About Our Parish

Humble Beginnings

Catholicism came to Hamilton permanently in 1891 when the Jesuit Priest, Fr Alexander Diomedi, visited and began holding services in the home of Willie & Rose Brennan at 205 S 3rd St in Hamilton.  Fr Diomedi was soon able to secure the site for a new church from Marcus Daly, and in 1896, under the leadership of Fr J. Guidi and about $5000, St Francis of Assisi Church was built.  

For the first 11 years, the Jesuit Priests from Missoula's St Francis Church were in charge of Hamilton's new Queen Anne-Cape Cod style church.  Then, in the fall of 1908, Fr MJ Carr became the first diocesan priest in Hamilton.  At this point, Bishop John P Carroll raised the status of St Francis of Assisi Church to a parish.  During the first years of the church, there were 50 Catholic families on the books.  By 1910, this number was reported to have grown to 80 families, leading to the construction of the parish rectory next door.

Although there was a lag in membership during the depression years, by 1941, there were 250 families in St Francis of Assisi Parish.  After several renovations of the church and the rectory, and continued growth of the parish community, a "modern educational center" was completed under the direction of Fr Frank Burns in 1967.  At the time of the church's 75th anniversary in 1971, the parish had grown to 300 families.

Darby Catholics joined the parish when it was founded in 1908.  They began celebrating mass in the Darby Club House in 1953, and later in the old Episcopal church.  There were no regular masses celebrated in Darby between 1956 and 1969, so 12 local families made arrangements to have mass held at the VFW hall.  By the end of 1980, there were 150 parisioners celebrating each week in Darby.  In 1972, the Bergren family in Darby donated 14 city lots for a Catholic church, and by 1980, St Philip Benizi Church and Parish Center, a mission parish to St Francis of Assisi, was constructed.  This church was dedicated in 1981.

By 2000, the Bitterroot Valley was growing quickly as was the membership at St Francis of Assisi parish.  At this point, there were about 600 families or 1400 parishioners.  Fr John Darragh had retirement in sight, but wanted to see that a new parish center was in place to handle some of the growth before he left.  

With great parishioner support and a very successful building campaign, the rectory was relocated across the street from it's location next to the church and sold, and a new center was erected.  The Pastoral Life Center was dedicated on September 24, 2006.