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Our History

The history of St. Philip Neri Church began in 1912 when Archbishop Alexander Christie requested the Superior General of the Paulist Fathers in New York to establish a parish in Portland to serve among the Italian people living and working on the eastside of the Willamette River. Accepting this invitation, Fr. Thomas Cullen was sent to Portland as a representative of his community to begin initial arrangements. In September, Father Guy F. Quinan arrived directly from Rome to be an assistant, three months later he was joined by Father Michael F. Smith, who would serve as first pastor (1912-1914).

During their first year in Portland, these founding priests were provided with residence and chapel in the home of the Graziano family on Division Street. It was there the parish began with a few dozen worshippers, where the first Masses were offered and the first Baptism conferred on the infant daughter of the Grazianos.

As the parish grew, plans to build a permanent church with a grade school for the burgeoning community were started. A half block of property was purchased on Hickory Street and, on June 1, 1913, the cornerstone of the original St. Philip Neri church and school fronting S.E. 16th Avenue, was blessed by the Archbishop. It was named to honor St. Philip Neri, Apostle of Rome, and one of the patron saints of the Paulist Community. The first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day 1913. 

Four Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus arrived from England in August, and were already registering the first children by September 15th in a makeshift chapel. By year’s end both church and school were ready for occupancy. It wasn’t until 1928 that the Holy Child Sisters turned the school over to the Holy Names Sisters who were better equipped to provide additional staff members required by steady growth. In 1947, more classrooms were added since school enrollment surpassed available space. A convent was added to accommodate the Sisters teaching at the school in 1955.

A larger church was proposed by then pastor Fr. Joseph F. Troy in 1945 seeing that the parish had outgrown its facilities. Fr. Troy contacted the renowned Portland architect, Pietro Belluschi who designed the current building. Ground was broken for this new church on the Feast of Christ the King in 1949 and one year later, it was consecrated.

In 2004, the church’s renovation was completed after Vatican II called for greater lay participation and for local liturgies to be closer to the people.

The parish celebrated her 100-Year Anniversary in 2013.

After serving the parish 104 years, the Paulist Priests discovered the need to withdraw and consolidate their members into fewer parishes around the country. Their years of service were celebrated and they were bid a warm farewell. In 2016, the parish became part of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon.

St. Philip Neri today continues to be a place of peace and quiet, a place of service and a place where all of humanity can find a connection, a belonging. This is reflected in the parish mission statement: Committed to the mission of Jesus and dedicated to be welcoming to all, we the community of St. Philip Neri, strive to reach out to reconcile, and to promote unity for all of God’s creation through worship, education, and service toward the common good.

Key Dates

  • St. Philip Neri ministered to the poor of Rome and the surrounding area.
  • The 1910 census listed 90,000 people living in Portland of which 2000 were Italian immigrant or their children
  • Fr. Vincent Joseph Sampietro was born in 1913, lived in the neighborhood and attended St. Philip Neri parish grade school. He was ordained a priest in1945.
  • The Rectory was built during the administration of Fr. William T. Cartwright.
  • Under the direction of Fr. Carvlin, the Parish Hall was constructed. Grateful parishioners insisted on naming the new building in his honor. 
  • In 1959, new carillon bells were purchased from the Oregon Centennial Celebration and placed in the bell tower.
  • In 1961, the plain white concrete walls inside the church were decorated and a new baldacchino installed.
  • In 1969, the Memorial Chapel (originally called St. Catherine’s Chapel) was redecorated and a wood-carved Pieta was added.
  • The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal was procured from Pope John XXIII and given to Anthony and Maria Graziano for their life-long service to the parish.
  • In 1973, the parish school closed.
  • The Paulist Center was formally dedicated in January, 1979
  • The church interior was redesigned in 2004, with the tabernacle moved to the left forward shrine. Later, a fresco painted by artist and parishioner Jack Portland decorated the wall behind it. Mary’s statue was moved to the right-hand forward shrine.  Hand ‘written’ religious icons by artist and parishioner Mary Katsilometes were hung in the immediate surround to the Mary statue.
  • The Rose Window was cleaned, repaired, and reinforced thanks to the Altar Society.
  • The Paulists left St. Philip Neri in 2016 at which time the church became part of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon.