Church turns 100: Celebration unfolds Aug. 9

By Will Bowman, For The Observer August 01, 2014 09:06 am

Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church has been a La Grande institution for 100 years. (Will Bowman photo)
Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church has been a La Grande institution for 100 years. (Will Bowman photo)
Sanctuary: a long straight aisle parts pews like the Red Sea. Two stairs. An altar draped in white. Sacrosanct statuettes of Christ, his disciples and Theotokos: Mary, mother of God, the church’s namesake.

Elsewhere in the room, brazen candlesticks. Pale ambient light shafting from outside, outside where red bricks have been stacked like precepts — line on line, brick on brick — for nearly 100 years.

And founding it all, the cornerstone, a black dappled block inscribed “Church of 
Our Lady of the Valley. AD 1914.”

And on the weekend of Aug. 9 and 10, Catholics and non-Catholics are invited to celebrate Our Lady of the Valley’s century of presence in the Grande Ronde Valley.

“Not many people see their 100th birthday,” said Father Christopher Agoha, seven-year pastor now moving on to perform his administrative assignments in Chiloquin and Bly in southern Oregon. “I leave the town missing the church. It is an accommodating church, with the many things that we did.”

Before leaving, though, Agoha organized the centennial celebration to include an August Fest, a special mass and a post-service luncheon and seminar.

August Fest will be held at the church from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 9. It will be a day of food, games and jubilation, Agoha said.

“Drink, dance and celebration,” he said. “If we are to call it a celebration, it must be a celebration.”

The next day, Bishop Liam Cary will lead mass at 10 a.m., followed by a brunch and seminar at 11 a.m. on the Eastern Oregon University campus in the Gilbert Event Center. The seminar will cover the past, present and future of the church, a legacy stretching back to 1867 when Father L. Dielman performed the first official Mass in La Grande. 

For the complete story, see Friday's edition of The Observer.