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5 Amazing Catholic sites not to miss in Idaho

5 Catholic Sites in Idaho

Bardocz Peter | Shutterstock | Wikimedia Commons | Collage by Aleteia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 02/18/24

While only 10% of the population is Catholic in Idaho, the Gem State has several beautiful and significant Catholic sites.

While only 10% of the population is Catholic in Idaho, the Gem State has several beautiful and significant Catholic sites. 

Idaho’s Catholic history began in 1843 when Father Nicholas Point, S.J., built the first Catholic Church in Idaho on the St. Joe River, near the present town of St. Maries. Since then, Idahoans have built numerous churches, religious communities and other Catholic places.

Check out five of the most lovely and notable Catholic sites in Idaho.

The Mission of the Sacred Heart in The Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park, De Smet

Located in Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park, the Mission of the Sacred Heart is the oldest building in Idaho. Also known locally as the Cataldo Mission, or Old Mission, the Mission of the Sacred Heart was built between 1850-1853 by Catholic missionaries and members of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest mission building in the Pacific Northwest:

Construction began in 1850 and three hundred Coeur d’Alene Indians and two missionaries built the 90-foot-long, 40-foot-high, and 40-foot-wide building. The construction required creativity due to minimal building supplies. No nails were used, the chandeliers were made from old tin cans, and the walls were built by weaving grass and straw over a framework then solidifying it with river mud, a method known as wattle and daub.

The site gives visitors an opportunity to examine the dynamics and complexities between Jesuit missionaries and the tribal people among whom they settled in a beautiful park setting. The park features the Sacred Heart Mission church, a restored Parish House and a historic cemetery. The visitor center includes a new award-winning exhibition, “Sacred Encounters: Father De Smet & the Indians of the Rocky Mountain West,” to help tell the fascinating story of the Mission, the Tribe and the missionaries. 

St. John's Cathedral, Boise, Idaho
St. John the Evangelist Cathedral, Boise, ID

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Boise

Perhaps the most beautiful church in Idaho, this luminous cathedral is well worth a visit! 

The original wooden church of St. John the Evangelist, established in 1876 in downtown Boise on the corner of 9th and Bannock, was chosen by Bishop Alphonse Glorieux as his Cathedral in 1893 when the Diocese of Boise was established. 

Eventually, Bishop Glorieux oversaw the building of the stone Cathedral as it is today. Bishop Peter Christensen has overseen a renovation of the interior, the steps outside the Cathedral and also the construction of a new chapel below the main floor of the Cathedral. 

Holy Cross Church, Keuterville

The current church hails from 1911 (the need for a larger church and a fire saw the end of the original 1886 structure). The original church was erected in 1886 under the direction of Fr. Diomedi, S.J., and the same summer a considerable immigration of German farmers flowed in, enlarging the congregation:

At that time, the church was furnished with a table as altar, but had no pews. John Uhlenkott had brought a statue of the Blessed Virgin with him. Services were held once a month… In the early years, when the priest could come so seldom, Fr. Diomedi had suggested to the people that they assemble to pray even when they could not assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays. This they did. Mr. Hendricks aided Mr. Uhlenkott in leading the Rosary and Litany, and in reading the Epistle and Gospel of the Sunday, with an explanation. Between prayers and the reading of the sacred texts, the whole congregation united in singing hymns.

An upcoming Idaho Catholic Register article (Feb 23) by Maureen Munger, a parishioner of Holy Cross, describes the historic parish:

Keuterville is a small community with a rich history, tucked away in the foothills of Cottonwood Butte in Central Idaho. Holy Cross Chapel was the first Catholic Church on the Camas Prairie. In 1997, Holy Cross parish combined with St. Mary’s parish of Cottonwood to share a priest. Today, the beautiful historic building is used for weddings, funerals, and special occasions throughout the year. The Tri-Parish communities of Ferdinand, Greencreek, and Cottonwood have been very blessed in recent years to have 7:00 p.m. Sunday evening Mass throughout the summer, starting Memorial Day and running through Labor Day. One-hundred-thirteen years later, Keuterville residents and other parishioners from across the Camas Prairie enjoy using the old church. They appreciate the beauty of the antique altars, which were made in Germany and shipped to Idaho. Sitting in the pews gives one a sense of a more classic, ornate era of quality craftsmanship.

St. Joseph’s Church, Pocatello

St. Joseph’s is the oldest standing and still-operating Catholic Church in Idaho, consecrated on December 19, 1897. It was the Pro-Cathedral before the Cathedral in Boise was built.

Deemed significant as “a rare 19th-century example” of an Idaho church built of stone, the church is on the National Register of Historic Places. The parish was merged with the parishes of St. Paul in Chubbuck and St. Anthony of Padua in Pocatello to form the Holy Spirit Catholic Community

Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood

Benedictine sisters have been present in the region since 1882, and in the 1920s the present Monastery of St. Gertrude was built, hewn from blue porphyry stone, which was quarried from the hill behind it. The chapel is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today the Center for Benedictine Life at the Monastery of St. Gertrude is home to 28 sisters, who have a venerable history and are very creative about sustaining themselves for the future:

We operate a spirituality/retreat center that hosts over 3,000 guests a year, a museum that focuses on the history of north-central Idaho and the Monastery, and a four-unit bed and breakfast. We own over 1,000 acres of timber and farmland, which we actively steward for sustainability. Our monastic community includes sisters ministering in social work, health care, parish ministry, while being creative, pioneering, grounded in faith, and committed to moving into the future.

Local student groups visit the sisters regularly, and they have many active and growing partnerships in the region. 

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