Diocese of Baker to move its offices to Powell Butte

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: January 03. 2007 5:00AM PST

The Diocese of Baker is planning to move its headquarters from Bend to Crook County and has bought 37 acres of land south of Powell Butte for a new complex of buildings.

Bishop Robert Vasa said the diocese hopes to build several structures on the facility to accommodate a new chancery office, youth camp, conference center and chapel.

The diocese bought the land, located near the intersection of Alfalfa Road and Powell Butte Highway, last summer. But officials have been considering a move from the 1.5-acre Bend location for about five years, Vasa said.

“Right now, we’re kind of smack-dab in the middle of an industrial district,” Vasa said. “Here at the diocese, we really have no chapel of any significant size, we have no conference center large enough to accommodate more than 25 people, and the office, location-wise, is not conducive.”

The Diocese of Baker oversees all of the Catholic churches in Oregon east of the Cascades, an area covering 18 counties.

Vasa said that the diocese has not filed any planning applications with Crook County. Diocesan officials have consulted with architects, and the building that houses the Bend chancery is for sale.

“It will be a project of several million dollars,” Vasa said. “We’re relying on God’s providence and the generosity of the people of the diocese (to find funding) once this is publicly announced.””

Crook County Court Judge Scott Cooper said representatives of the diocese met with Crook County planners about a month ago. Even though the property is in Crook County’s destination resort zone, Cooper said he doesn’t think the center will have an effect on resort development.

“We’ve got one very large church out in Powell Butte now, the Powell Butte Christian Church, and it is a good neighbor to the county,” Cooper said. “(The diocese center) obviously intends to be sort of a destination facility anyway.”

Vasa said that one of the main goals of the facility will be hosting youth retreats and summer camps on the diocese’s own property. The rural nature of Crook County is also a draw, he said.

“The Diocese of Baker is a very rural diocese, and Crook County is, in my mind, a place that identifies more readily with the whole rest of the diocese,” he said. “It will appeal, I think, to the rural spirit of the people of the diocese.”

Officials at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Prineville and St. Francis of Assisi in Bend could not be reached for comment.

The new center will not provide any new permanent jobs for the region, Vasa said, but it will offer short-term construction work. He added that he expects the planning and construction process to take at least two years.

“It still gives us a couple of years to get the permits and get the architectural drawings and the construction under way,” he said.

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