Fr. Richard Berg stands with Sandor Kovacs at Macdonald Center in 2006.

Fr. Richard Berg stands with Sandor Kovacs at Macdonald Center in 2006.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Congregation of Holy Cross last month celebrated the lives and ministries of 22 Holy Cross Religious who have reached milestone anniversaries.

Among them was Father Richard Berg, a Portland native who spent most of his 50 years in priesthood serving at the University of Portland and at a downtown parish that served the homeless as well as the rich. He founded the Macdonald Center, which houses poor, frail elderly Portlanders, visits people isolated in low-cost hotels and manages money and medicines for people in need.

He attended Columbia Prep high school, operated by Holy Cross, and was impressed by the dedication and community spirit of the priests who taught there. He entered Notre Dame, intending to be a priest-teacher or priest-physician. He was ordained a priest in Rome in 1963 and began advanced study, gaining degrees in psychology. He taught and in 1978 was named dean of the college of arts and sciences at UP, a post he would hold for 13 years.
In 1989, Father Berg was asked to serve as pastor of the Downtown Chapel, now St. André Bessette Catholic Church. The church began an outreach to the poor and mentally ill.

"It was clear that social isolation in the downtown community is a cause of great personal and social suffering," he says. The parish began sending volunteers to meet residents of the lowest-income hotels. The effort eventually became the Macdonald Center’s visiting program to address isolation caused by mental illness, physical disability or addiction.

As the program grew, it became clear that what was needed was more care for the frail poor. In response, the priest led a project to build a 54-unit assisted-living facility a block from the parish. It opened in 1999.
Father Berg now serves as Chaplain at Mary’s Woods, a retirement community of 50 Holy Names Sisters and 400 residents located south of Portland. He has written books on depression and on his ministry in downtown Portland. A third book is about to be published.