St. Paul Catholic Church is celebrating the observance of the 175th anniversary of the first Mass in Oregon, which took place in January of 1839.

The celebration includes the establishment of the first parish in Oregon, formed October 1839, and the first Catholic cemetery in Oregon, established in 1839.

The celebration will take place Sunday.

The schedule of events includes a concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Sample, Monsignor Gregory Moys and visiting priests, a presentation of the St. Paul Catholic Mission History and a luncheon at the St. Paul Community Hall.

The schedule of events includes:

10 a.m. — Noted pianists Maxine Ernst Brassel and Claudia Ernst Smith will provide prelude music. Two baby grand pianos will be in place in church. Liturgy and music is organized by Kevin Smith, St. Paul Parish Choir director and Robin Mallory, cantor.

11 a.m. — Concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Alexander Sample and Monsignor Gregory Moys and visiting priests.

Following Mass — Presentation of the St. Paul Catholic Mission history.

Lunch will be served at the St. Paul Community Hall. Goodwill donations accepted.

Commemorative plates will be sold at the hall.

“The parish community of St. Paul is a study of a lived faith throughout the history of the Catholic Church in Oregon,” said Moys in a press release. “It seems that each year brings another milestone in the historical development of our community. Historical celebrations not only remind us of our origins pointing the way to new beginnings in fulfilling the hopes and visions of those who have gone before us and our hopes and visions in a faith lived today.”


In 1834, French Canadian Catholics, many former employees of the Astor-Hunt fur traders and the Hudson Bay Company, sent a letter to Bishop Joseph Provencher, vicar general and auxiliary bishop of Quebec, asking for a priest to serve their needs.

In 1836, after numerous requests, approval was made to send a priest to the “families of the Wallamet Valley and beyond the Rockies” and the Indian tribes to “bring the word of God to them.”

When the Catholic settlers of French Prairie learned that they might get a priest, they built a log church with a small room in back of the altar for the priest’s residence in Fairfield, at that time one of the largest towns along the Willamette River. Dr. John McLoughlin had the log church dismantled, log by log, and brought up the Willamette River to St. Paul, safe from the river floods, and reassembled. Father Francis Norbert Blanchet was appointed Vicar General of Quebec, with jurisdiction of the Oregon Country.

On Jan. 6, 1839, Blanchet offered Mass for the first time at the St. Paul Church. He blessed the log church under the patronage of the apostle St. Paul. During a mission in May 1839, Blanchet blessed the ground for the first Catholic cemetery in the Pacific Northwest in St. Paul.

On Oct. 12, 1839, with the Hudson Bay restrictions for permanent residence removed, Blanchet took up permanent residence in St. Paul, making St. Paul the first Catholic parish in what is now the state of Oregon.

The 175th anniversary will be celebrated throughout the year in St. Paul.

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