Garces Center

Concrete is poured for the foundation and walls of the coming Garces Center parish hall at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Laughlin. The center is named after Fr. Francisco Garces, the first Catholic missionary to enter present-day Nevada in 1776.


LAUGHLIN — There is a new parish hall coming to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Laughlin.

Construction has begun on a 6,500-square-foot center being built just west of the church. The project has been underway for over a month with a massive hole dug out for its foundation. As of Sunday afternoon, rebar for inner walls could be seen sticking up out of the ground at the site. 

According to Fr. Charlie Urnick from St. John, the parish hall will be named the Garces Center in honor of Fr. Francisco Garces, a Spanish Franciscan priest who was the first missionary to enter Nevada after crossing the Colorado River. Garces was an explorer who, while seeking a route between the missions of Sonora and California, was the first European to enter what is now Nevada on March 3, 1776. He kept a diary of his travels and wrote about what is now Laughlin, which according to Urnick is the official birthplace of the Catholic Church in the Silver State. Garces wrote that it would be a great place for a church and suggested the name St. Peter for it. Urnick  joked that he made a mistake and that St. John is what he really meant. 

Garces travelled into California and found his way to what is now Bakersfield where he started a church there. Garces continued his travels until July 19, 1781, when he was killed in a Quechan revolt against the Spanish at Yuma Crossing. On his original travels to find the route, Garces was lead by members of the Mojave Indian Tribe first from village to village and then onto the Pacific Ocean. Garces became enamored with the tribe and spent much time with them, learning their culture and living among them.

St. John Catholic parish in Laughlin was founded in 1992, but the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church wasn’t built until 2003, which had in its original design a second building for a parish hall. That was not built at the time. Last year, the bishop gave the go ahead for the second structure to be built. Construction was slated to start last December but was stalled for a month and in January the new hall began construction. As with most things across the nation, work was brought to a halt by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a brief hiatus until construction was OK’d as “essential.”

The end product is to be a rectangular building that will be larger than the actual church. Urnick said there will be a meeting hall, a conference room, a new industrial-sized kitchen and a massive storage room for all the things that now take up space at the church itself.

The new hall will be the site of Bible studies, meetings, dinners, shows and lectures, and have room for the Troop Outreach Program the church engages in each year where they gather and fill boxes for troops deployed overseas and at various bases in Nevada and elsewhere. The new hall will allow for an expansion of that program, which previously filled its space from floor to ceiling, giving adequate space for more than the thousand boxes filled and shipped last year. 

Construction of the new hall is not expected to be completed until late fall or early winter, but “By Christmas for sure,” Urnick said.

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