Originally, the area now known as St. Francis de Sales Parish was to be a religious education center and a chapel; however, plans were changed, and on June 1, 1964, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for a parish and a school plant. Construction for a school plant, located on the corner of Washington Avenue and Michael Way, was begun when the Most Reverend Robert J. Dwyer, Bishop of Reno, and Reverend Elwood J. LaVoy turned over the first shovels of dirt.
Father LaVoy was successful in obtaining the Dominican Sisters from Adrian, Michigan, to staff the opening of the first two grades. During the first three months of the 1964-1965 school year, the students attended classes in space provided by the neighboring parish, Our Lady of Las Vegas. Future plans for the school included adding a grade each year and converting the social hall into classrooms. The school, or north wing of the building, opened for classes on Monday, February 8, 1965, and the students moved from Our Lady of Las Vegas School.
In addition to the four classroom areas, the building housed several offices, a chapel, a multi-purpose room, and living quarters for two priests. Eventually, a religious education office was added as well as a kitchen; the chapel became the social hall when a separate building was developed and grades three through six were added. More changes have occurred over the years. The priests now live in a separate area, and their old living quarters now house all of the parish offices. The school kitchen area and multi-purpose room have been remodeled for a larger library. A Parish Center has been built to house a large social hall and religious education offices. The seventh and eighth grade classes were added in what had been the chapel and social hall. In the early spring of 1987, plans were finalized to add a kindergarten to the school program. A temporary portable classroom was ordered for kindergarten use.
On August 5, 1987, an arson fire destroyed the south wing of the school building and caused extensive smoke damage through the rest of the building. As part of the clean-up, the existing area was re-carpeted, painted and new ceilings installed. Temporary classrooms were purchased to house grades five through eight for the 1987-1988 school year. Rebuilding began in April 1988 and was completed to begin the next school year. Along with rebuilding, a new kindergarten building and adult meeting room were added. A new adult meeting room freed an existing room for a music room. A storage area was enlarged in rebuilding to be used as a computer lab.
Throughout the 1990s, St. Francis continued to be a vital parish and school community. Keeping up with technology and an aging facility were challenges that were gladly met. In 1994, Father James Bevan became Pastor of the parish. He made tremendous improvements within the facility. He completely renovated the Church by 1998. Next, the necessary school improvements were addressed: the installation of new white boards, carpeting, lockers, desks, and up-to-date technology.
In 1998, Father Manuel Quintero came to St. Francis as an Associate Pastor. Father Bevan and Father Manuel developed an extraordinary Spanish ministry that has added so much to our parish. In 1998, St. Francis de Sales was celebrating one Spanish Mass each Sunday. By the fall of 2001, our parish expanded the number of Spanish Masses to three.
Over the years, associates have included priests from Mexico and South America, assisting with such a large and vital Hispanic community. In 2004, our former Pastor, Father Bevan, “retired” and returned to St. Francis de Sales as a Special Assistant. The teamwork of the current and former Pastors has served our Parish very well. Both are very involved in all projects and planning for the future of St. Francis de Sales – from the annual Parish Bazaar to our newest building, our Activity Center. Whether planning for weekly School Masses, Penance Services, First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion, or Graduations, both Father Bevan and our current Pastor, Father Bruno are very involved and supportive of our students and the school-wide community.
In October of 2003, the school and parish communities began working closely together on a very successful International Bazaar and Festival. This event combines the food and music of our parish with children’s games and activities provided by our school families. The Festival includes a spectacular Silent Auction as well as a Raffle – both of which have the strong support of our school families. Each year, everyone has a wonderful time and while we always enjoy a fun-filled and memorable day - the Festival is also a huge financial success with thousands of people in attendance. The proceeds of these events have also helped us to defray the additional construction costs of our new lunch room and activity center. Most importantly, we continue to experience a tremendous sense of community and sharing with the entire Parish.
On December 20, 2014, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of our parish. This celebration was followed by recognizing the 50th anniversary of our school on February 8, 2015. Over the past 50 years, St. Francis has been committed to serving the community by ministering to the educational and religious needs of our families. As we look ahead, our goal is to align our programs to the needs of Catholic education today and in the future. In doing so, we will continue to reflect on our strengths as well as the goals that we have set before us.
In summary, what began on the draftsman’s board as a religious education center over 50 years ago, is a parish that is committed to serving the needs of a diverse parish community. As our city continues to grow at a tremendous rate, so does the need for Catholic education for the children of St. Francis de Sales Parish. The community of St. Francis de Sales looks forward to meeting the challenges, the needs, and the demands of this ever-growing parish community.