Students from St. Andrew Nativity School in Portland work on a project in 2016 outside the Northeast Portland School. Education is just one of the benefits a city derives from religious groups. (Courtesy St. Andrew Nativity School)
Students from St. Andrew Nativity School in Portland work on a project in 2016 outside the Northeast Portland School. Education is just one of the benefits a city derives from religious groups. (Courtesy St. Andrew Nativity School)

It’s only fair that leaders of our state and cities understand how broadly and deeply religious groups benefit society. Though the spiritual advantages are priceless, other contributions actually add up.

A 1996 University of Pennsylvania study that found an average urban parish creates more than $140,000 per year of value via volunteer work, cheap rental spaces and donations to public causes. The same researchers came back in 2016 for a more comprehensive study that added the value of schools and day-care centers plus increased foot traffic around the church, leading to spending at nearby businesses. With that appended, the annual benefit reaches about $1.7 million per year.

In western Oregon, the Catholic school system provides what by all metrics is a superior education to more than 12,000 students, a job lifted from the public school district. But parents of Catholic school kids still pay full freight on their taxes. That’s a nice deal for state coffers.

Alongside parishes and their schools, Catholic hospitals provide millions of dollars of charity care each year, a burden that otherwise would fall on taxpayers. Our charitable organizations — like Blanchet House, St. Francis Dining Hall and Catholic Charities — provide millions of dollars of vital service and housing annually.

There’s more. Parishes and the Archdiocese of Portland send hundreds of volunteers to local jails and prisons, fulfilling a need that would cripple state budgets.

Let’s get back to those spiritual benefits, because for us, spirituality, charity and justice are linked. We can’t tally it, but we believe that the prayers from more than 120 Catholic parishes and hundreds more churches, synagogues, mosques and temples surely have a strengthening, calming and morals-rich affect on civic life.