About St. Francis

Statue at St Francis

St. Francis of Assisi is an urban parish in an industrial and residential neighborhood. We are a welcoming congregation, with a special outreach to the poor and marginalized. People come to St. Francis from not only the surrounding Buckman neighborhood but Washington State and Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties.

We operate a Dining Hall, serving an average of 300 people an evening meal, six days a week. Our Dining Hall guests are treated with respect and served a hot meal in a Christian atmosphere of dignity and peace.

We are also unique in that we have a Pastor Administrator, Valerie Chapman, who sees to the daily management of the parish in every way except those duties only allowed by priests, namely celebrating Mass and administering the Sacraments. Our priest-moderator, Father Robert Krueger, lives on our parish campus and says Mass for the parish three to five times a week.


Born Francesco Bernardone in Assisi, Umbria, Italy, St. Francis was the son of a well-to-do merchant. After leading a life of luxury and wealth, St. Francis realized that his early years had been unfulfilling. After spending much time praying in old, run-down country chapels, St. Francis found himself in the church of San Damiano. There he looked upon the cross, which was hung above the altar, and saw Christ come to life and talk to him. The Lord told St. Francis to “. . . go repair my house which as you see is falling completely to ruin.” Although St. Francis began to repair the church, it didn’t take long for him to understand that he and his disciples were meant to “build up the lives” of Christians, who were not strictly following the ways of the Lord. The cross that spoke to St. Francis is considered a holy relic. It is believed to have been painted by a Syrian monk and is based on the Gospel of St. John. It is now in the basilica of St. Clare of Assisi. Although the original was bright, the faded cross has survived the centuries and shows the destruction that time can cause. The San Damiano Crucifix is considered an icon cross because it contains images of people who have a part in the meaning of the cross. The cross was painted during the 12th century in Umbria on walnut wood that was covered in cloth that wasglued to it. In 1257 the Poor Clares took the crucifix to San Giorgio with them. They had the cross for 700 years before they put it on <– display during Holy Week of 1957.


In 1870 the streets in the parish were no more than wide, muddied trails; and where there were sidewalks, they were made of planks. Known as the “Mother of Churches,” this parish had the first east side church in Portland. On the north it was bounded by the Columbia River and to the south by the town of Milwaukie.

In 1876 the first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day in the new church, and St. Francis of Assisi Parish had its true beginnings. The pastor would make his rounds, visiting parishioners throughout the week, and return back to St. Francis Church for Sunday Mass. From this original parish, after many divisions took place, there are now 29 parishes taking up the same place as was once the original St. Francis parish. St. Francis has actually been housed in four churches. The property for the parish was either bought or donated from James B. Stephens in 1860. By Christmas of 1876, the first St. Francis Parish was celebrating its dedication, by Archbishop Blanchet, and first Mass in the new Gothic Church, 30 feet wide by 50 feet long, on the church’s present site between 11th and 12th, Oak and Pine Streets. The first pastor, Father Verhaag, was concerned with meeting the parish debts. It was written of him that, “he frequently staged parish benefits which were supported by large numbers of his friends in West Portland and to encourage attendance, arranged for the Stark Street Ferry to run until midnight and hired hacks to carry his guests from the ferry landing to the Parish Hall.”

Although St. Francis was well established by 1880, in January, a sudden windstorm completely demolished the church building. The storm also ruined part of the rectory. The second church was dedicated in November of 1881 by Archbishop Seghers. It was erected on the corner lot facing south, instead of east like the church today. This church served the parish for 30 years.

In 1886, the Sisters of the Holy Names erected a school building, Academy of the Holy Names, later known as St. Francis Academy, and 24 pupils enrolled. This was the first boarding school and first parochial school in East Portland.

In 1945, St. Francis School and Convent were purchased from the Holy Names by the Parish.

In 1911, the third church was dedicated by Archbishop Christie. The congregation took nearly eight years to actually plan and fund-raise for this church. It had two towers, surrounded by gold crosses outlined in incandescent lights, which could be seen throughout the city when they were lit on special occasions. The church cover half a block on the Pine Street side of the parish property.

Eventually, in 1931 this church was razed because it became unsafe caused by structural weaknesses. The fourth, and present church, was constructed on the foundation of the third church.

In January 2006 the former Parish House, formerly the Rectory, was renovated. The new Parish Pastoral Center is in the old school building. The new address is 1131 SE Oak. There is now plenty of room for a chapel, meeting areas, reception area, and offices.

Our Mission Statement


  • Where faith expresses itself in hospitality
  • Where God’s love is expressed in its fullest meaning
  • Where Jesus Christ is alive and well and celebrating in SE Portland
  • Where the gospel message of active love is made manifest.


A community that finds its health in attempting to serve the neighborhood in its many needs, physical, spiritual and human. In this way we form and support the people of God to reach out rather than build a safe place to be. Though members come from many different neighborhoods, we call upon all to be the church concerned for the core area, inner-city ministry. This is the primary way of affecting a change in the wider community.


A community that acknowledges and honors the ministries in which each person is engaged – life, in family, in work in the St. Francis Community.


A community where theology, education, liturgy, and social involvement are all dimensions of one reality.