Maybe it's us

My husband and I have been to 9 Catholic churches here in Portland. We just can’t seem to find a spiritual home. We enjoy traditional Catholicism but enjoy going to English Mass because we like to understand what the priest is saying. When we started looking for a church we made a short list of criteria the church had to meet. We said our new church:

  1. Had to look like a church (no modern, space-age buildings)
  2. Had to have a friendly, diverse, active community (groups, classes, community outreach)
  3. Had to be a conservative church that did not stray from the Catechism
  4. Had to have a priest we could understand (no super heavy accents)

We’ve come really close to finding churches that meet all of our criteria but they fall short in one or two categories. Some churches didn’t meet any of the categories!

At this point, I’m starting to wonder if maybe it’s us. Do we have too high of expectations?

The church we went to this past Sunday was a “progressive” church. Apparently last year a group of women from the church boycotted the Eucharist and stood outside the church protesting because they wanted women priests. Also, this church marches in the Gay Pride parade every year. My husband and I were horrified to hear this and needless to say, we won’t be returning.

Any advice?

I would say no. I’ve been to Portland a couple times and have family living there. My experiences and theirs have led me to the strong belief that Portland is like that. Many of our priests get sent to the seminary in Portland as well. I have noticed a significant difference in the priests who have gone to that seminary and those who went to one of the other common seminaries in Canada.

Have you tried the Grotto?

I would suggest examining your criteria…If the above is listed in any “priority” the architecture should definitely NOT be number one…In fact I would sat that it should not even be on, “a short list of criteria the church had to meet.” (Bolding mine).

My suggestion would be that you use number three, and only number three, as your touchstone…So long as the pastor is orthodox in his teachings and administration, the other things are of less import and/or changeable.
Architecture - not changeable, but less important.
Groups and outreach - can be started if not present.
Priests accent - you’ll be able to understand him better the better you know him…

Just my :twocents:


Which of these:

Would you be willing to compromise on, if you had to drop one? I think in our area (St. Louis, aka “Rome of the West”) the problem would be #2. Few parishes do community well in our area. It’s something we’re still working on.

Send a letter to the archbishop letting him know that a group of heretics has set up what looks like a Catholic Church. No, that’s flippant, sorry.

Boycotting the Eucharist … look, I have no qualms with not receiving it if you’re not in a state of Grace, I’d rather these women abstain than visit such sin upon themselves, but to say “We won’t participate in the Supper of the Lamb until we get to consecrate the Bread!” Oh my…

Why is this the second post I’ve responded to this week about how different Oregon can be …

Pick a Church that is reasonably within your criteria and go. If therer is seemingly no Church within your criteria, pick one and go anyway. Make a commitment, give of your time talent and treasure, and don’t focus so much on the faults of the parish. All parishes have faults, if we base our Mass attendance on the faults of others, we would all fall away from Mass attendance. And in fact, many have for this reason. There is no perfect parish, but all are Catholic Church. Maybe the parish with the radical women NEEDS you to stand up and be a good Catholic, right there.

Look for a parish united around the the Eucharist and around Our Lady.

A parish which is united in the Eucharist - and that means Jesus - will be a vibrant parish. A parish devoted to and consecrated to the Mother of God, and which prays the rosary, will contain holy people. One sign of good leadership is a pastor, priests and deacons who pray the rosary every day.

Everything else will follow.


When I was looking for a new parish I also had a list of criteria. I wanted good homilies, good music, parishioners who were active and engaged, and someplace I could get involved in the parish.

I didn’t find anyplace that was strong in all areas so I had to choose. Could I put up with poor music if the other elements were there? Would I be happy simply sitting in a pew on Sunday morning if there weren’t places to get involved?

I think it’s good to know what’s important to you and to know what’s essential versus what’s nice to have.

No parish is going to be perfect. And one that is close to perfect will eventually change (when a new pastor comes in or a new music director, etc.). Find a parish that’s good, even if not perfect, then give it your whole heart and make it your home.

40 miles from Portland:

Mount Angel Abbey

Benedictines generally do a good job with liturgy. My experience is that while they are very orthodox, they are also very non-judgemental. If you want fire-and-brimstone homilies, this won’t be the place. Benedictines are for the most part very gentle.

Might be worth a look.

I have simply always gone to the one in the parish I live (and for a few years I lived out of the parish but did continue with that one as in the same town, but did turn up at weekday services in that other parish after a time).

No church community will be perfect and will have many many faults just like any family. One hopefully learns how to live with family as one learns to live in the community though I am always suprised just how easily people move on from a church just because they have fallen out with someone/thing there. We seem not to be able to work things through. They have their ups and downs and the secret is not to run away at the downs but see them through and then you will enjoy the ups.

Make it simple for yourselves and go to the nearest church to you and try and stick it out ten years. It really can be that simple as of faith.

This is a good point. We are called to be salt and light to the community, to carry the Mass with us throughout the week. The community you live in is the best parish to join, if possible. If you live in a large impersonal urban area with little community structure, this may be a moot point. But your neighborhood Church may have a soup kitchen that needs your help or other local outreach, which things may not be practical if you attend the “perfect” Church 30 miles away.

May I suggest that you try Holy Rosary in Portland. Its a Dominican parish. They celebrate the 11:00 am Sunday Mass (OF) with a magnificent Schola and choir. Chant and polyphony. Very Reverent. They also do the Dominican Rite Mass on ocassion.

If you would like the EF Mass try St. Birgitta 8:00 am TLM with Fr. Luan Tran.

