Portland, Archdiocese of
PORTLAND, ARCHDIOCESE OF
The metropolitan see of Portland (Portlandensis ) erected as a vicariate apostolic Dec. 1, 1843; created Archdiocese of Oregon City July 24, 1846; name changed to Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon Sept. 26, 1928. It comprises 29,717 square miles in western Oregon, from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean between California and the Columbia River, with a total population in 2001 of 2,869,750, including 297,841 Catholics. The metropolitan province of Portland includes the dioceses of Baker, Boise in Idaho, and Great Falls-Billings and Helena in Montana
Early History. During the period that the Oregon Country was jointly occupied by Great Britain and the U.S.(1818–46), it was the home of native peoples, explorers and fur traders. Gradually the Hudson's Bay Company, under the guidance of Dr. John McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver, dominated the territory. French Canadians, mostly Catholics, and fur trappers settled in the Willamette Valley near St. Paul around 1830, and in 1834 they sent a letter to Bishop Joseph provencher of Red River, Canada, begging for priests. The bishop arranged to bring the Columbia area into his vicariate, and eventually responded to the settlers' requests. In anticipation of the arrival of priests, the French Canadians built a log church on French Prairie in 1836, the first Catholic church in Oregon.
The archbishop of Quebec selected Francis Norbert blanchet (Sept. 3, 1795–June 18, 1883) to be vicar general of the Columbia Mission on April 17, 1838. On May 3, 1838, Father Blanchet left Montreal for Red River, where Father Modeste Demers joined him; and the two missionaries reached Fort Vancouver on Nov. 24, 1838. Soon after their arrival Blanchet visited the log church on French Prairie, celebrating the first Mass in what became the state of Oregon and dedicated the chapel to St. Paul the Apostle (Jan. 6, 1839).
Peter de smet, SJ, working in the Rocky Mountains, learned of the priests in the northwest, and in 1842 he came to Fort Vancouver and St. Paul Mission to discuss the future of the mission with Blanchet and Demers. On their own initiative, the three men laid out a plan for the development of the church in the Oregon Country. De Smet left for Europe to secure personnel; Demers went to New Caledonia (now British Columbia) to expand the missions to native tribes; while Blanchet continued to serve the existing missions, writing to church authorities urging support for the plan.
In August of 1844, De Smet returned to Oregon with a party of five Jesuits and six Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Meanwhile, Blanchet's letters influenced the decision to elevate the Columbia Mission to a vicariate on Dec. 1, 1843. When the news reached Oregon on Nov. 22, 1844, Francis Blanchet reluctantly accepted the nomination as bishop of the Vicariate of Philadelphia (later changed to Drasa). Blanchet journeyed to Montreal, where he was consecrated bishop on July 25, 1845, and from there he sailed for Europe to gather personnel and financial support. Assisted by Vatican insiders, Blanchet convinced the Holy See to establish the ecclesiastical Province of Oregon City in the Oregon Country; it would have two suffragan bishops, a bishop of Walla Walla, and a bishop of Vancouver Island. On June 18, 1846, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty bringing Oregon into the Union. On July 24, 1846, Oregon City became the second archdiocese in the United States.
Blanchet's triumphal return to St. Paul on Aug. 26, 1847, with a group of 21, including eight priests and seven more sisters, inspired a flurry of ecclesiastical activity. In December of 1848, Archbishop Blanchet officially moved to Oregon City, the seat of his see. Following the Whitman Massacre in 1848, during which the Cayuse tribe killed 14 people at the Protestant mission and for which Catholics were blamed, a time of widespread anti-Catholicism ensued. Along with the debts from building and departure of much of the male population to the California Gold Rush, the archdiocese struggled to avoid bankruptcy. The desperate archbishop made a successful two-year trip to South America to raise funds.
