Workers at the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Center gather May 4 for daily morning prayer in the lobby.
Workers at the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Center gather May 4 for daily morning prayer in the lobby.

The people who ask you to bring life to prayer, and prayer to life, are now praying more at work.

Staff at the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Center can gather for daily morning devotions and Mass in their offices on East Burnside Street. 

The spiritual surge was the idea of Archbishop Alexander Sample.

“Archbishop Sample wants us to be more prayerful, not just a business office,” said Deacon Kevin Welch, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Pastoral Services. “Prayer allows me and others here to humble ourselves before God.”

Even when you work in the church, it’s easy to get into a business mindset unless you step back regularly, says Deacon Welch, a former business owner.

Each day at 9 a.m., dozens of employees gather in the lobby for five minutes that include the Lord’s Prayer, a Hail Mary, intentions, a special pastoral center prayer and a blessing on the day’s work. Moments of fellowship and laughter precede and follow.

A book of prayer intentions stands prominently in the lobby. Many prayers are said for Catholic ministers and laity across western Oregon.

The pastoral center long hosted a weekly Mass for employees. As of November of last year, Mass is held every day at 11:45 a.m. Meetings are to end by 11:30 so employees can make their way to the second-floor chapel if they wish. The little room, with the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, can hold two dozen worshippers. Often, it’s close to full.

On Friday afternoons, a group convenes there to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or the Stations of the Cross.

Anyone visiting the pastoral center is welcome at any of the worship.

“The very nature of what everybody does in this building is in service to the church in western Oregon,” said Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Divine Worship. “Everything we do should be based on prayer.”

If the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians, as the Second Vatican Council put it, then it must be received often, Msgr. O’Connor explained.

He takes charge of scheduling the handful of priests who work in the building to celebrate Mass and lead prayer. There is always a deacon serving at the Mass, too. Employees are lectors. 

“Mass is not just for Sunday,” said Msgr. O’Connor. “Because of work, most people can’t go during the week. But people can here.”

Plans call for the weekly pastoral center Mass to be broadcast live on Mater Dei radio. On some days, the Mass will be celebrated in the extraordinary form.

Daily Mass is common but far from universal at diocesan offices.

A small sampling shows that the Diocese of Baker, based in Bend, has held daily Mass for decades, as does the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, has Mass weekly. The archdioceses of Seattle and Denver hold Mass in their pastoral centers periodically if a priest is available. 

Daily prayer and Mass quickly have become important to many workers at Portland’s Catholic headquarters. 

Itzel Magana, bilingual administrative assistant in the pastoral services office, said that daily morning prayer and Mass refuel her soul.

“It’s amazing. The Eucharist is the best pick-me-up I could ever have,” said Magana, who drove to St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for daily Mass before the pastoral center increased its liturgies.

Mass at midday helps her understand in faith what happened in the morning and allows her to move into the afternoon with a sense of sacred purpose.

“The Eucharist is where I find my identity,” Magana said. “It makes me desire to be even better.” Seeing her co-workers focus on faith is motivating, she explained.

“It’s a great time for us to come together and remind ourselves why we are doing this,” said Steve Poehler, a senior financial analyst at the pastoral center. “Really, nothing is more important to me.”  

Anne Marie Van Dyke, administrative assistant for several departments, said prayer and Mass are good ways to start and sustain her day.

“It brings us back to what should be central in our work,” she said. “It reminds us we are here to serve and it makes me feel centered.”

Deacon Welch said the prayer serves as a witness to the public that the pastoral center is a place of prayerful welcome and hospitality. 

“I enjoy it when visitors come here,” he said. “They should feel it is their home.”