St. Theresa’s is a thriving parish of more than 1,200 registered households and, along with the parish of St. Vincent de Paul, serves Catholics from Federal Way and beyond. St. Theresa’s also draws a significant number of parishioners from the North Tacoma area.
St. Theresa’s is a very active parish community and is engaged in a wide range of ministries. In addition to core ministries, other programs include care for the homeless, which features the Sandwich Program and provides shelter, Life Teen for high school age students, the Edge Program for students in grades 6 to 8, Women’s Fellowship, and the 50 Plus Club. St. Theresa’s has a sizable Spanish speaking community that considers the parish its spiritual home. A total of five Masses are celebrated each weekend, including two Masses on Saturday and three on Sunday. To learn more about parish ministries and finances, open the Annual Report for 2016-2017 (the last year the annual report was published).
St. Theresa’s Parish was established as a mission in Federal Way in 1923. The mission was sponsored by both St. Patrick’s and St. Leo’s churches in Tacoma. Located at present day Dash Point, St. Theresa’s Mission celebrated its first Mass in early 1924. In subsequent years, the Catholic community of Federal Way continued to grow, reflecting the overall growth of the city. In 1968, St. Theresa’s became a full parish of the Archdiocese of Seattle with Fr. James McEachern as the pastor.
In the 1970s, as the number of families registered at St. Theresa’s began to swell, it became apparent that the original church, a humble wooden structure that accommodated only 75 people, was inadequate. To initially meet this demand, St. Theresa’s added daily and weekend Masses at Twin Lakes Elementary School and Christ Lutheran Church. Then, in 1976, the St. Theresa community heeded a call to action—to build a new church.
The building program, officially sanctioned by the Archdiocese in 1976, became a major activity of the ensuing four years. The aim was to create a new church, rectory and multi-purpose center to meet the existing and future needs of the parish. Ultimately, the effort involved the Parish Council and the efforts of hundreds of volunteers. Thousands of hours were given in site preparation and construction. Volunteers completed most of the work on the rectory.
The new rectory was occupied in April of 1980 by Father Piro, and the first Mass was held at the new church on September 28, 1980. A “Rite of Departure” at the former Mission church and a procession to the new facility preceded it. A new multi-purpose center was dedicated on June 28th of the following year. The bell tower from the original church building was placed, where it currently stands, at the church entrance to provide a link with the past. Within the tower base is a sealed concrete time capsule that is to remain closed for 100 years. Inside are numerous artifacts and documents that will tell a future St. Theresa generation about their strong and proud history.