On May 13, Sister Theresa Ann Bunker received a 2013 Diamond Alum Award from Portland Community College. She has played a significant role in the history of Maryville Nursing Home, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary on June 4. Last year, she celebrated her 60th Jubilee. We are proud to share the journey that led her to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. Photos from Sister Theresa Ann’s life and ministry are available on our Flickr site.
Sr. Theresa Ann Bunker
I was born November 5, 1933. My birth was to take place at our home in Dayton Prairie, Ore., but my mother and I were in trouble. So the attending physician ordered an ambulance and we were taken to the McMinnville Hospital. My parents prayed to St. Therese of Lisieux— “the Little Flower”— for both of us. If I lived, they promised to name me Theresa. My middle name was Ann, after my grandmother Anna and St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus.
I believe my vocation to religious life started then. It was a Sunday morning, and my mom and dad always told me I was born between first and second Mass. I grew into childhood with this story. We said short morning and evening prayers to our patron saints and our guardian angels to keep us well, safe and free.
Before starting school, my older brother Francis and I took milk, butter and cream to the Franciscan sisters in our parish—St. James in McMinnville. These lovely sisters gave us holy cards, cookies and candy in appreciation. At this early age, I knew I would like to be a Sister so I too could be nice to young children coming to the door.
When we started school and were to make our First Holy Communion, we attended catechism after the first Mass in the church choir with other children who were unable to attend Catholic school. However, we learned our prayers from our parents. In the evening we recited the rosary, plus a prayer to St. Anne to know the vocation to which we were being called.
In high school, I dated boys, attended sports events and went dancing like all the other girls, but I just didn’t know if I was being called to the married vocation.
One day, when mom and I were working together, I asked her how she knew dad was the right man for her to marry. She smiled at me and said, “Oh, you will know when the right person comes into your life.” Then she said, “You used to talk about becoming a sister. Do you ever think about that now?” And, with that remark, I started thinking and praying again about my vocation to religious life. It was so freeing. I knew then that religious life was my calling.
We all prayed about which religious community I was being called to join. With God’s grace, I decided to become a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon and I entered the following January. I did not have a calling to be a teacher, like many of the other SSMOs, and the leadership decided that I should become a nurse. I was trained to be a nurse at St. Peter’s Hospital in Olympia, Wash. I began working at Maryville when it opened in 1963 as a Licensed Practical Nurse. In 1972 and 1973, I worked part-time while earning my associate degree from Portland Community College. After passing the boards, I became an registered nurse and worked at Maryville for the rest of my career.
I celebrated my sixty-year anniversary last July. I have always known this is my home and that religious life is my vocation.