Paulist Fathers Announce Major Change in Portland Ministry
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February 17, 2016

The Paulist Fathers today announce a major change in their 104-year-old ministry in Portland, Oregon. Effective June 30, 2016, the missionary community of Catholic priests will withdraw from the pastoral care of St. Philip Neri Parish. The move reflects the Paulist Fathers’ demographics and modern operations of missionary work.

“It is with great regret that we are ending our permanent ministry at St. Philip Neri. This was an incredibly hard decision to make after such a long and blessed history at the parish. We are grateful for all those parishioners who built up this community and have nurtured it with great faith. Their witness of faith has been a tremendous gift to us,” said Rev. Eric Andrews, C.S.P., Paulist Fathers president.

“We look forward to working closely with the Archdiocese of Portland to assure the parish’s smooth transition to the pastoral care of priests of the archdiocese,” he added.

When St. Philip Neri Church was established on February 12, 1912, the Paulist Fathers’ missionary activity was ordered around community foundations in several regions of the United States. Paulist Fathers living at St. Philip Neri not only ministered to parishioners locally but also traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest giving parish missions and evangelizing in other ways. “With the Internet and air travel, having a base in each region is less crucial,” said Fr. Andrews.

Changing demographics for the Paulist Fathers also was a factor in this decision. “We currently have a strong group of seminarians in formation and a vibrant vocations ministry. But, in the next decade, due to the aging of the large cohort of priests who entered in the community in the 1960s, we will see a reduction in the number of Paulist Fathers available to serve as pastors and assistant pastors at parishes,” said Fr. Andrews.

In a statement, Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample said, “It is with sadness, but also with a great spirit of gratitude that we learn of the need of the Paulist Fathers to withdraw from their historic ministry at St. Philip Neri Parish. It is very understandable that present-day realities have caused the Paulist Fathers to make what I know was a very difficult decision. We are very grateful here in the Archdiocese of Portland for the tremendous contribution their pastoral care has made to life of this local Church. I want to assure the good people of St. Philip Neri Parish that they are very dear to all of us, and that, as their shepherd, I will make proper provision for their ongoing pastoral care. I will keep the Paulist community and the people of St. Philip Neri Parish on my prayers during a difficult time of transition.”

For much of its history, St. Philip Neri Parish has been a faith home for members of Portland’s Italian- American community. According to a news report, the parish’s first Masses were celebrated in the Graziano family home on Division Street. The Sicilian women of the parish established the Pompeii Society to foster devotion to the Madonna of Pompeii. In recent decades, the parish has been known as a welcoming parish and a home for many returning Catholics who had been away from the Church. It is also noted for its advocacy of social justice issues, especially the care of the environment.

While this part of the Paulist Fathers’ history in Portland is coming to an end, the community and its charisms will remain present in the archdiocese through parish missions, the ministry of Paulist Fr. James Kolb (pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish) and the Portland Paulist Associates.