Through a bequest from a longstanding parishioner, St. Philip Neri Parish in Southeast Portland installed new roofs on all campus buildings. That includes replacement of gutters, downspouts and historic gable boards on the original church, built in 1913 and still standing across the block from the current church.

The 109-year-old two-story brick structure is listed in the Portland Historic Resource Inventory because of its historic and cultural value to the Ladd’s Addition Conservation District.

The building was converted to a community center when the new larger church was built in 1950 and since then has been used for social and community activities by many groups, including instrumental and vocal music practices and performances, neighborhood meetings, receptions, educational classes, seminars and other gatherings.

Time has taken its toll on the structure, said Father Andrew Thomas, pastor of St. Philip Neri. “Earlier this year, the parish finance and leadership councils approached an architect to recommend renovations to the old church, allowing the building to better serve the needs of our growing, ethnically diverse Southeast Portland community,” Father Thomas said. “We received numerous letters of support for this project from neighbors and area organizations.”

St. Philip Neri parishioners and Ladd’s Addition neighborhood leaders are working together to maintain the building’s historic stature while modernizing it to allow for more outreach and greater access.

Current ideas include repair and refinishing of wood stairs and floors, repainting walls, interior rooms and ornate carved angel cornices, installation of additional bathrooms, updating and replacing lighting and adding two ADA-compliant concrete ramps and an interior lift to allow access to those unable to use the stairs. The parish recently received a grant from Oregon Catholic Press for a new sound system in the old church, and other grant applications are underway.

Founded in 1912, St. Philip Neri was once the center of the largest Italian immigrant neighborhood in Southeast Portland. To serve the needs of the growing community at that time, the Archdiocese of Oregon City approved building a two-story brick church and adjacent school. A half-block of property was purchased on Hickory Street on June 1, 1913. The original church and school faced Southeast 16th Avenue. Over the next 30 years, the parish outgrew its worship space and a new larger church was built and consecrated in 1950.

Today St. Philip Neri Parish has evolved into a multiethnic community with changing needs, Father Thomas explained. New activities planned by the parish pastoral council include a community food pantry and ongoing support of local and regional community outreach programs that take advantage of the campus facilities including the old church.

Saying the parish has a foundation in the past and an eye to the future, Father Thomas notes one of the pillars of the pastoral council plan is to use parish buildings and property not just for worship, but for the common good.