The Oregon Donation Land Law of 1850 drew population to the territory. Although few of the newcomers were Catholics, the church slowly recovered, and new parishes were established. Oregon City, however, failed to develop, and in 1862 Blancehet transferred his episcopal residence to Portland. In 1851 the Reverend James Croke had established the parish of the Immaculate Conception and the church he built became the procathedral. Twelve Sisters of the Holy Names came from Quebec to revive Catholic education in Oregon in 1859. They soon had schools throughout the state and by 1871 had a novitiate in Portland. Catholic lay societies began to grow, particularly in Portland. With the assistance of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Sisters of Providence opened St. Vincent's Hospital in Portland in 1875.
While Blanchet was in Rome attending the first Vatican Council (1868–1870), a Portland group established a newspaper, The Catholic Sentinel, still in existence. Blanchet used the paper to battle inequities in Grant's Peace Policy, which turned supervision of native reservations over to religious groups, most often Protestant ones.
Establishment of the Vicariate of Idaho in 1868 reduced the size of the archdiocese, but the resignation of its bishop in 1876 forced Blanchet to take over its administration once again. The aging Blanchet tried for some time to resign. Charles John seghers, Bishop of Vancouver Island, became his coadjutor in 1878, arriving in Portland in July of 1879. Blanchet retired in 1880 and died June 18, 1883.
Bishop Seghers (Dec. 26, 1837–Nov. 28, 1886) left Vancouver Island reluctantly. While waiting for acceptance of Blanchet's retirement, Seghers toured the archdiocese, visiting places no priest had ever been before. A consummate missionary, Seghers paid special attention to the native peoples. During the Seghers administration the Benedictines came to Oregon and established an abbey at Mount Angel, while Benedictine Sisters took up educational work. The archdiocese was consolidated within the state boundaries when vicars apostolic were named for Idaho and Montana. While at a meeting in Rome, Seghers resigned from Portland to return as bishop to the Diocese of Vancouver Island. He was killed by a crazed assistant on Nov. 28, 1886, while on a missionary trip to Alaska.
A man of firsts, William Hickley gross, bishop of Savannah, became third archbishop of Oregon City on Feb. 1, 1885. Among other attainments, he was the first American-born archbishop of Oregon City, as well as the first American-born bishop in the west and first member of a religious congregation, the Redemptorists, to become an archbishop in Oregon. One of his first acts was the dedication of the second Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, begun in 1878. By 1894 this building was replaced by a temporary cathedral elsewhere, as the area around the second cathedral became commercial.
Gross attracted many new religious communities to the state; and not content with importing nuns, he created his own congregation, now known as the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. During this period the church grew rapidly, with new parishes and a dramatically expanded parochial school system. With Gross' encouragement and support, the Benedictines founded Mount Angel College (1887) and a seminary (1889) at their abbey. Social work advanced with the arrival of several congregations of Sisters who opened institutions to serve various needy groups. Eastern Oregon parishes also grew during this period, with more parishes, schools and a Catholic hospital in Baker City.
Archbishop Gross died suddenly in Baltimore on Nov. 14, 1898, and was buried there. Again the Diocese of Vancouver Island provided an archbishop when Bishop Alexander Christie (May 28, 1848–April 6, 1925) became fourth archbishop of Oregon City in February of 1899. The archdiocese was deeply in debt, but the population was growing and more varied than before. In 1903 the archdiocese shrank to its current size, with the establishment of the Diocese of Baker City in the eastern part of the state.
Later Archbishops. Archbishop Christie purchased a former Methodist college in Portland in 1901 to found a school, originally named Columbia University. In 1902 Holy Cross priests and Brothers took over the institution, which became the University of Portland.
Anti-Catholicism, led by the Ku Klux Klan, played an important role in Oregon affairs in Christie's time. In 1922 the state legislature passed the Oregon School Bill intended to force all children up to the age of 16 to attend public schools. Designed to close parochial schools, it lead to the famous oregon school case. The Sisters of the Holy Names challenged the law and won. The State in turn appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared the law unconstitutional in 1925. Christie organized the Catholic Truth Society, which joined the Knights of Columbus in fighting for Catholics' rights. Visits from the chapel cars sponsored by the Catholic Church Extension Society beginning in 1909 led many towns to build churches. Archbishop Christie proposed a new edifice to replace the building that had served as a temporary cathedral but just as his dream for a new cathedral was about to be realized, he died on April 6, 1925.
