Most Reverend Cornelius M. Power, Archbishop, 1974 – 1986
In addition to the chips and sawdust problem, St. Birgitta encountered another serious problem with Medford Corporation.
There existed a culvert for years and years extending from the railroad right-of-way to the Willamette River. It collected the water of the creek coming from Forest Park as well as all surface water of the church property. The railroad was the owner of the culvert.
In early 1960s ACF Industries purchased from the Kingsley Co. the property adjacent to the church property toward Scappoose.
Since this new company raised the ground making a new road from Highway 30 toward the river, a new large culvert pipe was installed connecting Highway 30 and extending under the railroad tracks to the other side of the railroad right-of-way. This new pipe was placed on a higher level than the original culvert taking water to the river.
Father Milan Mikulich, O.F.M., warned the new company of the problem which would be created by placing the new pipe on a higher level while closing the lower culvert. In this case the water flowing from the church property would create a lake before it rises to the higher opening of the new culvert pipe. The officials of ACF Industries assured the pastor that with the installation they would prevent any stagnant water or lake on the church property or in the ditch of the railroad right-of-way abutting the church property.
This company tried to solve the problem also by making a new dike between the church property and the railroad right-of-way for the length of about 150 feet from their new road toward the church building to connect it to the higher ground behind the church hall.
However, during the rainy season, especially in wintertime, the water was seeping under this new dike and, because the lower culvert to the river was closed, on the church picnic grounds there was an actual lake the size of about 1,500 square feet with a depth of 1 to 2 feet.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the railroad tracks, Medford Corporation, seeing that the lower culvert on the opposite side of the railroad tracks was closed, cut off completely the lower culvert so that they could prevent any seepage to the basement of their new plant.
The pastor protested and called the officials of the ACF, railroad company, Medford Corporation, plumbing inspector and building inspector. On the spot the things were inspected, and it was requested by the officials that the lower culvert should be reopened. Medford Corporation agreed to connect the broken culvert on their property, and ACF agreed to reopen the same culvert on the other side and install a proper pipe to collect the flowing water from the church property and from the ditch on the railroad right-of-way abutting the church property.
This indeed was a relief to the pastor and to the parishioners.
ASSESSORS AND PROPERTY TAXES ON ST. BIRGITTA
In 1956 an assessor for Multnomah County came to inspect the church property for the purpose of assessing the taxes.
The church building alone was to be exempt. He measured from the sidewalk to the sidewalk on both sides of the church saying that only that portion would be exempt.
At that time there was no rectory. The pastor lived temporarily in the wing of the church, where all activities, office work, instructions, coffee hour, etc., were held.
To indicate to the people where they could find the pastor, a board with a sign “RECTORY" was hung at the entrance of the wing.
The assessor could not believe that the small wing was a rectory. He asked the pastor: "What really is this?" The pastor asked him first: “Why do you need to know?” The assessor said: "If it is the rectory, I have to tax it; and if it is not the rectory, I will not tax it." The pastor said: "In fact this is intended to be a crying room for the children and, since I have no other rectory, I am crying in it." The assessor said: "Father, keep on crying, and I will not tax it."
In 1957, a law was made in the state of Oregon to exempt also the church property for parking and social activities like picnic grounds and social hall. For this reason, St. Birgitta parish had no taxes on property.
In 1965, the Croatian Mission Center was built as a retreat house and, consequently, it was tax exempt.
In 1972, an assessor came to inspect the property again. At that time he was retiring, and probably thinking of the retirement, he took the word "retreat house" for "retirement house" and taxed the value of the land 39% while 61 % was exempt.
With the help of Mr. Paul Reeder, attorney, the pastor went to the assessor's office to explain the meaning of the word "retreat house". He was unwilling to give in and directed us to make an appeal, if we wanted, to the county court. The court's decision was again in favor of the assessor's opinion. We then made an appeal to the state authorities in Salem, Oregon.
