Fr. Vincent Cunniff
Fr. Vincent Cunniff
A beloved retired auxiliary bishop, Oregon’s senior priest and a faithful couple from Washington County have teamed up to fund the formation of future priests for western Oregon well into the future.

They want your help by the end of the month.

Auxiliary Bishop Kenneth Steiner has served as a priest and then bishop in the Archdiocese of Portland for almost 60 years. In 2017, he donated $50,000 to begin an endowment that provides annual tuition scholarships for seminarians enrolled at Mount Angel Seminary who are studying for the archdiocese. Distributions are applied as scholarship credits to the seminarian portion of the tuition, room and board, and not to the Mount Angel portion of expenses.

Bishop Steiner’s goal for 2021 is to raise an additional $200,000.

“I entered Mount Angel Seminary 71 years ago,” he said. “My pastor paid my first year's room, board and tuition — $450 — since I had moved here from the Midwest, and the archdiocesan policy was to not pay for the first year. I worked each summer to help pay my way through the seminary.”

Bishop Steiner knows that now it takes about $50,000 per year to educate a seminarian.

Father Vincent Cunniff, a 101 year-old priest who has a knack for investing, heard about Bishop Steiner’s endowment fund this summer and donated $50,000. The retired longtime pastor also has supported Catholic education and other church causes.

“I thought I’d provided for all my favorite charities, but I realized I hadn’t done anything for the seminarians, so this is a wonderful opportunity to make a lasting gift to them,” said Father Cunniff, who lives at Maryville in Beaverton.

Now Ralph and Diane Puncochar of St. Cecilia Parish in Beaverton have issued a challenge grant, matching donations dollar for dollar up to $50,000 until Sept. 30.

“Ralph and I want to honor Bishop Steiner for his many years of dedication, love, and service to the people in our community,” said Diane. “He’s 84 years old, been retired for almost 10 years, and still works full time, travelling all over the archdiocese, ministering to all who call upon him. This is a great way to support the seminarians and honor Bishop Steiner at the same time.”

The Abbey Foundation of Oregon oversees the Bishop Kenneth Steiner Seminary Scholarship Endowment Fund, which is designed to be named as a beneficiary in estate plans.

A graduate of Mount Angel Seminary, Bishop Steiner was ordained an auxiliary bishop in 1978.

“I look on myself as a mediator — a mediator between God and the people, between the young and the old, among members of families, among various groups of people and within the clergy,” he told the Sentinel then. “In other words by serving properly I can bring about a unity so necessary for us all.”

He chose as his motto, “To serve and unite.”

“I would like to support vocations from the archdiocese, and particularly, seminarians studying at Mount Angel Seminary, my alma mater, of which I am very proud and grateful to the Benedictine monks for my education and formation,” Bishop Steiner said. “Our Catholic people are very generous in their support of prayers and financial aid for their church and its future. And I have learned that people support not only worthy causes, but people give to people.”

To help

Mail a check

Abbey Foundation of Oregon

P.O. Box 497

St. Benedict, OR 97373-0497

(Indicate that your gift is restricted to the Bishop Steiner Seminary Scholarship Fund)

Online Donation

1. Indicate your gift amount

2. Select fund “Other” and enter “Bishop Steiner Seminary Scholarship Endowment Fund”

3. Provide your name, address, and credit card information

For more information, call Susan Gallagher, planned giving manager for the Abbey Foundation of Oregon, 503-845-3030.