Work began last week power-washing the 210-foot spire of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in preparation for refinishing the entire roof and bringing it back to its original gleaming white that first defined Milwaukie’s skyline half a century ago.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: LIBBIE ALLEN - A crane arrives last week so workers can resurface the landmark church steeple at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Milwaukie. After the power-washing last week, they applied a primer and then a silicon coating that will return the steeple to its original gleaming white that can be seen from all over the metro area.“We’re pretty excited about it — it’s been a long year of planning and financing,” said St. John the Baptist Development Director Libbie Allen.

Once a stunning landmark in the metropolitan area, the steeple’s old coating had deteriorated, allowing dirt and algae to gather. The church was built in 1965, when it became the first Catholic church in Oregon built to new standards after Vatican II. It replaced the old church built at the turn of the 20th century.

Pastoral Council Chairman Jose Gyanti says the style of the church reflects the inclusiveness and welcoming atmosphere that the parish is known for.

“We have a very big tent for all who come here,” Gyanti said.

One of the most frequent questions the church receives is why there isn’t a cross at the top of their spire. Their response: Adding a cross would have required a red light atop it for airplane-navigation safety, and that wasn’t the type of image the church wanted to present.

LeakSeal Roofing, Inc., a local contractor based in Vancouver, Wash., is doing the work that includes the power-washing, application of a primer and a silicone coating that they guarantee for another 50 years. The parish began fundraising for the project in August 2013 and has raised more than $212,000, which will cover the work and leave a cushion for future needs.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church was started as a mission church in 1864 by missionary priests. The original church building was located on the spot where Bernard’s Garage sits today. The building was replaced by a church built on the corner of Southeast Monroe Street and 25th Avenue, where the Franciscan Spiritual Center now stands.

St. John’s became an official parish of the Archdiocese of Portland in western Oregon in 1911. Archbishop Alexander Christie blessed the newly completed church in 1912. Current pastor Jorge Hernandez, who is a member of the Order of Friars Minor (commonly called Franciscans), serves a parish currently consisting of a flock of about 785 families, including a large Hispanic community.

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