A worker, with the record of his pickings in his cap, carries flats of strawberries. Teresa Kohl, a parishioner at St. Pius X, would deliver food, clothes and friendship to the migrant camps of that era. (Denise Hogan/Sentinel Archives)
A worker, with the record of his pickings in his cap, carries flats of strawberries. Teresa Kohl, a parishioner at St. Pius X, would deliver food, clothes and friendship to the migrant camps of that era. (Denise Hogan/Sentinel Archives)

From 1870 to 2022, the Catholic Sentinel covered Catholic news, global and local. Here is a look at some of our most memorable work, from the anti-Catholic onslaught of the 19th century to the church’s recent grappling with clergy sex abuse and racism.

The Whitman Massacre

The earliest storyline in Catholic Sentinel history started 23 years before the first issue was printed. In 1847, Cayuse warriors killed more than a dozen Methodist missionaries near Walla Walla. Methodists began spreading the rumor that Catholic missionaries put the Cayuse up to the attack. The Sentinel owes its start to the resulting decades of unfair calumny. “Of all the Cayuses who were concerned in Dr. Whitman’s murder, not one was a Catholic,” the Sentinel declared on a front page in 1872.

Archbishop slain

The Sentinel of July 21, 1887, had shocking news. The former archbishop had been murdered. Newly assigned to evangelize Alaska, Archbishop Charles Seghers was in the Yukon when a helper named Hank Fuller put a rifle to the waking prelate’s forehead and pulled the trigger. The paper conjectured that fatigue and exposure to the cold caused the man to snap. Archbishop Seghers had left Portland after only two years as archbishop. Why that happened is a mystery.

The Oregon School Bill

In 1920, two candidates for the Portland school board boasted to Sentinel editor John O’Hara that they planned to eliminate private elementary schools. “Their purpose in bringing the matter into the contest is to make a bid for the anti-Catholic vote,” O’Hara surmised. The Sentinel, with its small underpaid staff, pointed out the wrongheadedness of a resulting 1922 measure to require attendance at public schools. The Masons and Ku Klux Klan, who backed the idea, won the vote but lost a 1925 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled unanimously that parents, not the state, should decide how children are educated. The ruling was a major point of Oregon Catholic pride.

From the ashes

In fall 1926, Mount Angel Abbey burned to the ground. “The Benedictine fathers of Mt. Angel have decided to rebuild St. Ben­

edict's abbey and the associated educational institutions, which were destroyed in the million-dollar fire September 21, on the beautiful butte where for twenty-five years the magnificent structures have dominated the picturesque surrounding valley,” the Sentinel reported that November. The fire emitted a spectacular nighttime glow visible from Salem.

Requiem for Sr. Miriam

On May 17, 1962, the Sentinel ran an extended obituary for Holy Names Sister Miriam Theresa, the former Caroline Gleason, a campaigner for social justice. At the start of the 20th century, Gleason had gone undercover to find information for legislation on protecting women and children laborers. Her work led to a 1913 minimum wage law. She entered the convent in 1916. Sister Miriam Theresa later became a sociologist and educator. “Her decision to enter the teaching community of the Sisters of

the Holy Names had been prompted by her conviction that Christian education is a prime means of achieving improved social conditions,” the Sentinel wrote.

‘Humanae Vitae’

For a span of 30 years, debate over birth control, abortion and assisted defined Oregon Catholic news. The Sentinel was a major forum of discussion. On some pages in the late 1960s, Archbishop Robert Dwyer thundered against birth control while on other pages, dissenting theologians had their say. Archbishop Dwyer then insisted that only official teaching on birth control could be expressed in the pages of the Sentinel. In the early 1990s, Oregon began a move to be the first state to legalize assisted suicide. The Sentinel covered the situation more closely than another other newspaper. The Sentinel also has been the major medium covering Oregon’s pro-life movement for the past five decades.

Clergy sex abuse

Clergy sex abuse became a local story in 1983 when Father Thomas Laughlin faced accusations and arrest. New Sentinel editor Bob Pfohman, fresh from the secular journalism world in Salem, insisted on reporting the story fully. Pfohman faced pressure to desist, but with the backing of Oregon Catholic Press publisher Owen Alstott, the articles were published. At the start of the millennium, a new set of scandals emerged and the Sentinel continue to report on the issue, with straightforward stories and no sensation.


In the late 1980s, the Sentinel ran multiple stories defending a young Mixtec Indian farmworker who’d been accused of murder and convicted in a trial that used languages he did not understand. Santiago Ventura Morales eventually was freed and received a scholarship to the University of Portland. In 1995, the Archdiocese of Portland began El Centinela, which quickly became a voice for Spanish speaking migrants, much as the Sentinel had been for the Irish a 125 years earlier. Both the Sentinel and El Centinela began looking into conditions in migrant labor camps. Encouraged by Father Emmet Harrington of All Saints Parish, the newspaper launched an investigative piece on immigrant women who cleaned rooms in hotels and were suffering from the strong chemical agents they were required to use.

