Ed Langlois/Catholic SentinelFr. Pat Donoghue peers over a poster made to promote a fundraising competition between those who wanted to see him shave his head like a medieval friar or preserve his curly locks. The save side barely won out.
Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
Fr. Pat Donoghue peers over a poster made to promote a fundraising competition between those who wanted to see him shave his head like a medieval friar or preserve his curly locks. The save side barely won out.
Father Pat Donoghue muses that even the weather celebrated the centennial of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Southeast Portland. Temperatures climbed to 100 on the days of a banquet and Mass of thanksgiving.  

Father Donoghue, with a generous head of curly hair, just missed having a little ventilation for the heat wave. To mark the centennial, he promised to shave his head in a tonsure like that worn by the parish’s patron saint, a 13th-century Franciscan friar, if donors to the “Shave” side of the campaign could outdo donors to the “Save” side. “Save” won by a hair, with many small donations coming from fans of the wavy locks.  
St. Anthony Parish has endured by parishioners and staff maintaining a sense of humor, reading the signs of the times and adapting. At the start of the 20th century, a rail car fitted out as a Catholic church rolled through the region. After the train moved on from outer Southeast Portland’s farms and homes, local Catholics began meeting for Mass in a store.
In 1917, they were established as a mission of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.
The small first church was built in 1918 near Southeast 70th and Holgate. In 1923, responding to an increase in Catholics, a second St. Anthony Church was built at 71st and Holgate at a cost of $7,500.

A couple decades later, Don and Mary Lou Vuylsteke bought a house near that church.

“We really have enjoyed this parish and everybody is family,” Mary Lou Vuylsteke says. “We’ve met more nice people and have been close to them for years.”

Eugene DiLoreto, a parishioner since 1950, recalls that when the parish needed more room and offered to buy the 79th Avenue property on which it now sits, the owner refused, not wanting to let Catholics into the area. The real estate agent, a parishioner, purchased the land and then sold it to the parish. By 1955, the old All Saints Parish school building was moved across town to the site and the basement was converted into a church. A parish hall was dedicated in 1959.

Mark Whitman, who started at St. Anthony School in 1960, confesses sheepishly that he has more memories of school than church. Now a parish leader who goes to church all the time, he recalls how he and other boys climbed out the second-story window and circumnavigated the school on a ledge. Many of Whitman’s other memories have to do with food, including rambunctious spaghetti dinners and his dad running the parish doughnut machine.

The struggling school closed in 1968. But the hard-working people paid off their parish debts and enjoyed a vibrant community life.
Elaine Falaschetti, 98, has been a parishioner for 70 years. She recalls singalongs and dances. On one rainy evening four decades ago, Don Vuylsteke dug up bread bags to tie around the feet of Falaschetti and other women so their fine high-heeled shoes would not get soaked on the way to the parish hall. A jokester, he once took a bite out of another man’s straw boater hat.

For decades, the community worshipped in a basement and shared the space with a Korean Catholic community until the Koreans purchased their own church building.

In the 1990s, it looked as if St. Anthony might close. But under the leadership of Father Mike Maslowsky, the five-acre property was converted into a retirement village with senior apartments surrounding a new church. Many parishioners are residents of the village.

In recent years, seeing an increase of Micronesian Catholics coming to the U.S., the parish became their spiritual hub.

Archbishop Sample attended the June 24 centennial banquet.

“Listening to the stories of the history of the parish and the great love and affection with which those stories are told — that says a lot about this parish community,” the archbishop said. “I sense a real strong sense of family here.”

He reminded parishioners to look to the future. “A hundred years is not a cap and it’s all done,” he said. “You have a lot more work to do. Jesus is counting on you to be his hands and his feet in the world today, to be his witnesses.”

Also attending the banquet with fond memories of years at St. Anthony were Fathers Pat McNamee, Neil Moore and Jack Mosbrucker.

At the June 25 centennial Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith said that parishioners of the past refused to be paralyzed by fear.

“Be not afraid, the Lord is with us. Isn’t that true of the history of this parish?” Bishop Smith said. “How many lives have been touched coming through this place, all because people were faithful year in and year out?”

During the centennial Mass, parishioners prayed a litany of St. Anthony, which celebrated him as “destroyer of worldly vanity,” “generator of charity” and “restorer of lost things.” After Communion, Father Donoghue — a bike-riding, hiking, environmental-minded pastor — walked to the choir to sing baritone on a polyphonic meditation song, “Ave Verum.” As on every Sunday, playing the organ and piano was Mother Mary of the Angels of the Sisters of Reparation. Earlier in the Mass, worshippers sang a song by the Reparation Sisters, “Go to St. Anthony.”

Holy Rosary Parish loaned a relic of St. Anthony, which sat on a table beside a statue of the saint. Meanwhile, the T-shirts printed for the centennial celebration sold out, but a new batch is in. Paula Lang was a major leader for the centennial events.  

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