After a long period of waiting, a hearing was held in Portland, being present the Inspector of Internal Revenue in Salem, Assessor and his attorney, Father Milan Mikulich, O.F.M., and Mr. Paul Reeder.
The proceedings were taped by the inspector from Salem. After a long period of waiting, the ruling was issued on March 17, 1975, that St. Birgitta Parish was right and, consequently, the county was ordered to refund the parish the overpaid money with interest of 8% beginning the tax year of 1972-73 in the sum of $2,642.51.
It was ruled that from now on the property would be 85% nontaxable and only 15% taxable, i.e., that part which is being used for the pastor's rectory.
Since in 1975 an Oregon law was exempting any portion of the parish rectory which is used for religious, literary or library purposes, Father Milan Mikulich, O.F.M., made an application on March 30,1976, to the assessor's office for the reduction of taxes on 2 rooms which are being used for the parish work, 1 room as library, 1 room as office for publication of the review orthodoxy of the Catholic Doctrine, 1 restroom and 1 furnace room.
On August 23, 1976, an assessor and a lady from his office came to inspect the place. They took notes of the information on the use of various rooms and said that they would study it and make a decision.
We hope and pray that our petition will succeed because, even now when the taxes were reduced, we still have to pay about $750.00, which will go up in the future.
THE CHURCH ORGAN
When the new church of St. Birgitta was built in 1955, through the kindness of our friend Mr. Frankie Lemma, we received a used organ from St. Philip Neri Parish in Portland. This organ served its purpose for a good number of years, though we had to spend some money for the often-repeated repairs.
Two things were visible: the need of a new organ and the lack of money in the parish.
To solve the problem, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Royer, the loyal parishioners of St. Birgitta, before Easter of 1972, purchased on their own a used organ from Sherman Clay Co. in Portland, Oregon, for the sum of $500.00. About one half of the amount individual parishioners contributed to refund Walter and Mary.
Being an old organ, it began to show signs of defects after a short service. Some repairs were made, but it still did not function properly.
Before Christmas 1974, again Walter and Mary Royer made a new move; they went to Sherman Clay Co., found a beautiful organ - a Rodgers Jamestown 100 - only one year used by an elderly lady (who traded it for another more expensive). The original price of this organ was $5,000.00. The company offered it to Walter and Mary for $3,200.00. In addition the same company offered $500.00 for the old organ. Thus, the price for the new one was $2,700.00.
Walter and Mary took all responsibility to pay for it. They expressed their appreciation for any contribution, as a refund to them, from the parishioners.
The pastor, Father Milan Mikulich, O.F.M., presented the case to the parishioners, and they thought that we all should refund Walter and Mary.
As of this time we have collected and paid to them the sum of $1,160.00. We hope that this diamond jubilee of St. Birgitta will bring in a substantial portion of this amount so that we may present to our diamond jubilarian the new and good organ, free from every financial burden.
MINOR PAINT JOB ON THE CHURCH AND THE HALL
After the steel siding was installed on the church, there was a need to paint a small section of wood remaining between the windows and their frames and the doors, as well as the wooden boards around the hall and the frames of the windows and doors.
For this job we hired in August of 1974 a professional man who charged us $350.00 for the labor, and we purchased the paint.
ST. BIRGITTA PARISH SPONSOR OF THE RADIO ROSARY RECITATION
When the recitation of the Rosary over radio was introduced in the Archdiocese of Portland, Father Milan Mikulich, O.F.M., while pastor of St. Joseph in Kronenberg, at S.E. Powell Blvd. and 166th (the present territory of it. St. Joseph church on S.E. Division, of St. Anne church and St. Therese church), organized the Croatian Radio Rosary Club, which sponsored the recitation of the Rosary every fourth Sunday of the month. Since during the years many of the Croatians who were supporting this recitation of the rosary died, the Croatian Radio Rosary Club became unable to sponsor it every fourth Sunday. It was decided to sponsor it only on every fifth Sunday of the month.
