We are featuring a very local church of the day. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church is one of the oldest religious organizations in the Truckee area. We drive and bike past the building often, but didn’t stop for a look until one of our readers suggested it. (Thanks, Tom!)
This church looks relatively new, and it is. The organization’s original structure was built in 1869 to serve the thousands of Portuguese, Italian and Irish Catholics who worked on the building of the Transcontinental Railway, a really big deal for Truckee and the Sierra region. Given that the railway was the hub of activity, the church was actually built on railway land, offering convenience for parishioners to attend services without having to travel far. A bell tower was added in 1883.
That church building burned in 1890 and was reconstructed in the same spot, with the bell tower rebuilt as well. The church moved in 1907 to Church Street (named after a wagon driver named Eli Church, not after the several churches located there). In 1949, construction for highway 267 (which now goes to Northstar) forced one more move, this time to the current location. It’s a couple miles from the center of Truckee, but very easy to get to on a bike path or road. The church, offices and rectory, as they appear today, were completed in 2011. The original church bell, cast in 1878, is in safe keeping off-site until a final location is identified.
Inside the church are seven lovely stained-glass windows. Scenes depict the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Saint Pius X, Saint Joseph, Saint Anthony, Saint Patrick, and Saint Therese of Lisieux.
The altar has a colorful backdrop of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary which reflects beautifully in the polished floor of the church.
The Stations of the Cross are simple and literal. Here in the First Station, Pontius Pilate is depicted in the act of washing his hands of the condemnation of Jesus Christ.
Today, the congregation is made up of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic parishioners. The pastor, Rev. Vincent R. Juan, delivers sermons in either English or Spanish. There is a sister church, Our Lady of the Lake, in nearby Kings Beach on Lake Tahoe. As expected, the Virgin of Guadalupe, popular among Mexican and Latin American parishioners, has a prominent position on the wall.
While we were visiting, a church school group came out on the lawn to practice The Lord’s Prayer. Each child had a laminated strip with a short phrase and they had to line up to get the whole thing in the right order, all under the watchful eye of Jesus.
Before the COVID pandemic, roughly coinciding with the 150th anniversary, the parish planned a building project to create a church with a 500-person capacity. Unfortunately, as with so many other organizations, COVID’s limitations on participation has imposed financial hardship, not only slowing the construction plans, but also causing difficulty in everyday operations. If you want to contribute to the church fund, check out the official website
Much of the historical information comes from the Truckee Donner Historical Society, a great place to learn about the amazing history of the Truckee/Tahoe region.