‘Hail Mary’ needed to keep church doors open

Town hall set for Oct. 13

CRESWELL  – A determination by the Archbishop may soon seal the fate of Saint Philip Benizi in Creswell.

“The wind seems to be blowing towards closing the church,” said Dave Smith, parish council member. 

Saint Philip Benizi is a mission church under Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Cottage Grove, overseen by Fr. John Boyle. Both churches are overseen by the Archdiocese in Portland, and  archbishop Alexander K. Sample is considering consolidating the church with the one in Cottage Grove. 

With a congregation of about 50 people, Saint Philip Benizi has seen a great decline in attendance since the pandemic. With lack of attendance comes a lack of funding, and a lack of services. The church used to offer baptism and catechism classes for children. Since they are only offered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Cottage Grove now, many families have left for that reason, Smith said. This combination has accelerated the process of the Archbishop possibly closing the doors, Smith said. 

Church leaders have been doing all they can to keep the doors open, including holding garage sales to raise funding, but more is needed. A town hall has been slated on Thursday, Oct. 13 for members to make public comment in the hopes to collect enough testimony to sway the Archdiocese.

The church was founded in 1965 by about 10 families that saw a need for a church in Creswell and gathered donations from residents. The building is unique, from its shape to the artwork adorning the walls created by famed artist Lee Kelly. 

Church member and volunteer Ausecia Alexander has been attending Saint Philip Benizi with her husband, Earnie, since the mid-1980s. 

“We just fell in love with the little church,” Alexander said, who brings flowers for the mass every Sunday, sometimes from her own yard. The church is bilingual – an important aspect for Alexander, given that she and her family are from Mexico and speak Spanish. 

The Smith family has been attending services since the 1970s and it is “hugely sentimental,” Smith said. Smith took his first communion, had his kids baptized and his sisters’ children were also baptized at the church.

“A lot of people care about this little country church … We just came out of a pandemic and we’d like the chance to try and rebound from all of that,” Smith said. 

Should the church close, its members would have to drive to Cottage Grove to worship. 

“A lot of people have physical difficulties that prevent them from going to other churches, even as close as Cottage Grove, Eugene or Springfield,” Alexander said. “A lot of people don’t drive, are on oxygen … they won’t be able to go anywhere else if this church closes and that’s my biggest concern.” 

Smith’s father is included in this group due to medical reasons. 

For those interested in helping to keep the church in Creswell, the town hall will be on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the church, located at 552 Holbrook Lane. 

“I think we just leave it to God … I’m not sure what will come out of the meeting, but we’ve got to do our best,” Alexander said. 



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