At the suggestion of Father Milan Mikulich, O.F.M., who was at the same time pastor of St. Birgitta and St. Patrick parishes, both St. Birgitta and St. Patrick joined with the Croatian Radio Rosary Club on August 25, 1974, and all three together sponsored the recitation of the Rosary over the radio by paying for the broadcast and by attending the recitation itself from the Holy Rosary Church on N.E. Union and Clackamas Street.
REMODELING OF THE CHURCH SANCTUARY AND THE NEW RUG IN THE CHURCH
When St. Birgitta church was built in 1955, the altar, placed on a platform with two steps, was nailed to the wall.
In 1964 an order issued by the Archbishop directed the pastors to turn the altar toward the people. At that time the parish had no finances, and the parishioners decided to install a second, temporary altar facing the people.
The two altars crowded the platform in the sanctuary so much that there was not much room to go around.
When the parish received the refund from the county on property taxes, a remodeling was undertaken in December of 1975: the new paneling was installed on the wall after the original altar was removed; the original altar was made smaller in width, the platform for the altar facing the people was lowered by one step; a new stand for the Tabernacle was made out of the temporary altar and placed against the wall in the center on the platform with 2 steps. This was necessary in order to have the Tabernacle visible all the time even when the priest is offering the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. This job of remodeling, including labor and material, cost $700.00.
Since the first rug was already 20 years old and since it had to be removed for the remodeling job, a new rug was needed. With a new rug in the sanctuary, we also installed a rug running from the communion rail to the interior door as well as in the vestibule of the church between the two doors. The price of rugs, labor and material included, was $1,204.00.
THE WELL DRILLING ON THE PICNIC GROUNDS
In order to irrigate the picnic grounds, flower beds, and the vegetable garden, a large quantity of water was needed. Since the city water is too expensive, the pastor thought of having a well drilled on the picnic grounds. A man who claimed that he was able to tell how deep the water is told the pastor that the water would be found if we dug only 15 feet.
A young man began to dig in October of 1975. When he reached the depth of 15 feet, indeed there was water. However, it was not certain whether it was an underground seepage or a water vein. It was decided to wait until the summer of 1976 to find out. In June of 1976, a pump was used to get the water out and it proved to be a dry well.
We called two well drillers asking them about the depth of the water in our area. One of them said that two years ago he drilled a well for Shell Oil Co. in Willbridge and had to go 400 feet deep. Their price is $12.00 a foot. Their conclusion was that the water might be found between 50 to 400 or 500 feet deep, which would include an expense of approximately $500.00 to $600.00.
It seems that the well drilling will be forgotten forever!
In reading this history one may see how much time and energy a pastor must use to preserve the rights of the parish and keep it going on for the welfare of the people of God!
1976 – 1985
The follow history was added in the 1985 souvenir program celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of St. Birgitta’s new church:
In 1979 our furnace in the church was entirely out of function, and we had to provide a new one. Robben Brothers did the work and the special collection of the parishioners was used to defray the cost. One person sent in a check of $150.00 with a note: "Here is a small part of the money for the furnace. Please keep my name unknown. May God bless you."
The earthquake of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 sent a large amount of ashes to the parking lot of St. Birgitta. In some spots a person could pick up a full shovel of it. It had to be cleaned. We used our small hoses, but it was a very slow procedure. We tried to get a fire hose from the Fire station. We had to wait four days to get it and it was broken in many places. Being afraid that the old "grandma" St. Helens might send us some more of the same stuff, we collected among the parishioners $500 and purchased a new fire hose of our own.
In 1980, we built a new tool shed. The lumber was donated by Daryl Mulick, our parishioner.
In the summer of 1980 there was a misfortunate accident around St. Birgitta. Ted Markowski working on the new roof over the door of the Hall toward the picnic grounds fell from the step ladder. Fr. Milan was nearby cleaning the ashes of Mt. St. Helens and began to run to Ted's aid. Due to the slippery ashes, Fr. Milan himself fell on the ground with all force getting some support with his left hand, which was much bruised. Ted was injured on his back. Both went to St. Vincent Emergency Hospital and the X-rays showed bruised, but not broken, for both!
