On July 30, families and friends came together at the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) Motherhouse for a joyful celebration: the Mass and receptions honoring the 2017 SSMO Jubilarians. Together, these six valiant women have given a combined 350 years of ministry and service.
Archbishop Emeritus John Vlazny was the presider at the Jubilee Mass. It included remarks by Vicar General Sr. Rita Watkins, who honored each of the 2017 Jubilarians. We are pleased to share her remarks.
We recognize the dedication of these six women who together gave 350 years of service to the Lord, mainly in the Pacific Northwest. They responded to Jesus’s words to his disciples and to us: “Come and Follow Me”.
They left their homes, their families, and their jobs to follow Jesus to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. They came from far; they came from near. They did not know where their future would lead but they knew they wanted to serve God. Over the years, their travels have taken them far and near in their ministry.
Sister Clare Vandecoevering came from the sausage capital of Verboort and led the way for her two sisters to follow. During her 70 years, she did not travel far as she spent most of those years teaching in Oregon. Her farthest adventure was to teach in Spokane for a year. For many years she traveled far to Eastern Oregon to teach summer religious vacation school. Her last years took her back to where she started in Verboort to serve the people there until she move home a couple of years ago.
Sister Paula Fox comes from far. She followed the call to Oregon from Watertown, South Dakota. In Sister Paula’s words, “I thought God and I were playing hide and seek. He was hiding and I was seeking His will.” She found God’s will for her after teaching with the Sisters of St. Mary in Tillamook 60 years ago. Her ministry has taken her in a variety of directions from teaching and serving as principal to pastoral associate and director of spiritual care. She followed the call to serve far – Spokane and Seattle – and near in Portland, Tillamook, Hillsboro, Stayton, Milwaukie and back to Beaverton. The last few years, she has served here at the Motherhouse in a variety of ways. She faithfully keeps in touch with our Associates with a thought for the day via email.
Sister Marianne Giesel had the moving bug in her from the time she was born in Minnesota; attended school in Lebanon and Verboort, Oregon; and finally landed in Beaverton 60 years ago. She responded to God’s call for ministry far – Spokane and Seattle – and near in Gervais, Milwaukie, Hillsboro, Portland, Woodburn and finally back to Beaverton. She dedicated many years caring for a sick friend along with teaching. Since moving home, she continues helping others by teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). One of her joys is meeting with seventh graders once a week or visiting the elementary students to share songs or bible stories. Has she slowed down? Not really.
Sister Sharon Kirk, 60 years ago, left the hop fields of St. Paul in response to God’s call – or was it to escape being the only girl with six brothers? She taught in many local parish schools then adventured far to Spokane to teach. When she returned to Oregon, it was as a teacher, principal, and Motherhouse administrator. One of her great loves was serving women with AIDS at WIAR (Women’s Intercommunity Aids Resource). She was always very active and enjoyed new adventures from flying in a small plane over Mt. St. Helen’s to attending the St. Paul rodeo practically every year until a couple of years ago.
Sister Charlene Herinckx comes from the big town of Roy. Her 50 years of ministry has led her far and near in a variety of directions – to Spokane as teacher, to Roy as principal, to Beaverton as formation and vocation director for SSMO and then the Portland Archdiocese. But she left all to travel far to Chicago and the National Religious Vocation Office. The only way we could bring her back to the beautiful Northwest was to elect her to the Sisters’ leadership team 12 years ago and then to elect her Superior General of the Community. When your term is up in three years, Sister, where will the travel bug take you for ministry? Far or near?
Sister Patricia Marie Landin comes from the big city to the north: Seattle. In her 50 years of ministry, Sister has spent it in health care as a nurse and then as a chaplain. Those first years of Ministry kept her near as a nurse at Maryville. Then came the call to travel far as she became a pastoral chaplain and ventured to Medford to serve at Providence Medford Medical Center for over 23 years. Now she is near again serving at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in pastoral care.
We thank these six Sisters for their years of service to God in a variety of ways as one of our Sisters of St. Mary Oregon.