In the early 1980s, Father Joseph M. McMahon, then pastor of St. Pius X Church, saw a need for a future parish in the expanding Cedar Hills/Bethany area. He acquired $100,000 from the Archdiocese of Portland to purchase the 5 acres of land in the new subdivision at the corner of 178th and Springville Roads.
On July 1, 2002, Archbishop John G. Vlazney assigned Father John Kerns to establish a parish in this suburban community. The Archbishop declared the new parish under the name “Saint Juan Diego Catholic Church” on July 31, 2002, the very day that Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego in Mexico City. Fr. Kerns hired Kathy Yee as Pastoral and Administrative Associate and Patty Duggan as Music Director. He also established a Steering Committee for guidance in founding the parish, namely, Art and Ruth Schulte, Thompson and Madeleine Faller, Ted and Patty Duggan, Donald and Lynn Parker.
On December 9, 1531 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, she instructed him to ask the Bishop to build a temple on the Hill of Tepeyec. Juan Diego accepted his call and a church was built. The people of St. Juan Diego Catholic Church accepted their call to build a church and so began a journey that originates in their generosity of time, talents and resources. Faith filled relationships flourished as parishioners reached out to one another and to their surrounding neighbors. The spiritual community of the parish gave momentum and support towards the construction of the worship space.
From the beginning, home Masses followed by potluck dinners were hosted by various parishioners on Friday evenings. The fledgling community celebrated their first Mass at Christ Church (Lutheran) in Hillsboro, Oregon on Monday, December 9, 2002, the feast day of Saint Juan Diego.
The first Sunday Mass was on Palm Sunday, April 13, 2003. The growing parish rejoiced in the unique gathering opportunity at the gymnasium of the Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus, across the street to the church’s property.
Transforming a rented gym in sacred space every Sunday presented a challenge, but dedicated parishioners would show up 90 minutes before Mass to make it happen. The parish also rented St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church on NW West Union Rd for Saturday Evening Mass. Neighboring parishes also helped. The parish office was located in a conference room at St. Pius X for the first 8 years, and choir music rehearsals were held in the Holy Trinity School music room for a few years.
For the first Good Friday Liturgy in 2003 a cross for veneration was fashioned from a fallen tree rescued from the new parish property. It has been in continual use on Good Fridays and during the Easter Season. It connected the hope of the community to the day when the cross was returned to its original location on Good Friday 2011.
In 2006-07, the Building Committee conducted surveys, meetings and focus groups to gather information for the Guiding Principles for the Master Plan.
On June 7, 2009, Archbishop John G. Vlazny celebrated Mass with St. Juan Diego Church in the gymnasium of Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus. After Mass the entire assembly walked across the street to the church site for the blessing of the property. Parishioners had blazed a trail through the forest of overgrown blackberry bushes and trees to create a space for the blessing.
Six trees were marked with signs, noting that the fourth and fifth grade religious education students chose them to become pillars in the new building. The pillars are representative of gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as well as Saint Paul.
The first Mass celebrated on the church property was Saturday, June 20, 2009. Shortly there after, preconstruction began.
In the Fall, Fr. John Kerns and members of the Building Committee gave guided tours of the graveled site. On December 2nd, at the pouring of the concrete footings, Fr. Kerns blessed a medal of St. Juan Diego and placed it in the foundation.
In January 2010, the pillars were harvested off the property and were stripped of their bark. They were used to hold up the beams and the weight of the roof. The round shape of the sanctuary started to reveal itself with the placement of the exterior siding.
In May with the improvement in the weather, the progress of construction increased quickly with the Dedication date set with the Archbishop.
In late summer, the Social Justice ministry was able to acquire a modular unit to be used for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. It was open to distribute food shortly after the dedication.
In September the Altar was built which would also hold the relics of St. John Vianney, St. Flavia Domitilla, and St. Philip of Jesus. The final touches were completed, the pews were installed and Washington County issued the occupancy permit just in time.
On Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm it was a joyous sight to see the culmination of eight years of planning, ministering, and hoping as prayers were answered by celebrating the Rite of Dedication of the Church of St. Juan Diego Parish. Archbishop Vlanzny presided and remarked in a letter to Fr. Kerns that it was one of his happiest days as Archbishop. The Parish also celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Ordination of Fr. John Kerns. The celebration of the dedication and anniversary continued at a dinner at St. Pius X Community Center.
June of 2012 brought changes to our community. Bishop Kenneth Steiner joined us as Parish Administrator with Fr. Matthew Libra as Parochial Vicar upon the departure of Fr. John Kerns,
In September Fr, Ted Frison was assigned as our Parish Administrator enabling Fr. Libra’s return to Rome to complete his studies and Bishop Steiner to continue enjoyment of his retirement. Fr. Ted’s support and guidance brought the addition of a new ambo and we were able to put into place a portion of the permanent sound system.
We welcomed Fr. Terry J. O’Connell in July 2013 as our second permanent pastor. A Spanish Mass was added in July, 2014. Work continues as our parish grows and we look forward to the day that we can build our community center, classrooms/meeting rooms, and offices.