History of St. Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi was the first Catholic parish formed on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. It owes its beginning to the faith and dedication of a few local Catholics who persuaded Bishop Dwyer of Reno to assign a priest to serve the people of Incline Village and Crystal Bay. In 1965, a few women from the area approached Bishop Dwyer and requested he assign a priest for the people of Incline Village and Crystal Bay.

Father Francis Cohan was appointed and commuted from Reno. As a church without a home, he held well-attended weekly masses at various locations including the Nevada Lodge, the Crystal Bay Club, the Sierra Tahoe Hotel (now the Hyatt Regency), and the Chateau at the golf course in Incline Village. This continued for over two years.

It soon became clear to the early parishioners that commuting and the variable schedules were impediments to building a vibrant Catholic community. A church building was vitally needed. A house was purchased on Kelly Drive, which would serve as a rectory with a chapel on the lower level until an actual church building could be constructed.

Soon, the faith community outgrew the Kelly Drive house and the Diocese bought and then gifted a rugged, well-located 12-acre lot, on which now sits our current church.

Anxious to have a real home for the Saint Francis community, enthusiastic parish volunteers gave their time and skills in the evenings and on weekends to literally build the church with their own hands. The original design concept was that of a classic cruciform. Initially, only the main body of the nave was completed with the intention to complete the wings at a later date. On June 8, 1969, more than 300 people attended the first mass.

In 1980, under the leadership of Father Fosselman, the wings were completed and the altar was moved from the north to the south side of the church where it sits today. A rectory and offices were added to the lower levels of the church. In 1992, the current separate rectory was constructed on Kelly Drive across from the church.

Over the course of the next 27 years, modifications, repairs, and improvements have been made to the structure and finishes of the church, including the 2004 renovation of the lower level to increase and improve the Religious Education classrooms, church offices, and community gathering space.

A Re-dedication Mass was celebrated on Saturday, May 31, 2008, to highlight the most recent 2007 renovation of our church. This enormous project involved upgrading, repairing, and renovating the church through the generosity of our parishioners’ $4.5M Capital Campaign. Design changes incorporated historical elements of the original church into the new altar, ambo, and tabernacle stand, as well as the panels of wainscoting. The original tabernacle, stained glass windows, Stations of the Cross, statues, and “view windows” continue to reinforce our spiritual journey and remind us of our old Church. The main entrance, permanent baptistery, custom-designed pews, sound and lighting system, and energy-efficient heating and cooling system are brand new and state-of-the-art. The pebble mosaic pathway leading from the baptistery and reconciliation room to the altar symbolizes the Church’s first three Sacraments of Initiation.  Our beautiful house of prayer and worship is our communal response to the divine request in Exodus 25:8, in which the Lord instructed Moses, “Build me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among my people.”