His replacement was a former teacher and college president from Iowa, Edward Daniel Howard (Nov. 5, 1877–Jan. 2, 1983), destined to serve for over 42 years, from 1924 to 1966. He immediately moved to officially transfer the archdiocese from Oregon City to Portland, which was effected in 1928. With the archdiocese near bankruptcy, Howard consolidated financing and set up a chancery office. The Catholic Truth Society (today the Oregon Catholic Press) began publishing weekly missals that were distributed all over the country. Social work was coordinated under Catholic Charities, as was education under the superintendent of education. The archbishop supported Catholic Action and was deeply involved in social welfare problems, for which he received numerous awards; and he encouraged apostolates for racial minorities. One of his special projects was development of a diocesan-supported Central Catholic High School in Portland, to encourage candidates for the priesthood. Archbishop Howard was the oldest archbishop from the United States at Vatican II. He implemented changes and allowed innovations, starting a Priests' Senate and encouraging ecumenical programs. In 1966 he resigned at the age of 89, and died at the age of 105 years.
Robert Joseph Dwyer (Aug. 1, 1908–March 24, 1876), bishop of Reno, succeeded Howard. Having been a newspaper editor, he continued to write erudite, articulate columns for the Catholic Sentinel. While church programs and activities increased in the post Vatican II era, the loss of priests and nuns contributed to school closures. Conflicts over Vatican II changes caused turmoil. Dwyer set up a business manager for the archdiocese, and established a formal budget and accounting practices. He created a vicariate for the Spanish speaking and encouraged inner city social work. The Maronite rite came to the state; the permanent diaconate was reinstituted; Newman centers at colleges and universities expanded. Failing health forced Dwyer's resignation in 1974.
The first native northwesterner to become archbishop of Portland was Cornelius Michael Power (Dec. 18, 1913–May 22, 1997). Former bishop of Yakima, he was appointed as seventh archbishop of Portland on Jan. 22, 1974. Continuing the work of Archbishop Dwyer, he organized the archdiocese using a business model. Rome appointed two auxiliary bishops, Paul Waldschmidt, C.S.C., and Kenneth Steiner to assist him, and he divided the archdiocese into area vicariates, also establishing a Southeast Asian vicariate, and welcomed the Byzantine Rite to the area. Power retired in 1986.
Installed as eighth archbishop of Portland on Sept. 22, 1986, William Joseph Levada (June 15, 1936—), supported lay ministry, ecumenism, and social programs. He reorganized Catholic Charities and carried on a successful campaign to provide a retirement home for priests. Catholic school enrollment began to grow again. In 1993 the archdiocese formed a political action committee which carried on a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful campaign against the Oregon Assisted Suicide bill. Levada left in 1995 to become archbishop of San Francisco.
For only the second time, a member of a religious community became archbishop of Portland when Francis George, OMI (Jan. 16, 1937—), who had been bishop of Yakima, came to Portland in 1996. His was the shortest administration of any Portland archbishop, not quite one year, before he was named archbishop of Chicago in 1997. The Most Reverend John Vlazney (Feb. 22, 1937—), bishop of Winona, was appointed Oct. 28, 1997 to succeed him.
Bibliography: l. m. lyons, Francis Norbert Blanchet and the Founding of the Oregon Missions, 1838–1848 (Catholic University of America Studies in American Church History 31; 1940). e. v. o'hara, Pioneer Catholic History of Oregon (4th ed. Paterson 1939). p. brandt and l. pereyra, Adapting in Eden w. p. schoenberg, A History of the Catholic Church in the Pacific Northwest 1743–1983 (Washington 1987). j. r. laidlaw, The Catholic Church in Oregon and the Work of Its Archbishops (Smithtown, NY 1977).