Priest seeks to rebuild connection between community and St. Michael's Catholic Church

11.13.2018 Danielle Frost People, History

By Danielle Frost

MCMINNVILLE -- St. Michael’s Catholic Church has been a part of Grand Ronde since Father Adrian Croquet opened it in 1862, just five years after the Reservation was established.

Scores of Tribal Elders recall attending the parish school and roller skating in the gymnasium as young teens.

Tribal Council member Steve Bobb Sr. recalls how he used to drive the nuns to distraction with his antics. At one point, they stopped by his grandparents’ home to express “concern for his soul.”

Through Termination and Restoration, St. Michael’s has remained open to the community and a small congregation gathers for weekly Sunday Mass.

Zani Pacanza, the new priest-in-charge at the church, is hoping to reintroduce St. Michael’s to Tribal residents who once attended, but stopped coming for various reasons.

“My goal is to rebuild those connections,” he says. “I was told that years ago, many were baptized at the church, but had left because of cold treatment. … I would like to invite them to visit again and increase their circle of friends. It is a very warm and welcoming congregation. ... Things have changed.”  

Pacanza, who grew up in the Philippines, was assigned to St. Michael’s in July 2017 shortly after completing Mount Angel Seminary and being ordained in Portland.

After working as a journalist for several years in his native country, Pacanza became burnt out after covering the political beat and being threatened with lawsuits from upset politicians.

“Writing and interviewing were my passions,” he says. “But when I was in grade school and was an altar server for church with my brothers, I was the only one to memorize all of the prayers. I used to stop by the store on my way home and buy Necco Wafers and do ‘communion.’ I was doing a good job as a journalist, but decided to go back to my original calling.”

Pacanza, who is based at St. James Catholic Church in McMinnville, says his first 14 months of Sunday services in Grand Ronde have been a positive experience.

“It’s been very beautiful,” he says. “St. Michael’s is a very small parish, but very historic. People are really warm and always appreciative if I say a good sermon.”

The choir includes three people and brunch is served after Mass. Church attendance is not required.

“It’s really good food,” he says. “I would welcome newcomers to at least see the church. It is an important part of Grand Ronde history.”

Pacanza will get his first taste of Grand Ronde culture when he attends the 35th annual Restoration Celebration on Sunday, Nov. 18.

“I am really excited,” he says. “I have been to powwows before, but not in this area. I am also looking forward to trying the food.”

During the next few years, Pacanza is hoping to add more social events to the church calendar with the help of a pastoral planning group.

“I really enjoy seeing the milestones in people’s lives,” he says. “All of the sacraments we do – baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals – all of these are sharing in some of the most important aspects of their lives.”

Pacanza says that everyone is welcome to rent the church gym at a low cost for events.

For more information about St. Michael’s, which is located on Hebo Road just west of the Grand Ronde Road intersection, contact Pacanza at or call 503-472-5232. For gym rental, contact Carol Nash at or 503-930-8355.