I have attended both at various times.

The University of Portland is a Catholic University run by the Congregation of the Holy Cross
(CSC). You may want to contact their campus ministry.

Thank you everyone for your advice. The church in the neighborhood I live doesn’t meet three of my criteria. It’s in a modern building (with really creepy new-age statues that might scare my kids), the priest could double for Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and the community is almost nonexistent. As far as I could tell they do stick closely to Catholic teachings but we only attended once and I just couldn’t see us attending again.

I went to Daily Mass this morning at a church that’s a 30-minute drive north of where we live. I was told by a friend that it was a conservative church with a diverse community. I loved the look of it, the priest was easy to understand, the congregation there today looked diverse (I was also shown pictures of First Communion classes and they seem consistently diverse), I spoke to the office manager and she said they were a conservative parish (there was a large picture of the Pope in her office!), and they even have a PreK-8th Grade school attached. She told me that the priest there started a 7500 sq ft community garden and gives most of the veggies he grows to the food bank. She handed me a book of all the ministries the church is involved with, and when I told her about our experiences at the more “progressive” churches she was just as horrified as we were. AND right after mass the priest asked everyone to open to a hymn that was in English and Latin and everyone sung it in Latin! I could get both English and Latin there!

Ladies and gentlemen, we may have found our church. I’m still holding off on registering our family until we attend a few Sunday masses but so far they have everything we wanted. I have a very, very good feeling about this and am really looking forward to Sunday. :smiley:

I think you might be missing my point which is understandable since I didn’t over play it.

You might want to rethink your criteria a little? Going to Church isn’t about what suits you. Its about worshipping God in a community of others. That means there will be many imperfections as in any family and the secret is, is to work through the downs and then you can enjoy the ups. Worshipping God isn’t a tick list. Its about joining in as a Community and worshipping God. Just make faith simple and go to your nearest church and join in faithfully as Committed Christians as Committed Catholics. You don’t pick and choose your church. You just go and faithfully join in. Make the most of what is there. Help the church move forward by your contribution. Even if you found a perfect church you wont be 100% perfectly happy all the time because life isn’t like that even in church.

So you may be right by the way with your opening title that is. Just go to the nearest church, literally the nearest, that is Catholic of course and be a part of the Community as Christians are expected to do:)

Edit, and not wishing to be mean but any good secretary would in essence be as horrified as you are at whatever you are horrified at when you are sharing. Part of making you feel welcome. :slight_smile:

Which parishes have you attended?
What area of Portland do you live in?
Lived in this region all my life and I’ve never seen or heard of a scene like you describe with boycotting the Eucharist. If what you say regarding marching in the gay pride parade is true–please notify our bishop. I have not heard of this but I’ll admit that I don’t really follow who participates in the parade and I mostly stick to my parish.

I think you might be looking for the perfect parish–and I am not sure one exists. For example–you list “diverse” as one of your criteria–have you looked at the Portland Metro area? It’s not that diverse. Are you looking for orthodox or conservative–you said “conservative church that did not stray from the catechism” and I am not clear what you mean. I don’t necessarily equate conservative with orthodox–there can be a fine distinction there in my mind–not straying from the catechism says to me orthodox but conservative says perhaps you are looking for something more than simply orthodox–if that makes any sense.

Knowing what parishes you have attended might help any members here recomend a parish.

Your expectations should be high but it may be that you will need to work within a parish to help transform it. There was a time when our parish did not have a Bible study but thanks to some dedicated parishioners we have had one for over 20 years now. I wish you luck in your search.

The peace of Christ,

No, I understood what you meant. I just respectfully disagree. :slight_smile:

If the nearest church to me was the very progressive church that marches in the gay pride parade and boycotts the Eucharist would you still encourage me to attend? I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t like something I just opt out. I suffer from anxiety and I know that if I was in a place that caused me anxiety instead of peace, I would get very ill. Hence, the list of criteria.

You right, there is no such thing as a perfect church. I know this new church will have some aspects I just don’t like so at this point (considering this is the 10th church we’ve been to) I feel like this is as good as it’s going to get and I’m willing to stick it out.

I appreciate your advice, though. :slight_smile:

Good to hear!!!


Sorry to hear about the anxiety related to something as peaceful as attending Mass. Isn’t it usually best to attend the Church closest to your home? You might like a priest in another parish better, but priests come and go so often. To claim that a priest resembled some film actor and that somehow disqualifies him as an acceptable priest seems unreasonable. Likewise, external trappings such as the building’s architecture or the style of the statuary ought not be a determinant in driving past it each Sunday where God is adored, in order to travel farther away where the statuary is more to your personal liking. The idea that statues might cause nightmares in children seems implausible and unreasonable, but I’d have to see them to understand your concerns there. And as for the women who supposedly boycotted Mass over the non-issue of women’s ordination, could they have been disaffected ex-Catholics who chose to picket the church rather than faithful Catholics from that parish? Maybe talk with them if you see them again and find out for sure before judging a whole parish by the antics of who might be outside protestors. You don’t want to sell your spiritual life short based on appearances and possible misunderstandings, after all.

Throwingmy two cents in with James’. What the pastor teaches and what the people are living (ie orthodox teaching -> orthopraxis) is the important thing. Groups can be started, funds can be rasied for statues and other artwork, accents become less noticeable over time.

If the people are used to ordodox teaching and practice, they will be allies for you in your own faith and life, in raising your children, and helping your neighbor. Also,a well-formed congregation is less likely to be swayed by a less orthodox priest if/when the current pastor is transfered.

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