for services, there is a large contingent of tourists from all over the world that rotate through the doors of St. Theresa’s, especially in the summer.

“It is very intriguing,” Wallace said. In the winter people often come to Mass dressed in ski and snow gear.

Father John Grace, who served the parish from 1956 to 1993 and still occasionally celebrates Mass, said the church is a tribute to the parishioners. He points out the community is lucky to have all these resources centered in one place. Not every parish, he said, has all these amenities, especially in a small mountain town.

“It is an asset to the community to have facilities like that available, so the people should be proud of what they have,” he said.

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