Catholic Community Services staff posted Jim Seymour’s sayings on the walls of the renovated building that now bears his name.
Catholic Community Services staff posted Jim Seymour’s sayings on the walls of the renovated building that now bears his name.

SALEM — In a moving farewell address, the longtime executive director of Catholic Community Services here said that serving the poor, whether they deserve it or not, is an expression of God’s love. 

“When you are in the presence of love, you begin to desire the truth,” Jim Seymour told 100 supporters gathered Jan. 20 to wish him well and bless a building that now is named for him — the Seymour Center for Children and Families

An anonymous donor gave a $1 million lead gift for the renovation. Finished on time and under budget, the building includes a large meeting room, a preschool, play areas, social services offices and a mental health clinic. Each day, the center will welcome as many as 100 3- and 4-year-olds who are behind in academics or social development.

Nearby is the St. Vincent de Paul warehouse, where clients can obtain food and other aid. 

Elsewhere, Catholic Community Services has created low-cost housing in the region, runs homes for unwed mothers and operates a shelter for homeless people in Mount Angel.

“I see great things ahead,” said Lynda Harrington, chairwoman of the board of the Catholic Community Services Foundation.

Seymour — tall, slim, bespectacled, balding and humble — has become a spiritual mentor. 

“There is great joy in serving and not sitting around, in realizing the world is not there to make you happy,” Seymour said. Long an advocate of strengthening families, he echoed Pope Francis, who once said that families, happy or not, are beautiful because they are where we learn to love. 
Seymour served at Catholic Community Services for 46 years, beginning as an intern. His life was not going well in his 20s but his work helped him grow as a man, he said. 

“It was here at Catholic Community Services that I learned what a good life is,” Seymour explained. “Catholic social teaching and the Catholic moral life have been such a blessing. It is something you can just lean into.”

Seymour will not be sitting about. A member of St. Peter Parish in Newberg, he is chairman of the pastoral council there. He also recently was elected to serve on the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Council. 

Seymour made the crowd laugh when he said raising money came naturally because he simply likes to talk to people at length about what fires him up. Around the building are posted what staff call Jimisms, his many wise sayings, including “Never waffle, but never be afraid to improve your decision.” 
Salem-area dignitaries attended the blessing, including retired Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz, Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark and longtime community leader Kevin Mannix. 

Msgr. Richard Huneger, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Salem, also was on hand. He called Seymour the “founding father and engine” of Catholic Community Services. The agency’s ministries are “stellar” and have garnered national attention, the monsignor explained. 

One of those celebrated projects is Seymour’s Fostering Hope Initiative, which focuses on building healthy neighborhoods and healthy families, reducing risk factors for children. 

Auxiliary Bishop Kenneth Steiner, a legendary supporter of Catholic Community Services who has his own name on a building, obtained a papal blessing document for Seymour. 

“Jim is not only a man of loving service but a man of vision. He could always see more,” Bishop Steiner said, engineering a pun that both made people laugh but also communicated a big truth. “He is a man who could see the people behind the buildings. He is a man who could see the spiritual needs of people.”

Bishop Steiner blessed the building, calling it a place “where children and families will find God’s love” and “where rich and poor come together in hope.” The bishop especially blessed the crowd, saying the people of God are more important than bricks and mortar. 

Bishop Steiner presented Seymour with a cross carved by the artisans in Bethlehem. 

“Jim’s entire life is a testament to his love of the Lord, and we know it will continue to be so in his retirement,” the bishop said. “This cross is presented as a symbol of the great faith that has made Jim such a beloved inspirational leader for us all.”

Seymour also received a bench for his yard inscribed with the phrase, “Jim, champion of all God’s children.”

“Jim’s service to our community has been absolutely tireless,” said Josh Graves, the longtime staffer chosen as new executive director.