Catholic Sentinel photo by Juan Kis
Revelers at The Madeleine Parish's Mardi Gras-themed centennial party.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Juan Kis
Revelers at The Madeleine Parish's Mardi Gras-themed centennial party.
More than 1,000 members and friends of the Madeleine Parish jammed the Northeast Portland church Feb. 21 to culminate a year of centennial celebration and give thanks. Along with the living were the dead.

The names of more than a thousand past parishioners filled 10 banners hanging in the church.

"The best part of the night for me was the the church bursting with people for the centennial Mass and being surrounded by all those who have gone before us," says Janeen Reilly, who helped organize centennial observances. "It was really feeling the presence of all who have and continue to make us a thriving community."

A large cake for the celebration included the words: "Faith. Family. Forever."

In 1911, Archbishop Alexander Christie established the parish, which serves Portland's Irvington and Alameda neighborhoods. He returned on Feb. 22, 1912 to bless and dedicate the first parish church.

Archbishop John Vlazny presided at the centennial Mass, the day before he turned 75 and was required to submit a letter of resignation to the Vatican.

"It is only fitting that today we pay tribute to the generous folks who built this parish and who have continued to sustain it these many years," said the archbishop, referring to the banners.

The archbishop warned parishioners in this higher-income neighborhood that secure lives have a tendency to make people think they can do without God. He quoted Pope Benedict, who once urged youths to "let God’s love break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual wounds, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age.”  

The archbishop concluded by praying that parishioners "will always be a truly spiritual family, a people who love one another and help bring about a 'civilization of love' in today’s world."

The children's choir blended with two adult choirs. The Knights of Columbus stood in regalia. Children and seniors worshiped side by side at the Eucharist. Archbishop Vlazny let out a great guffaw of delight when the congregation sang "Happy Birthday."

Jesuit Father Craig Boly, who concelebrated, said the celebration "previewed what heaven will be like."

After the liturgy, everyone headed to a free Mardi Gras party that included a Dixieland jazz band playing them out to "When the Saints Go Marching In." Neighbors, even non-church-goers, were invited. Father Mike Biewend, the pastor, donned a feathery mask and tossed candy. 

Many parishioners brought memorabilia that was on display in the parish hall for the party.

"It has been our goal and vision to unite the Madeleine community — past, present and future," Father Biewend says. "No doubt, we are able to move into the next 100 years as a faith family with confidence and energy and great enthusiasm, building on what the people of the past have given us."

Many people have had a hand in the year of celebrations.

The Madeleine Grade School opened in 1912 with Sisters of the Holy Names at the helm. For a time, the parish hosted a girls' high school. Many of the memories shared during the party were linked to the school. Deacon Craig Casey, a Madeleine graduate, was on hand and served at the Mass.

Mary Murphy, who has been a member of the parish since 1943, saw many of her Madeleine class of 1957 classmates. In all her years at the parish, she's never seen such turnout and community involvement. The next morning, Murphy was still aglow, saying, "Last night was perfect in every way." 

"The night perfectly showcased who we are as a Madeleine community," said parishioner Sarah Chartz. "We love to laugh together, play together, pray together, and most importantly, give thanks together."