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100 years in front of God

No other parishioner at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Scappoose can make Josie Trtek's claim: She's a few months older than the church itself.

So when the church celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sept. 26 with a mass attended by more than 400 people, Josie Trtek would be there, rain or shine. On that Sunday, the morning clouds floated in ominously, but the rain didn't start falling until she safely rolled through the church's doors in her wheelchair.

Family members say there must have been some kind of divine intervention at work.

Josie Trtek and her family's story track the history of the church, founded by Czechoslovakian immigrants near the turn of the century.

Herself the daughter of Czech immigrants, Josie Trtek moved to Scappoose when she was 18 and, with the exception of a few years during World War II, she stayed in Scappoose, building a home a quarter-mile from the church in 1946.

In the 1930s, she married Joseph Trtek, a local aviation pioneer and war hero. As a husband, Josie Trtek fondly refers to him as 'the best man.' They remained married for more than 70 years until his death and always attended the church.

The church has left a lasting impact on the Trtek family. Sister Catherine Trtek-Josie Trtek's daughter and caretaker, and a Catholic Nun - remembers attending mass there as a child. It's where she received her first Holy Communion and was baptized.

Catherine Trtek left the community in 1957 to attend seminary and begin a teaching and care-giving career. The church has changed since then, she says.

'It's pretty much a young parish now,' Catherine Trtek says. 'It's strange to come here and not know anyone.'

During the anniversary Mass, which attendees called a family reunion of sorts, Portland Archbishop John G. Vlazny emphasized the parish's traditions of warmth and hospitality.

Josie Trtek remembers that warmth fondly. For decades she was part of it, especially the parish meals. 'I always helped with the cooking,' she says.

One hundred years of 'Mass' appeal

St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church can trace its history back to one of Scappoose's original families, according to Nancy Rocha, a member of the church's Centennial Committee and its in-house historian.

In 1905, John Havlik, Sr. moved his growing family from Nebraska to Scappoose. Within the small-but-expanding community, the Czech-immigrant family settled on an existing 320-acre farm and bought a store, which quickly became the center of life in south Columbia County.

The Havlik family was among the first Catholic families to settle in the area. John Havlik's wife, Barbara Havlik, began corresponding with other immigrant families from Czechoslovakia, telling them how similar the landscape was to their homeland.

The church was founded prior to 1911 and named after the Czechoslovakian St. Wenceslaus to give the growing Catholic Czech population a place to attend Mass. In 1911, Portland Archbishop Alexander Christie, founder of the University of Portland, officially blessed the church.

One hundred years later and the church's attendance has increased significantly. About 300 families now belong to the church, which is on par with the entire population of Scappoose in 1911, according to census data.

In 1911, there were about 11 families who attended the church, Rocha says.

Josette Hugo, whose parents were early parishioners, says she believes the growth in the community, small as it remains, can be tied to the growth in the church. Scappoose wasn't incorporated as a city until 10 years after Christie blessed the church.

'It's just wonderful that the church has been able to grow and prosper in this little community,' said Hugo, a member of the church and a planner for the church's 100-year anniversary.

Josie and Catherine Trtek agree. And if there's one thing Catherine Trtek would like to see as the church gets older, and its parishioners get younger, is a continuing respect for the history of the church and its elderly population that shares its history.

The 100th anniversary Mass and celebration was the culmination of a year's worth of centennial events at the church. More information about the church's history can be found at its website: http://www.stwenceslaus-scappoose.com/