The Diocese of Baker in eastern and central Oregon is cattle and timber country. If you took a census of the human and bovine inhabitants, you would run out of people before you ran out of cows. Baker covers two-thirds of the state and over 65,000 square miles. The total population of the diocese is 435,000—less than seven people per square mile—scattered on farms and ranches and in the kind of small towns that adorn tourist postcards. Bend, the largest city at 55,000, is one of only two towns in the diocese with two Catholic parishes. The rural churches, mostly simple brick structures, accommodate anywhere from three families to 300, and may be separated from one another by as much as 50 miles. There are three Catholic elementary schools in the diocese, no Catholic high schools, no Catholic colleges. One does not usually think of migrant workers in the far Northwest. However, 25,000 Mexican migrants come to pick cherries every year along the majestic Columbia River. Hispanics double the Catholic population of eastern and central Oregon during harvest time, and make up a third of the total throughout the year. Twenty-seven priests stretch to cover a total of 63 parishes and missions.
The Diocese of Baker has:
- 37,482 Catholics (8% of total population)
- 60 parishes and missions (35 without resident pastor)
- 25 active priests
Bend, OR. 97708
Did You Know?
Jesuit missionaries founded St. Andrew’s Parish on the Walla Walla/Umatilla/Cayuse reservation in the Diocese of Baker in 1847. One its early pastors, a Belgian priest named Louis Conrardy, built mission parishes in several eastern Oregon towns and established the first Catholic school for Indian children. After 13 years, Fr. Conrardy left for an even more remote frontier, working with Blessed Damien, the leper priest of Molokai. In later life, he became a doctor and founded a leper colony in China. Altogether, Fr. Conrardy served in India, Oregon, Hawaii and China—a truly remarkable figure.