In 1993, reporter Kristen Hannum followed Teresa Kohl, a St. Pius X parishioner who saw a group of what she first thought were children alighting from a school bus and disappearing into a slight gap in the tangled green wall of berry vines and trees at the side of the road. Kohl investigated and began delivering clothes and food to the hidden migrant farmworkers’ camp there, and then to others. The story showed how individual Catholics make a difference.

Anti-Catholic resurgence

The visit of Pope John Paul II to Denver in 1993 and reports of clergy sex abuse brought an underground anti-Catholic insurgency to the surface. Billboards appeared in Portland and Southern Oregon insisting that the pope was the antichrist. Sentinel reporter Ed Langlois attended meetings of Adventist splinter groups who held this view. The fringe crews were confident that Opus Dei and the Jesuits were bent on world domination.

Oldest altar boy

In 1999, reporter Ed Langlois drove early to the north central Oregon town of Condon to spend a day with 90-year-old Bill Greiner, whom the parish touted as the world’s oldest altar boy. Greiner, who could scuttle up steep steps with a heavy box of books on his shoulder, had a poignant and nuanced life. He’d been taken advantage of in business deals, was mistreated by an uncle, failed at farming and found a mail order bride, only to lose her when she died young. A man who once received little respect won it back by pure innocence and generosity. After the Sentinel published its story, Greiner was named grand marshal of the local Independence Day parade.

Refugees in Kosovo

Sentinel editor Bob Pfohman and photographer Gerry Lewin set off in 1999 to eastern Europe, where Pacific Northwest philanthropists were sending supplies and medical aid to refugees from Kosovo. Hooded gunmen were posted at roadblocks as the journalists traveled to meet refugees and the workers who were helping. Pfohman and Lewin met sick and dying children and weeping grandmothers. The reportage and photos showed the suffering, but also the beauty and resilience of the people.

A life-saving church in the Philippines

In 2004, Sentinel staffer Kristen Hannum and photographer Kim Nguyen traveled to the Philippines to document the church’s work there: Saving children from prostitution, celebrating the sacraments with families who live on a sprawling Manila landfill, and building affordable housing in slums. Hannum and Nguyen traveled into the war-torn hills of Mindanao to sit in on peace-building efforts between a Catholic bishop and Muslim rebels there. They stayed with two Maryknoll nuns in Davao who ran a care center for disabled children and adults. “There is hope,” a missionary priest told them. “Things were worse under martial law.”

Marked with faith

In 2017, staffer Sarah Wolf entered the world of ink and skin. Young adults were keen on tattoos, and Catholics were getting marked up with crucifixes and saints. “I decided I wanted a Catholic tattoo as a reminder to myself and as a silent witness,” Darren Cools told her. A tattoo artist-turned Benedictine monk told Wolf: “I think it’s a wonderful medium and manner of self-expression.” But one woman who had a conversion was working to have her non-religious tattoos removed. A local priest excoriated the editor for running the story, saying it would lead Catholic youths to the troubling practice.

Dealing with racism

Between 2017 and 2021, reporter Katie Scott wrote an award-winning series that touched on racism, from the history of Catholic schools to the views of current Black Catholic leaders. As the George Floyd controversy emerged, the work included a look at Portland’s racial protests. Scott even had to dash once to avoid teargas. The series gave voice to stories that are uncomfortable but important. One looked at redlining in Portland and another at the 1980s decision to shut down Catholic schools in predominantly Black Portland neighborhoods.

Seeking second heaven

In 2017, reporter Sarah Wolf went in depth with Zomi refugees from Myanmar. The group, mostly Catholic and fleeing persecution, is attempting to build community at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Portland. The Zomi told their stories and expressed their hopes. “We work hard and pay 60 percent of our income to rent,” Francis Khampi told Wolf. “Most of the time, [we have] not even enough to pay our bills, together as a community helping each other.” Still, he said, “We call the U.S. second heaven.”

Old and homeless

In 2018, reporter Katie Scott went into the streets of Portland to meet seniors who are homeless. Ben, known on the streets as “Pops,” had been homeless for four years after he lost a job pumping gas. Catholic Charities of Oregon was working to catch up, developing housing units all over the city. “Many of the older homeless have chronic illness, diabetes, heart disease and mobility issues,” said Margi Dechenne, program manager for Catholic Charities Oregon’s Housing Transitions. “If they go to a shelter, what if they have to climb to a top bunk?”

Religion gone wrong

In 2019, editor Ed Langlois researched a series on cults and abusive religious groups. He interviewed people who had escaped communities that had coerced and badgered them. Experts explained the mind control and other methods pseudo-religious leaders use. The signature of an abusive religious group is an attempt to interfere with free will. “It really ran me and my family through the meat grinder,” the Rev. Ken Garrett said of his experience, which he escaped 20 years ago. “In a lot of ways, we are still recovering."