A History of Our Parish and School

Our Parish

On June 8, 1968 Archbishop Thomas Connolly announced the formation of a new parish in the South Bellevue area, to be placed under the patronage of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who have a convent and school within the parish boundaries.  Property had been acquired on a sloping site of approximately 10 acres, with an existing house.

St. Madeleine Sophie parish began under the guidance of Fr. Jarlath Heneghan, the founding pastor.  Neighborhoods were carved from the existing parishes of Sacred Heart and St. Louise of Bellevue, St. Anthony of Renton, and St. Joseph of Issaquah.  Fr. J moved into the house, and Sunday Masses were celebrated at Tyee Junior High School, which became known affectionately by parishioners as “St. Tyee.”

In the fall of 1968, the first general census and Foundation Fund Campaign was successfully completed.  With tremendous enthusiasm, generosity and cooperation, along with God’s blessings, the campaign was a resounding success.

Design studies for the sloping site resulted in the present three-level plan, with the church sanctuary on the top level and social hall, classrooms and offices below.  Architectural plans were approved by the Archdiocesan Building Committee in February of 1970, and Masses began in the new facility on April 4, 1971, Palm Sunday.

In 1977 the founding Pastor was succeeded by Fr. Gerald Mayovsky.  As the parish grew we were blessed to have associates Rev. Kurt Woellner and Rev. William Harris and several priests of the Society of Jesus assisting on weekends.  The lay staff also was expanded, and the parish became known for its outstanding faith formation programs for children and youth.  During this era a Blessed Sacrament Chapel and Reconciliation Chapel were incorporated into the sanctuary level and the parish debt was retired.

Fr. George Rink began his pastorate in 1990.  During his time at St. Madeleine Sophie there were not the priests available to assist, and Fr. George placed even greater emphasis upon developing trained volunteers and staff.  A milestone event was the celebration of our 25th Anniversary as a parish.  Our fourth pastor, Fr. John Renggli, was with us only three years, but is remembered for his dedication to all who needed priestly care.

In 2000, as we celebrated the Jubilee Year, the parish welcomed Fr. Jim Picton as its fifth pastor and Fr. Emmanuel Iweh, Parochial Vicar.  The growing parish population, which was nearing 1500 households, was overjoyed at again having two priests.  Their gifts, combined with those of our committed staff and volunteers are bringing a dynamic start to the new millennium.

Perhaps the strongest common thread running through the history of the parish is the commitment, dedication and loyalty of our people.  St. Madeleine has truly become a People of God out of the spirit of Vatican II.  Our many gifts and talents are readily shared, enabling our various ministries to flourish and increasingly meet the needs of the parish family and community.

Our Legacy

Included in these needs has always been discernment about the ministry of a parish school.  At the time the parish was founded, the trend within Catholic school education was a transition away from a teaching faculty consisting almost exclusively of women from religious orders to staffs hired from the ranks of professional lay men and women.  This major shift was accompanied by the need for a substantial increase in financial resources that many parishes found difficult to realize.  Such a burden, coupled with shifting opinions on the efficacy of religious education methodologies, presented enough questions to parish leadership to postpone any decision on opening our own school to a later date.

Many times the request was made to revisit the proposal, yet a critical mass of interest and resources was not realized until a parish goal development process began in February 2001.  During the process, it soon became clear that support for a new parish ministry spanned parish age groups.  Thus, the Pastoral Council determined that a parish elementary school would become part of future plans as long as it was deemed financially and demographically feasible.

A School Feasibility Task Force, consisting of parish representatives and outside consultants and chaired by Bruce Laing, was formed with the charge of determining which, if any, hurdles might stand in the way.  Periodic reports to the parish and Pastoral Council continued to affirm what many had hoped:  the community was ready to support an investment in the future of its youth by opening the newest Catholic elementary school in our diocese.

On Catechetical Sunday, September 21, 2003, the Very Rev. James D. Picton, pastor, formally announced the intention to open St. Madeleine Sophie Catholic School in September of 2005.  Chairman Laing, now joined by co-chair Michael Ensminger, rededicated the Task Force to the logistical mission of launching the program.  Subsequent months of fine-tuning the model climaxed with the hiring of the school’s first principal, Mr. Daniel Sherman, in July 2004. By early fall, through the grace of God and the intercession of our patron, St. Madeleine Sophie, it was determined that Opening Day would be September 6, 2005.

On that glorious day, forty-one students in Grades PK, K, 1, 2, 3 and 6, along with their six energetic and pioneering teachers, began class in the parish social hall.  Formal dedication and blessing of the first new classrooms, constructed for the school, took place on a sunny Wednesday, September 21, 2006.  The event was witnessed by numerous family and friends, including representatives from the Archdiocese, local and state government, and invited guests.  Our first Mass of the Holy Spirit concluded the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Our first graduating class of eight students commenced at the parish’s 40th anniversary Mass on Sunday, June 8, 2008.  It has been told that the stewardship collection for that Mass totaled $8,000.  In many Pacific Rim cultures, the number eight is associated with good fortune and success.

Our Destiny

Our truly contemporary, parish-centered school is a tribute to the long-time commitment to quality ministries by our community founders and current members.  As such, we are dedicated to providing an outstanding educational and formational program in an environment of Catholic faith and moral values.   Our model is to offer small class sizes and top-level teachers within a design that is responsive to individual needs.  Graduates of St. Madeleine’s will be equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities of further education in a diverse and complex world.

Following the model of our parish patron, we strive to form a community that is welcoming, inclusive and as responsive as possible to the needs of all parish families.  Our goal is to welcome and embrace the children of this faith community, never intentionally turning them away because of economic, social or educational need.

In forming that educational community,

  • We recognize that all children can learn and we hold high expectations for the success of each student.
  • We commit to teach in ways that empower all students regardless of economic, religious, cultural, familial, or educational differences.
  • We seek to establish standards that honor diversity and the values of justice, tolerance, community and relationships.
  • We promise to remain visionary and innovative in all forms of outstanding instructional practice.

From our humble beginning enrollment of 41 students, we have doubled in size each year, reaching our first plateau of one classroom per grade, PK-8, in Year Four and currently enroll 200 students.  As demographics and interest warrant, we will continue with a capital campaign to grow toward the full master plan, which will include additional classroom space and gym facility.  The master plan envisions a school that could accomodate nearly 500 students.