A Little Parish History...
St. Patrick's and St. William's Parishes has been blessed with a magnificent churches and the many priests who have served our parish through the years. Just as important are all the people of our parish, for they make up our church that brings us to Christ, Hope of Our Future.
Image of Saint Patrick by Michael O'Neill McGrath
The black-robed soldiers of the Catholic Church first came to this region when Eastern Oregon was merely the lonely and desolate scenery bordering the dreary path to the Pacific Coast. They rode into this wild territory carrying their food, religious articles, and other needs in saddle bags. Catholics were widely scattered and these intrepid missionaries had to search the plains, hills, and canyons to find them. The homes of Catholics and non-Catholics alike were gladly opened to the welcome visits of these early priests.
Father Conrady, a native of Belgium, came to this country in 1875. He built the area's first Catholic Church at Vinson, 30 miles from Heppner. About the time the railroad came to Heppner, a meeting was held at the Vinson Chapel to discuss the building of a church in the Heppner settlement. A dispute arose as to where the church should be located. While some favored lower ground in the canyon, others remembering an earlier flood, desired high ground to be chosen. To decide the matter, a committee of dedicated Catholic lay people was appointed. Luckily, high ground was chosen, and the wisdom of the selection was dramatically revealed later when people fled to the protection of the Church during the disastrous Heppner Flood in 1903.
The land for the new church was donated by Tom Quaid and subscriptions were taken to cover the cost. Non-Catholics also contributed generously and helped willingly until the building was completed in 1887. Because of the nationality of most of the parishioners, the Church was naturally dedicated to Saint Patrick. The first pastor was Father Mercier.
Although the disastrous flood washed away a major portion of Heppner, the Church stood firm and continued to stand proud for the next 57 years. The building, which was the first St. Patrick Catholic Church, still stands on Cemetery Hill (Chase Street) and was used as an American Legion Hall for many years until it's present renovation into a home.
When Father Francis McCormack became pastor in 1940, he could see the need for a new home for the Blessed Sacarament, and on November 27, 1941 the new church was completed and dedicated by Bishop Joseph F. McGrath with thirty priests present for the ceremony. A new pastor, Father Raymond H. Beard arrived in Heppner for his first Mass on September 4, 1959. It was fortunate that he was a was a capable builder as his first major task was to continue construction of the new Parish Hall, for which ground had been broken the previous month.
The new hall was officially dedicated by Bishop Francis P. Leipzig on February 21, 1960. Father Beard attacked the debt retirement with his customary vigor, and the mortgage on the hall was burned three and one-half years later. Another exciting chapter in the story of St. Patrick was launched in April of 1971 with Father Beard at the helm. Restricted by lack of space and threatened by rising maintenance costs, the parish embarked on construction of a new church building in Heppner. Removal of the 1941 structure began on April 19, 1971.
The new church was a triumph of excellent design and superb workmanship. The crossed arches soar above a pleasing harmony of wood, brick, and glass expressing a brilliant blending of attractiveness and practicality. This splendid Temple of the Lord was designed by Jerry Mossman, Architect, and constructed by Aiden Vixie, Contractor, with countless hours of assistance given by Father Beard and the parishioners.
The Parish celebrated it's 100th anniversary in conjunction with Heppner's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration in March of 1987.
In August of 1990, Father Gerry Condon, a native of Ireland, arrived at St. Patrick. To the delight of parishioners, he remained the pastor till 2013.
Father Francis Hebert, who sadly passed away in 2007 at the age of 90, greatly served the parish for several years by filling in on many occasions and, at times, on a regular basis.
Father Mercier would surely gasp at the profound changes which have occurred in the more than 100 years. The magnificent church stands in tribute to the sacrifices made by many good priests and the efforts of dedicated lay people through several generations. One cannot examine the ever unfolding story of this parish without being filled with a great appreciation for the priests who have dedicated their lives to sacrifice and hardships in the service of Christ. We can, however, be certain that such deeds are not forgotten. "Feed My Sheep" was spoken many years ago, but on the Honor Roll of the Heavenly Kingdom are still inscribed the names of those who have heard that sweet request and returned the love of the Master.
1887 - 1893
Father Mercier, Father Lemay, Father Bola
Father Servais, Father Beutigen
1893 - 1898
1898 - 1911
Father M. J. Kelly, Father John Walsh,
Father Patrick Driscoll
1912 - 1919
Father J. O'Rourke
1919 - 1927
Father Thomas Cantwell, Father Felix L. Geis
1928 - 1929
Father Thomas J. Brady
1929 - 1936
Father P. J. Stack
1936 - 1937
Father James O'Reilly
Father James Walsh
1937 - 1940
Father Richard Healy
1940 - 1955
1955 - 1959
Father Patrick J. Gaire
1959 - 1974
Father Raymond H. Beard
1974 - 1982
Father John A. O'Brien
1982 - 1983
Father David Hazen, Monsignor Raymond Beard
1983 - 1986
Father Brian J. McGovern
1986 - 1987
Father Edward Receconi
1987 - 1990
Father Dominic Hahn
1990 - 2013
Father Gerry Condon, Father Francis Hebert
Fathers Thomas Scanlan and Remigio P. Mollanedo
filled in for Fr. Gerry during his six-month
sabbatical to Ireland in 1992-93. Father Gerry Condon retired in Feb 2013 after serving in this parish for 22 years and resides in Heppner.
100+ Years of Clergy
Father Maria Joseph Kumar Udagadla
Father Papa Rao Pasala
2013 to 2014
2014 to present