The Wonder of ‘Weird’ Portland

How Holy Rosary Parish Thrives

IMG_0659

It should have been the death of an urban parish.

In 1980, Holy Rosary Church and Priory in northeast Portland, Oregon was an island in a vast sea of debris. What had been a classic American working class Catholic neighborhood had been utterly destroyed. Sixties-era government ‘urban renewal’ programs had driven out families and small businesses. Land prices plummeted, and Motel 6, car washes, parking areas, and gas stations took their place.

In short order, the parish community evaporated. There were no more than a dozen families who came to Mass at the Dominican church on Sundays. The church was surrounded by vacant lots, choked with litter.

Today, Holy Rosary has over 900 families on the parish rolls, who faithfully fill the pews for six Masses every weekend. What’s more, many Catholics drive from the areas around Portland for Mass, socializing, catechism, Bible classes and book groups. 

How did this miracle  happen, in Portland, Oregon – a town known for its militant atheism and West Coast liberalism?

Father Vincent Kelber, OP, Holy Rosary’s hard-working pastor, tells us in this exclusive Regina Magazine interview:

Q. How would you characterize your parish and Mass attendance?

Religiousatomsphere

Holy Rosary Parish was founded in 1894 to, as one Archbishop stated it, “labor to build up and increase the worship of the Blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus.” This is what Holy Rosary has continued to do for almost 120 years, administered by the Western Dominican Province. The church itself is the chapel of the Rosary Confraternity whose western offices are across the street.

Father Paul Duffner, O.P., 98 years old and still assigned to the Priory community of Friars, founded KBVM as a radio Rosary apostolate to broadcast the recitation of the Holy Rosary and provide catechesis, even before the founding of EWTN. Although a territorial parish, Holy Rosary has ever served the wider Portland Metropolitan area. A great number of parishioners travel 45 minutes or more each Sunday to attend Mass at the parish.

We are told it is the faithfulness to the sacred liturgy, orthodox doctrinal preaching, the availability of confessions, sound catechesis, and the spirit of prayer that draw people from so far afield. Holy Rosary Church has also long celebrated the ancient Dominican Rite on a regular basis.

Holy Rosary gladly serves two kinds of “parishioners:” those who are registered here and attend frequently and the many visitors who do so occasionally to augment their spiritual life.

IMG_0582

IMG_0665
We are told it is the faithfulness to the Divine Liturgy, orthodox doctrinal preaching, the availability of confessions, sound catechesis, and the spirit of prayer that draw people from so far afield.

Q. Confession is a big part of most successful parishes. How would you characterize the numbers of people who come to Confession at Holy Rosary? We have thought about keeping count of the number of confessions at Holy Rosary, but that would be most difficult! It is our belief that if you preach about confessions and make them available, many people will come to seek out the Sacrament of God’s Mercy. Indeed with apostolic preaching, ensuring the availability of confessions was one of the main goals of the first Friars who came to Portland.

On an average week we have at least six and half hours of scheduled confessions, but very frequently we run over the time allotted. As people also walk in or make special appointments so that time increases. The beginning of each month, with first Fridays and first Saturdays, there a great increase in the numbers of penitents and we provide extra confessors and hours. On first Sundays confessions are also heard before the morning Masses.

02-entrace procession

20080816-214943
On an average week we have at least six and half hours of scheduled confessions, but very frequently we run over the time allotted. On the “first weeks” of the month we hear about 12 hours of confessions.

Q. Any vocations from the parish?

Holy Rosary Parish has been the source of many vocations to the priesthood and religious life. While an official count needs to be taken, we would say that upwards of 30 men and women attribute at least part of their discernment to time spent at the church.

Thankfully, there are also many young people currently in the parish discerning such a vocation. It should be added, that there are many married men and women who have found strength and inspiration for their vocation from the parish as well.

 

IMG_0657IMG_0625

 While an official count needs to be taken, we would say that upwards of 30 men and women attribute at least part of their discernment to time spent at the church. Thankfully, there are also many young people currently in the parish discerning such a vocation.

