Newly ordained Franciscan Father Michael Harvey gives Communion to his parents, Pat and Bernard Harvey, at Ascension Church in Southeast Portland in 1992. (Catholic Sentinel archives)
Newly ordained Franciscan Father Michael Harvey gives Communion to his parents, Pat and Bernard Harvey, at Ascension Church in Southeast Portland in 1992. (Catholic Sentinel archives)
Franciscan Father Michael Harvey, lead clinical chaplain at Providence Seaside Hospital, has varied days supporting staff and patients in clinics from Astoria to Cannon Beach.

Some of his favorite times have been stopping by the doors of patients who have marked their faith as being atheist, agnostic or “no religion.” He tells them that spiritual care is available.

“Would you like to talk with me?” he asks.

The patient’s answer may be along the lines of “I don’t want to have anything to do with religion.”

And then that person often launches into perhaps an hour of fascinating conversation.

“It’s God’s time,” said Father Harvey — who never proselytizes, but is rather honestly interested in their points of view.

He also honestly cares, which is no doubt why he won the “Employee of the Month” award earlier this year.

Those nominating him wrote that Father Michael gives compassionate service to patients and that he always made time for anyone in need, especially the caregivers.

The committee concluded that he is a prime example of someone who lives the Providence mission and core values every day.

Father Harvey came to his life today after a career in the Franciscan order and in parishes.

Before earning a master’s degree in divinity at the Franciscan School of Theology in San Diego in 1991, Father Harvey studied English literature at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington, and the humanities at Evergreen State College in his hometown of Olympia.

He was curious about Buddhism but Father Harvey committed his heart to the Franciscan priesthood. His ordination was 30 years ago: May 2, 1992, at Ascension Parish in Southeast Portland.

Father Harvey worked in administrative positions for the Franciscan Friars and in pastoral work, including as parochial vicar of St. Pius X in outer Northwest Portland and as pastor of Sts. Simon and Jude Parish in the Diocese of Orange, California. That parish has thousands of families and a grade school.

Turning to hospital chaplaincy, as he did in 2017, was a new career path. He began at the Oregon State Hospital, the psychiatric hospital in Salem, then moved to Providence Portland Medical Center. In both places he realized that he was called to work with those suffering from addictions.

“I love working and being present with them,” he said, adding that those with substance use disorders often don’t feel heard, in part because so many people prefer to avoid them.

Oregon’s north coast, unfortunately, has many takers for Father Harvey’s ministry. “There are many who have mental health issues,” he said.

Father Harvey moved to Seaside in 2020, just before the pandemic. “I haven’t seen the faces of three-quarters of the staff because of masks,” he laughed.

He became accustomed to celebrating weekday Masses alone in the hospital chapel.

Weekends, he typically traveled north to be with his ailing mother.

“Gosh, am I still here?” he recalled her saying near the end. “I’m ready to be with dad.”

Patricia Harvey died in February. She was 90.

“We were all pleased that she was liberated to be in the kingdom,” Father Harvey said of her death.

His days may include time in the maternity ward, in a small intensive care unit and in general care. He makes rounds with doctors to keep up with what needs might be emerging.

And he works with the mission integration office, which includes a clothing closet for patients down on their luck who may not have clean clothes.

“I’m the only full-time chaplain, so I wear a lot of hats,” he said.

People are at the heart of all his work.

That includes Gigi Thompson, 72, a patient who became locally famous for her nightmarish 120-day battle with COVID-19 at Providence Seaside.

Hospital staff lined up to applaud her and wave good-bye when she left. “I thought I would never get it and boy was I wrong,” she told the Astorian newspaper.

As he does with all patients, Father Harvey stood at her door, asking if she’d like to talk.

“She really reconnected with her faith,” he said.

Father Harvey’s job is also about supporting staff, whose work can be exhausting.

“I have a great love for the people and the ministry here,” he said. “There’s a real family feeling — it’s wonderful to walk down the hall and know everybody. As long as they want me, I believe I’ll be here.”