St. Margaret’s Parish started in 1906 as the Riverton Catholic Church, about the same time as the town of Riverton, Wyoming, was founded. The Catholic population of Riverton was too small to support a resident pastor in those early days. Consequently, Riverton was attached to St. Stephen’s Indian Mission and the Jesuit Fathers attended to the spiritual needs of the people. Father John B. Sifton, S.J., was the first priest to come to Riverton and because there was no church, Mass was held twice each month in John Malone’s black shack in the southeast part of Riverton. In 1911, a small wooden-frame church was constructed near the corner of Fremont and 7th Street in Riverton. The new church was dedicated to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1922 (she was canonized in 1920) by Bishop Patrick A. McGovern. By the following year, the Catholic population increased such that Mass was celebrated every Sunday. The parish saw many priests come and go over the next two decades mainly due to financial shortfalls and the Great Depression in the 1930s. Father John Spillane arrived in 1939 and began a building fund for a new brick church. Father Spillane also had a six-room brick rectory built for $6,000 in 1940. After eight years of dedicated service, an illness forced him to retire.
In 1949, Father Adolph Pate took up where Father Spillane ended in his quest for a new brick church. In fall of that year, a building drive was initiated and the plans for the new church were finalized in 1950. The construction bid of $86,939 by the A. N. Nelson Construction Company of Riverton was accepted, and the construction of the building and the laying of the corner stone took place in early 1951. The new church was dedicated on February 20, 1952, by Bishop Hubert M. Newell, and Catholic Mass is still celebrated in this church until this day.
Towards the end of the 1950’s, plans were being considered for a Catholic school at St. Margaret’s. Bids for a new school were opened in early 1962, with the contract also going to A. N. Nelson Construction Company for the sum of $145,121. The school was opened for the 1965-66 school year with the arrival of nuns from the Order of St. Francis, Glenriddle, Pennsylvania. The first four grades were opened that year and Sister Marie Monica Borden served as the first principal. The fifth grade was added in the fall of 1966, and the sixth grade in 1967.
The 1960’s also saw the purchase of new property for the Church in Shoshoni, the purchase of the Kirch property for a new rectory in Riverton, and the addition of Dubois as a mission of the parish. The latter resulted in the building of a new Dubois church, Our Lady of the Woods, in 1964. At this time, two priests were needed to serve St. Margaret’s and the mission parishes. Therefore, Father Cletus Prado became the first associate pastor, serving alongside Father Pate. After twenty-three years as St. Margaret’s Pastor, Father Adolph Pate retired in 1972 because of illness. He would pass away the following year and is buried next to Father Spillane in Mountain View Cemetery in Riverton.
Additional changes occurred at the church and school during the 1970s. In the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), a Parish Council was begun in 1973 and continues to serve the parish to the present time. Also, in keeping with the renewal of Vatican II, a renovation of the sanctuary took place. Kindergarten was added at St. Margaret’s Catholic School in the fall of 1979. Following the re-structuring of the public school system which introduced the middle school concept including the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, it was decided to discontinue the 6th grade at St. Margaret’s at the end of the 1979-80 school year.
The old brick rectory was converted to a convent in the summer of 1982, marking the first time the nuns had their residence in Riverton after many years of daily treks from St. Stephen’s. This building is located immediately west of the church and now serves as the church office. In 1984, the church added beautiful stained glass windows commemorating six American saints, with three smaller windows showing Catholic symbols. Following years of planning, ground was broken for a new parish center on July 29, 1985, under the leadership of Father Ron Stolcis. The facility was finished May 25, 1986, and is attached to the west end of the present school. The building added a full-sized gymnasium, a kitchen, and a parish hall (Pate Hall) in the basement.
Whether frame or brick, the church is just a place; it is the Sacraments which are the heart and soul of the parish. The priests who administer them have worked faithfully over the years – Father Adolph Pate, who oversaw the building of the new church, served for twenty-three years; Father Gerald Cleboard remained for four years, and Father Ron Stolcis shepherded the parish for over thirteen years. Father William Espenshade served the parish from 1995 until his death in January 2001. Father Andrew Duncan arrived in the late summer of 2001 and remained as pastor for nearly a decade. The current pastor, Father Demetrio Penascoza came to St. Margaret’s in August 2011, after serving in New Zealand.
620 E. Fremont
Riverton, WY 82501
618 E. Fremont
Riverton, WY 82501
220 N. 7th St. E.
Riverton, WY 82501
Our Lady of the Woods Dubois
Saturday Vigil 5:00 p.m.
Confession 30 minutes prior to Mass and by appointment
St. Edwards Kinnear
Sunday 12:00 a.m.
(confessions by appointment)
St. Joseph Shoshoni
No Services (confessions by appointment)