Q. How actively are your parishioners participating in the life of HR?

Given that Holy Rosary Parish is very much a “commuter parish,” the extent of the participation in parish life is remarkable. Parishioners are active in supporting the liturgy, assistance of the poor, ministry to the ill, catechesis, street evangelization, maintenance and labor support, homeschool activities, hospitality, Third Order Dominicans, Knights of Columbus, reading groups, participation in homeschool activities, apostolates of prayer, social events, youth groups, etc… Truly the people of Holy Rosary Parish remind us that this church is not only a sanctuary of prayer, but is also active as a leaven in our local community.

little_flowers

Parishioners are active in supporting the liturgy, ministry to the poor and ill, catechesis, street evangelization, maintenance and labor support, homeschool activities, hospitality, Third Order Dominicans, Knights of Columbus, reading groups, participation in homeschool activities, apostolates of prayer, social events, youth groups, etc…

Q. What impact has music had on your parish?

As a parish dedicated to the preservation of the sacred liturgy and contributing to the ongoing new liturgical movement, music has been an essential component. Gregorian chant and the rich repository of sacred polyphony graces the 11 o’clock Sunday Mass, while the preceding 9 o’clock Mass with organ and cantor fosters the very best of congregational participation through traditional hymns and sung responses accompanied by the parish’s impressive pipe organ.  Latin Polyphonic Masses for Feast Days and other liturgical observances throughout the year are sung by Cantores in Ecclesia, an extraordinary choir long associated with the parish.  Its Director, Blake Applegate, is the principal Cantor for Holy Rosary, and its founder is the long-standing Parish Director of Music, Oxford-trained Dean Applegate.

music2

Sung Masses are scheduled approximately once a month according to various feast days. Music for these Masses are offered by Portland’s own Cantores in Ecclesia.

As a parish dedicated to the preservation of the sacred liturgy and contributing to the ongoing new liturgical movement, music has been an essential component. Gregorian chant and the rich repository of sacred polyphony graces the 11 o’clock Sunday Mass.

Q. What have been your greatest challenges? Your greatest joys?

One challenge and opportunity for the parish is to continue to grow in a manner that not only teaches and sanctifies those with worship here, but continues to give to the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. So to preserve the traditions of the parish and the parish community is essential as is the continued building up of the parish as a regional resource of prayer and catechesis.

In many ways Holy Rosary is not unlike a shine which as the USCCB states, “is dedicated to promoting the faith of the pilgrims by centering on a mystery of the Catholic faith, a devotion based on authentic Church tradition, revelations recognized by the Church, or the lives of those in the Church’s calendar of saints.”  My greatest joy is to see how the lives of Catholics are changed by the encounter with Christ that happens at Holy Rosary, as well at the potential for even greater heights of ministry.

IMG_0665

Holy Rosary is not unlike a shrine which as the USCCB states, “is dedicated to promoting the faith of the pilgrims by centering on a mystery of the Catholic faith, a devotion based on authentic Church tradition, revelations recognized by the Church, or the lives of those in the Church’s calendar of saints.” 

The Parish: Supporting Catholic Homeschooling For 30 Years

untitled4

SPEAKING AT HOMESCHOOL GRADUATION: For decades, the Dominican Friars have ministered to Holy Rosary’s thriving homeschooling community.

If you’re among the growing ranks of American Catholics looking to support homeschooling through your parish, Holy Rosary is an excellent model. Begun by pioneer homeschoolers in the 1980s, Holy Rosary Homeschool Group today is a Catholic support group with over 120 families.

“We are obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and believe that parents are the first educators of their children,” says Dorothy Gill, the group’s experienced leader.  “Although based at Holy Rosary , our membership includes parishioners from many other Catholic churches in the Portland/Vancouver metro area.

If you’re among the growing ranks of American Catholics looking to support homeschooling through your parish, Holy Rosary is an excellent model.

“Our members enjoy monthly support meetings, field trips for both elementary and high school students, Little Flowers, and a high school commencement ceremony. We also arrange weekly enrichment classes which include ballet, piano, violin, iconography, and more.”

Holy Rosary’s homeschool group offers weekly summer park days, feast day parties, service projects and an annual talent show. Their monthly newsletter, The Torchbearer, keeps members informed while the e-mails lists allow us to stay connected with prayer requests, sharing and advice.

untitled3

untitled

GRADS TOSS THEIR CAPS: Father Vincent Kelber (right) and  Father Stephen Maria Lopez help the 2013 Holy Rosary high school graduates celebrate on the church’s beautiful new front steps.

 

We are obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and believe that parents are the first educators of their children. We support our homeschooling families with weekly enrichment classes which have included ballet, piano, violin, Latin and iconography. That’s not to mention weekly summer park days, feast day parties, service projects and an annual talent show! 

Login With Facebook
Send to Kindle

Leave a Reply

Or