Fr. Milan was very grateful to the ashes of Mt. St. Helens which were piled up high where he fell and the ground was much softer than the ordinary ground of gravel would be!
The Twenty-Fifth anniversary of St. Birgitta's new church was commemorated on December 7,1980. A Latin High Mass was offered by Fr. George Dum, C.S.C., who also gave a homily for the occasion. After the Mass, a spaghetti dinner was served in the church hall from noon to 6 p.m.
A piece of land of St. Birgitta at the far end toward Linnton was filled up during several years. In 1981, worried about high taxes which could be imposed on churches, that piece of land was sold for $18,000 to the company which is behind the church for a possible future road to the company's property. The size of the land was 12,000 square feet. The price was $1.50 for a square foot. The Archdiocese set the original price of $1.25 per square foot. The money was deposited at the Chancery Office in D notes.
In February of 1982, St. Birgitta's Parish Council was established. The members were: Daryl Mulick, president; Margaret Schumacher, vice-president; Ann Minarik, secretary; other members were: Earl Zak, Walter Royer, Jim Bernert, Walter Gearhart, Sandra Hart, Joe Cholick, Tim Bernert, Albert Schmit, Fred Cholick, Henry Schmit and Kevin Zak.
In May of 1982 we had to do some work on our septic tank field and also on our asphalt parking lot.
Each building had to have its own septic tank and septic field. Originally, in 1955, we buried the tank for the church, and in 1959, for the hall without leaving a pipe on the surface for cleaning the tank. This year we had to do it for both tanks. At the same time we had to do some repair on the asphalt parking lot. Large trucks and double trailers were making U-turns on the church parking lot and thus broke our asphalt. To prevent this in the future, we installed a barricade at the entrance to the parking lot and posted a sign: PRIVATE PROPERTY – NO U-TURN! All this work cost the church about $2,000.
In the summer of 1982 the family and friends of Jim Bernert, who was drowned in the Columbia river, contributed the sum of $1,580 for the installation of the new lights in the church of St. Birgitta.
The old picnic tables became unusable. We had to provide new ones. Mr. Daryl Mulick, a parishioner and lumber businessman donated the material and Ted Markowski contributed his labor for 10 tables in 1984 and then for 30 tables in 1985. Each table can seat 10 persons.
In April of 1985, one week after Easter, a parish mission was conducted by Fr. Lawrence Banfield, O.P.
Since Father Milan Mikulich, O.F.M., resigned from St. Patrick's church in June 1985, a new Mass was started at St. Birgitta on Saturday evening at 6:30.
The old septic tank field for the Rectory was becoming unfunctional. It was installed in 1966. Ground is clay and the pipes rotted and could not take the flow from the tank. We were forced to hire a pumping truck almost every three months and pay about $300. It became imperative to install a new septic field system. It was done in May of 1985. For that work and for some other repair work on the asphalt parking lot the cost was $5,899.
Due to the clay soil of our church property corroding the water pipes, the water was leaking for some time. In 1985 during the first 6 months our water bill amounted to about $700. During the summer, Mr. Rudy Niederle, a parishioner and retired plumber, with the help of a construction contractor was digging the ground in front of the church where the pipe leading to the hall was separated from the pipe which was brought to the church and the rectory. He discovered that the leak was somewhere in the church hall. For the part of the contractor's work we paid $610. After that Mr. Niederle installed the new insulated pipes in the hall, not under the ground but along the walls inside of the building in the kitchen and the restrooms. His labor was gratis, and the church had to pay for the material.
On this occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of St. Birgitta's new church, we should not forget the day of the dedication. It was a very, very cold, snowy and icy winter day on December 18, 1955. No one was able to go downtown and bring Archbishop Edward D. Howard. We had to hire a taxi. Much went on in this church during these 30 years, and it is fitting to use this opportunity to thank God for all graces and benefits He has bestowed upon all of those who came to this church.