The Archdiocese of Seattle opens Christ Our Hope Catholic Church in the first new parish of its kind in more than 40 years, right downtown.

Share story

They drank from a common cup: the congressional staffer in a business suit, the pig-tailed girl in summer shorts, the low-income-housing residents, the tourists just in off the street to have a look.

The eclectic gathering Sunday of more than 250 worshippers at Christ Our Hope Catholic Church for the first Mass at this newly consecrated church reflected its mission: to be a church for all people, right downtown.

With laughter, song and joy, the Most Rev. Alex J. Brunett, archbishop of Seattle, celebrated the Mass of Installation, welcoming the Rev. Paul Magnano as pastor, charged with leading the new parish. It’s a so-called personal parish, without geographic boundaries; anyone can belong.

Magnano hopes to gather and lead a new faith community centered at the church, in The Josephinum building, near the corner of Second Avenue and Stewart Street. It’s a neighborhood perhaps best known for the lines of rock-music fans winding around the block for shows at The Moore Theatre, a gritty stretch of street between the downtown shopping and finance district and swank condos in Belltown.

Magnano, 68, and a priest for 43 years, said he welcomes the challenge. An ebullient man, quick with a hug or handshake, his warm, robust voice filled the soaring space of the church as he spoke his first words as the new parish priest. Among them: “Welcome, all.”

The new church and parish are intended to serve a population of some 20,000 new residents expected to move downtown over time, Brunett said. It’s also a way to bring the church right into the heart of the city. “We want to be down in the middle of the culture.”

The restoration of the more than 100-year-old space was done with care to provide both a sense of the sacred and intimacy, said Steven Lee, the architect who oversaw the design of the church, once the dining room of the grand New Washington hotel.

It is a serene space, filled with light. Even on an overcast morning, new stained-glass windows glowed daffodil yellow, deep red and cobalt blue, interspersed with creamy opalescent panels casting a pearly light.

Eventually, more stained glass will be installed, part of an ongoing $3.9 million fundraising campaign to renovate the space. The work has been extensive, and included restoring the original straight-grain maple floor, ornate plaster ceiling and wainscoting.

In his homily, Brunett noted the appropriate reuse of the hotel’s dining room for the church. For here, he noted, so many had been well fed and served. That is the business of this church today, Burnett said: to feed the spirit and serve the needs of everyone downtown.

He charged Magnano and the fledgling parishioners alike with making it their work to nourish and welcome anyone who comes in the door — and to reach out to grow a community of worshippers.

For parishioners like Paula Holmes, the opening of the new church and parish was the culmination of months of work and years of hope. A downtown resident, she said she had been searching for a spiritual and community center in what can feel like an anonymous, disconnected city.

“There is a small core group of us that has been talking about this for many, many years, about the energy and grace about building something in community in downtown Seattle,” Holmes said. “We hang out here, we eat down here, but it is hard to find community and a common purpose when you live downtown. I am walking hand in hand with my neighbor, how do I make a difference in this most local of communities?”

Christ Our Hope has a leg up there: It is already well connected in The Josephinum, home to a range of social services as well as low-income apartments owned and operated by the Archdiocesan Catholic Housing Services. The diocese has owned the building since 1963.

To Magnano, pastoring the new parish is an extension of a long-standing bond to downtown.

His family first settled on Western Avenue in 1903 and started what would become The Napoleon Co., a food brokerage and import company known for its olive oils, vinegars and other specialty foods. The company’s oil is also blessed and used in churches throughout Western Washington — including on the newly consecrated altar at Christ Our Hope, blessed in a Mass of Dedication on Saturday night to open the new church.

Magnano helped lead the clergy at the archdiocese for 16 years before being named as pastor at Christ Our Hope. He says he relishes his new, community-level work. “I see ourselves engaged in everything and anything in downtown Seattle,” Magnano said. “The people of the streets, the people of the condos, the workers, the tourists coming off the cruise ships.

“Everyone is welcome at this table.”

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or