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St. Nicholas of Tolentino began as a mission of St. Leo Parish in Tacoma, to serve the fishing families in Gig Harbor. Prior to 1914, Mass and sacraments were offered by visiting priests in the homes of early pioneer Catholic families. Many of their descendants are still active in the parish to this day.

In late 1913, one-half acre of land was purchased from Mrs. Mary Oliver for $300 as the location of a permanent church. Money needed to build the church was raised through donations from Catholic families, canneries, and fishermen's supply houses. Construction began in December 1913, and was completed in the spring of 1914. Fr. Ignatius Vasta offered the first Mass in the newly completed church on Easter Sunday 1914. 

Forty years later, the Catholic community had outgrown the original church. On December 3, 1958, builders broke ground for the new (and current) church, and Fr. Henry Kruft celebrated the first mass in the current church just five months later. A new religious education building was built in 1970 (now the parish hall), and a new rectory in 1974 (now the parish offices).

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In 1973, restoration of the Old Church began. The building was used for many years as a space for meetings, receptions, and other non-profit events. From 1981 to 1997, the Peninsula Historical Society leased and occupied the basement. In 2011, Old Church closed in 2011 due to structural issues, but efforts are currently underway to renovate.

In 1995, parents from the Peninsula established Holy Family School, an independent Catholic school with 14 students. For a time, they leased classrooms at St. John Episcopal and local Assembly of God churches. As class sizes grew, it became apparent that the school needed its own facilities. In 2000, Holy Family School was incorporated into the Archdiocese of Seattle and became St. Nicholas Catholic School. In 2001, the school moved to its present location behind the church. Today, the school is an integral part of our parish mission, serving over 160 students from preschool through eighth grade. 



"St. Nicholas of Tolentino" by artist and parishioner Giorgina Wells

"St. Nicholas of Tolentino" by artist and parishioner Giorgina Wells

St. Nicholas of Tolentino (1246-1306) is the patron of boatmen, mariners, and sailors, which is why the early settlers of Gig Harbor chose him to watch over their endeavors.

By the 15th century, multiple accounts from sailors attribute their salvation from storms to St. Nicholas' intercession. Italian artist Giovanni di Paolo painted "Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Saving a Shipwreck" in 1457. A replica of the painting hangs in our vestibule.

St. Nicholas of Tolentino was born in Sant'Angelo, Italy, after his childless parents had made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Nicholas of Myra ("Santa Claus") to ask for a son. He was a studious, kind, and gentle youth who entered the Augustinian community while still a child.

He became a monk at age 18 and a priest at age 23. He had a special love for the poor, and miraculously cured the sick with bread he had prayed over. At the time of his canonization in 1446, over 300 miracles were attributed to him. In addition to being a patron of mariners, he is also Patron of the Souls in Purgatory.



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This special Byzantine-style icon was commissioned by the St. Nicholas Knights of Columbus in 1998. Sir Knight John Oldham headed the endeavor, hiring world-renowned iconographer Sr. Marie Fitzpatrick, FSMA to create a masterpiece. Sir Knight Gregory Sutphen presented a reproduction to Edouard Cardinal Gagnon at the Vatican, who presented another reproduction to Pope St. John Paul II.  A full-sized copy was presented to Pope Benedict XVI in April 2009.

The icon is based partially on two frescoes: The Virgin of the Sign, a 14th century fresco and mosaic, and Our Lady Shelter of the World, both in Constantinople. In both of these icons, Mary holds her hands in a gesture of orans or prayer. She holder her veil as a protective and shielding sign over those she shelters. The mandala on Mary's bosom represents the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The three stars symbolize Mary's virginity before, during, and after the Incarnation of her son, Jesus. The 23-karat gold leaf halos represent the aura of eternal sanctity. The mountains are an ancient symbol, signifying that even created matter has been transformed by Mary's presence.

The bell tower of St. Nicholas Church, Gig Harbor, is shown in the distance, and two fishing boats sit in the harbor beneath Mary. The Byzantine inscriptions shown are abbreviated forms of Jesus Christ (IC XC) and Mother of GOD (MP OY).



1914 - 1919         Fr. Ignatius Vasta, S.J. and Fr. John B. Carroll, S.J.

1919 - 1930         Fr. Hubert Mertens

1931 - 1936         Fr. Robert Kreutz

1937 - 1943        Fr. Nicholas Hoen

1944                  Fr. James Toner

1945 - 1970       Fr. Henry A. Kruft

1971 - 1974        Fr. Anthony V. Domandich

1975 - 1986       Fr. Michael Angelovic

1987                  Fr. Kurt Wuellner

1988 - 1991        Fr. William P. Lane

1992 - 2004       Fr. Gary Weisenberger

2005                  Fr. Renaldo Bocateja

2006 - 2014       Fr. Hung Nguyen

2011 - 2014         Fr. Larry Bailey

2014 - Today     Fr. Mark Guzman