Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Regional Report

the Inland Register

(From the March 20, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

Archdiocese of Portland

SALEM – A new mission to Hispanic Catholics on the east side of Salem is expanding fast. The first Mass, held on the Feast of Epiphany, attracted 100 worshipers. The next drew 160.

“It’s rolling,” says Father Todd Molinari, pastor of Salem’s St. Joseph Parish. He has been charged with establishing the mission, which now holds Mass Sunday mornings in the chapel at Blanchet Catholic School, in Salem’s East Lancaster neighborhood with its heavily Hispanic population.

Currently, there is no Catholic parish east of I-5 in Salem. Guided by the call of Pope Francis to reach out to the peripheries, Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample and Father Jim Coleman, vicar for Hispanic Ministries, decided to open a mission in the area. They called on Father Molinari, whose parish has 10 weekend Masses – three of them in Spanish. But when Salem cut weekend bus service a few years ago, some residents of east Salem could no longer get into town for Mass.

With the mission, Spanish Mass has hit prime time. The 9:30 a.m. liturgy is the only Sunday morning Mass in Spanish in the Salem area. Others are on Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon. The mission is three miles east of St. Joseph.

The mission is one part of the archbishop’s plan to make Mass in Spanish more available. New liturgies have begun at St. Henry in Gresham and St. John the Apostle in Oregon City and are set to start in Wilsonville.

The Blanchet chapel holds 80 to 100 people and has overflowed during Spanish Masses. The liturgies may need to move to the gym. Most worshipers are from the neighborhood and walk to the Mass.

Because of rapid growth, the Spanish Mass may need to move into the school gym.

PORTLAND – When Servite Father Jack Topper steps down later this year as executive director of the Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, he will be the last in a 90-year line of Servite friars to lead the world-known shrine, known as the Grotto.

As Catholic colleges and hospitals have done before, the Grotto will adopt a new model of governance. The Servite Religious order will retain ownership and guidance over the mission, but operations will go over to a board of directors and a lay executive director.

“I can’t keep doing this for ever,” says Father Topper, 75. He thinks the new system will work well. “One of the friars asked me, ‘Is there life at the Grotto after Father Jack?’ If not, I didn’t do a very good job.”

Father Topper, who took the post in 1991, is the shrine’s longest-serving executive director. The gregarious and energetic leader pays heed to detail, planting seedling trees, guiding the budget closely and even parking cars during the shrine’s busy Festival of Lights.

The priest is not embarrassed to raise money. “It’s not for me, it’s for something I believe in,” he says.

Those who know him say Father Topper is a marvel at hospitality and human relationships. He rarely walks across the shrine’s cobblestone plaza without making stops to talk to guests. Often, he engages deeply enough that they uncork their spiritual strife and want to go to confession or return to the church after years away.

“The most important thing we do here is celebrate Mass,” Father Topper says. During training at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, his homiletics teacher told students not to make people miserable, but to make them happy. He still tries to follow the advice.

Of his 25 years of ordained life, 23 have been spent at the helm of the shrine. He has led dozens of employees and hundreds of volunteers. He has high expectations, but always meets them himself.

“He basically lives and breathes this place and I think that inspires everyone to give a little more, too,” says Larry Kirby, who manages grants and graphics at the shrine.

Kirby, who started at the Grotto just before Father Topper, says the priest is a good listener and a good preacher who has achieved so much because of “untiring focus.”

– The Catholic Sentinel (Oregon Catholic Press)

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