Graduates of the old St. Cecilia School in North Portland tour their old alma mater.
Those who graduated from the old St. Cecilia School in North Portland 50 years ago gathered for a reunion at the old site in September. The school, later named Pope John XXIII after the convener of the Second Vatican Council, has been closed for decades. The buildings for a time housed De La Salle North Catholic High and now are home to a charter school.
The alumni toured the old school and church building and then headed to Kenton Station, a neighborhood restaurant.
"We are a very close-knit group who have kept in contact for many, many years," says Carol Bickle Marquez. "Some of us have known each other since first grade. That is a lot of years of friendship in this day and age."
Before 1924, most Catholics in the Kenton neighborhood attended Holy Cross Parish. But Archbishop Alexander Christie decided to establish a new parish for them.
Reportedly, the Ku Klux Klan was active in North Portland at the time and thwarted Catholic plans to rent and purchase space. But eventually, the archdiocese bought some heavily wooded land on North Farragut Street. Early parishioners recalled Father William Hampson grubbing stumps and chopping logs.
The name of the new community was St. Cecilia. About 80 families gathered for Mass in the church in November 1924.
Father Hampson himself drove children to Holy Cross School on weekdays. In 1947, St. Cecilia built its own school.
By the start of the 1960s, the congregation had outgrown its church and broken ground for a modern, mosaic-covered house of worship. The name of the parish was then changed to Queen of Peace to avoid confusion with St. Cecilia Parish in Beaverton.
But by the early 1970s, along with Catholic institutions all over the nation, enrollment at the school was dropping, and religious staff were dwindling. Queen of Peace and Blessed Sacrament combined their schools in 1971 with the name Pope John XXIII School. That school closed in 1986.