Photo by Jose Salame
Confirmation students sign covenants during Mass at St. John the Apostle.
Photo by Jose Salame
Confirmation students sign covenants during Mass at St. John the Apostle.
EDITOR'S  NOTE: This is the first in a series of nine brief profiles and photo essays from the churches designated for Year of Faith pilgrimages in the Archdiocese of Portland.

OREGON CITY — Pope Benedict called for a Year of Faith to be celebrated until Nov. 23, during a year coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The year also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pope John Paul.

One of the several ways to grow in faith and gain a Year of Faith plenary indulgence — pardon of temporal punishment for sin — is to visit a holy pilgrimage site designated by the local bishop. There, the pilgrim must attend a sacred celebration, remain for a time in prayer and conclude with the recitation of the Our Father, a profession of faith in any legitimate form, prayers to Mary, the apostles and patron saints.

"Our sins are forgiven through the sacrament of penance and the prayer of the church but temporal punishment is still due to sin," Archbishop John G. Vlazny wrote last year. "Permanent punishment is not an issue because the sins have been forgiven. An indulgence helps us rid ourselves of the temporal punishment through the power of the church, which is the body of Christ on earth."

The Archdiocese of Portland has designated nine pilgrimage churches for the Year of Faith: St. John the Apostle Church, Oregon City; The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland; The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother (The Grotto), Portland; St. Paul Church, St. Paul; Mount Angel Abbey Church, Mount Angel; St. Joseph Church, Salem; St. Mary Church, Corvallis;  St. Mary Church, Eugene; Sacred Heart Church, Medford.

St. John the Apostle Parish, established in 1842 at the end of the Oregon Trail, was home to the cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Oregon City, as the region's see was known until 1928. Catholic education has been part of the ministry since the 1840s, with the Benedictines teaching for almost a century. A new church was built in 1956.

These days, St. John the Apostle has dozens of opportunities for faith formation and service, including a Bible study that draws hundreds, social service clubs, spiritual groups for couples and young adults called Teams of Our Lady, a youth group with 65 teens and a relationship with a parish in Honduras.

St. John the Apostle just hosted popular Catholic author Matthew Kelly, filling the church as well as the parish center.  

The school is close to full, with 270 students.

Msgr. Richard Huneger, pastor of St. John the Apostle, has been promoting Year of Faith activities, including prayer and daily reading of the catechism. He has noticed a lot of interest in the plenary indulgence.

"People want to have a fresh start in life," he says.