Chronicle of Catholic History of the Pacific Northwest, 1843-1960

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A Chronology of Saint Paul Parish, St. Paul, Oregon

By Reverend Monsignor Gregory Moys, Pastor, December 2013, from Father Wilfred Schoenberg, JS, Chronicle of Catholic History of the Pacific Northwest, 1843–1960.

July 3, 1834 and February 23, 1835 – Two petitions were sent by French Canadians living in Willamette Valley to Bishop Joseph Provencher of Red River (Manitoba) asking for priests. Bishop Provencher assured the petitioners he would send priests.

1836 (Exact date unknown) – French Canadians erected the first Catholic church in Oregon, 30 by 70 feet, “four miles from Champoeg” in anticipation of the priests’ arrival.

February 28, 1836 – An indult from Rome annexed the Columbia country of Oregon to the Vicariate Apostolic of Red River, Canada.

April 17, 1838 – Father Francis Norbert Blanchet was appointed Vicar General to the Oregon mission.

May 3, 1838 – Father Francis Blanchet left Montreal for Oregon with a Hudson Bay Company brigade.

July 10, 1838 – Father Blanchet left Red River in Manitoba for Fort Vancouver (Washington) with Father Modeste Demers with the Hudson Bay Company Brigade. The priests reached Fort Vancouver on November 24, 1838, and were welcomed by James Douglas in the absence of Dr. John McLoughlin.

January 5 to February 4, 1839 – Father Francis Blanchet preached a 30-day mission in Saint Paul, Oregon.

January 6, 1839 – Father Blanchet blessed ground for a cemetery at St. Paul Mission, the first Catholic cemetery in the Pacific Northwest. It was “53 paces on the front and 25 paces deep.” Joseph Gervais, Etienne Lucier and other settlers witnessed the blessing.

October 9, 1839 – Governor James Douglas’ letter from the Hudson Bay Company gave permission for the Catholic missionaries to take up residence at the St. Paul Mission south of the Columbia River, thus making Saint Paul the first parish in Oregon.

June 8, 1842 – Fathers Blanchet, Demers and Pierre DeSmet, SJ, met at Fort Vancouver to discuss erection of an ecclesiastical organization of Oregon and its erection as a diocese. Father DeSmet was sent to Europe for more personnel and supplies for the Oregon Mission.

September 7, 1842 – Fathers Antoine Langlois and John Baptist Bolduc arrive at St. Paul by way of Boston and Cape Horn.

October 17, 1843 – Saint Joseph’s College was opened with an enrollment of 30 boys as resident students in St. Paul. This was the first Catholic boys school in the Pacific Northwest. Father Antoine Langlois was placed in charge.

December 1, 1843 – Pope Gregory XVI established the Vicariate Apostolic of Oregon designating Father Francis Norbert Blanchet as its first Vicar Apostolic with the title of Philadelphia “in partibus.” The title was later changed to Drasa because of the confusion with the Diocese in Pennsylvania. News of Father Blanchet’s appointment did not reach Oregon until November 4, 1844.

January 9, 1844 – The brig “Indefatigable” left Antwerp in Belgium for Oregon via Cape Horn with four Jesuit priests, one brother, and six sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

August 17, 1844 – The missionaries and sisters arrived in St. Paul assisted by the Canadian Catholics, bringing them to the church where the “Te Deum” was solemnly chanted.

August 29, 1844 – The first Jesuit mission was founded on the Willamette and dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier as a motherhouse and novitiate.

September 9, 1844 – The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur opened the first Catholic girls school in Oregon at St. Paul. Classes were taught in the open air as the building was not completed until early October.

July 25, 1845 – Father Francis Blanchet consecrated bishop in Saint James Cathedral in Montreal by Bishop Ignace Bourget.

May 26, 1846 – Father Modeste Demers blessed the cornerstone of the first brick church in Oregon. When it was dedicated on November 1, 1846, it measured 100 by 45 feet with its belfry 84 feet above the ground.

July 24, 1846 – Pope Gregory XVI, by an apostolic brief, raised the Vicariate Apostolic of Oregon to an ecclesiastical province with three episcopal sees: The Archdiocese of Oregon City and the Dioceses of Walla Walla and Vancouver island (British Columbia). Bishop Francis Blanchet was appointed Archbishop of Oregon City; Father Modeste Demers was appointed Bishop of Vancouver Island, and Bishop Francis’s brother, Augustine Blanchet, was appointed Bishop of Walla Walla.

September 19, 1847 – Archbishop Blanchet ordained the first archdiocesan priest, Father J. F. Jayol, in Oregon in St. Paul. He ordained Father J. B. Delorme the following October 31, 1847 at St. Paul, as the second priest of the Archdiocese.

February 14, 1848 – Archbishop Blanchet opened the First Provincial Council of Oregon at his bishop’s residence in St. Paul. Bishops Modeste Demers and Augustine Blanchet and most of the clergy were present for the three-day meeting.

December 21, 1848 – Archbishop Blanchet transferred his episcopal residence from St. Paul to Oregon City.

April 3, 1849 – Sister Renilde, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, died at age 30 in St. Paul. She had been a Sister for six years.

May 19, 1849 – Catholic families from St. Paul, St. Louis and Vancouver leave for the California gold mines; 40 died from fever, 20 of which were fathers of families.

June 1849 – Saint Paul Academy, run by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, closed because of the loss of families to the California Gold Rush.

February 1, 1861 – The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary re-opened the Catholic school in St. Paul in the building vacated by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

September 26, 1868 – The Jesuits sold their mission property on the Willamette to Michael Schultheis and the three Niebler brothers and left Oregon.

September 29, 1874 – The first recorded burial in the ‘new’ Saint Paul Cemetery was Helen Lyons, mother of the late Mrs. Kirk.

June 24, 1877 – Archbishop Francis Blanchet blessed the new parish cemetery of Saint Paul in the presence of Vicars General Fathers B. Delorme and Joseph White and a large congregation of parishioners.

June 18, 1883 – Archbishop Francis Norbert Blanchet died at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Portland. On June 21, 1883, Archbishop Blanchet was interred in the ‘new’ 1875 Catholic Cemetery in St. Paul.

May 25, 1898 – Archbishop William Gross of Oregon City consecrated the Church of Saint Paul, the first church to be consecrated in the Pacific Northwest.

May 12, 1911 – Saint Paul Academy was destroyed by fire as the Holy Names Sisters were preparing for its 50th anniversary. It was immediately rebuilt and blessed by Archbishop Alexander Christie of Oregon City on August 25, 1912.

March 25, 1993 – The Mount Angel “spring break earthquake” seriously damaged the Saint Paul Church, but it did not collapse nor were any altars or statues damaged. From 1993 until 1995, Mass was offered in the St. Paul Fire hall.

May 25, 1995 – Archbishop William Levada re-dedicated the restored Saint Paul Church.

November 5, 1995 – Auxiliary Bishop Kenneth Steiner presided at a Celebration of Restoration Mass.

January 5, 2014 – Saint Paul Parish celebrated its 175th year with a special Mass by Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, followed by a talk given by Reverend Monsignor Gregory Moys, Pastor, and a parish luncheon at the St. Paul Community Hall.

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