News & Events

Traveling in place: an “armchair vacation” to the Philippines

Article and photos by Sr. Charlene Herinckx, SSMO Superior General; additional photos courtesy SSMO Foundation Director of Development Sharlayne Buuck

How many people in your household have been to Mexico, Vietnam, Tanzania, India, and the Philippines?  At the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, approximately 35-40% of the Sisters could say that they “have traveled” to those countries.  “Travel” to another country has taken place each summer for the past five years.  The idea of an Armchair Vacation was adapted from a group of Sisters in the Midwest.  It provides the Sisters, young and old, an opportunity to learn about the history, religion, saints, heroes, animals, folktales, folk dance, folk songs, geography and much more while remaining in comfortable chairs in the Conference Room.

Each morning the Sisters get their workbook/passport stamped with a seal of the flag, national flower, national bird, etc. before the presentation began. The afternoon offers an opportunity to create a craft from the country and on two evenings, there is either entertainment or a speaker who was born in the country.

This year, with the help of Analizza Lambino, many Filipinos from the local community contributed to the success of the trip.  At the end of our travels each year, a list of possible locations for next year’s vacation is compiled, discussed and voted upon.  By overwhelming majority, the voters chose Argentina!  Perhaps our guest speaker could be the famous Argentinian living in Vatican City!!!!!

Enjoy more of our fun photos from the Sisters’ 2013 “Armchair Vacation” to the Philippines.

Enjoy a charming video of music and dance from the Philippines.


Story of Faith: Jubilee 2013

Jubilarians (left to right) Sr. M. Juanita Villarreal, Sr. M. Juliana Monti and Sr. Rita Rose Stohosky during the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon 2013 Jubilee Mass

On July 28, 2013, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus resonated with faith, music, laughter and joy as the Sisters honored their 2013 Jubilarians: Sr. Angeline Sohler (70 years); Sisters M. Grace Schonlau, Janet Slingerland, Rita Rose Stohosky, Agnes Marie Vandecoevering and Anne Vandecoevering (60 years); and Sisters M. Juliana Monti, Barbara Rose Sohler and M. Juanita Villarreal (50 years).

Their stories of faith are as remarkable as their lives and journeys.

Jubilee Highlights

The 2013 Jubilee Liturgy is now available in PDF format.

Photos from the Jubilee Mass and receptions are now available on our campus Flickr site.

A video with highlights of the Jubilee is now available on our campus YouTube site.

In another campus video, the 2013 Jubilarians share their journeys as Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.

The Jubilee also made news beyond our campus.  Their stories were featured in:

We are proud to honor these Valiant women.


Saint of the Month: St. Clare of Assisi

Born in 1194 to a wealthy family in Assisi, Italy, Chiarra Offreduccio lost her father at a young age.

Moved by the preaching of a young man, she confided her own desire to live her life for God. She and the young man – who is now known as St. Francis of Assisi – became good friends.

Both exemplified lives of faith, humility and care for those living in poverty.

Learn more about the life and ministry of St. Clare of Assisi.


Meet the Sisters: Sr. Elma Heesacker

Sr. Elma Heesacker

An admirer wrote:

Sr. Elma Heesacker is another Sister who honored the unique gifts in others.  Through her faithful dedication of 25 years of preparing and providing meals for us in the Motherhouse, she gave us the sustenance and energy to use our gifts, whether it was studying, teaching or cleaning.

Sr. Elma has also been one who serves. Her years of working in our convent chapel as a sacristan made it possible for us to enter a sacred place to pray in an environment of beauty and comfort. She gave others the opportunity to share their gifts of social conversation and laughter.

Sr. Elma’s most important gifts have been her spontaneity and laughter. Her desire is to form community and to bring us all together.


In addition to sharing Sr. Elma’s story, we are proud to share photos of her life and ministry.

In her own words: Sr. Elma Heesacker

I remember hearing the call to religious life at a very early age. I had transferred from public school to a Catholic school – St. Francis of Assisi in Roy. I was at St. Francis of Assisi School from a double grade – taking second and third grade classes at the same time – through eighth grade. For me, this was a true sign of God‘s love, care and compassion, help, and guidance.

I was taught many things but especially how I wanted to be good and loving. I learned this when I got the opportunity to help the Sisters after school.  This meant I had to wait for the later buses to take me home, so I really got to know about the Sisters and to share with them.

In my ministry, I was always a service person. I became an assistant cook, and then head cook. I learned to be a baker, and I worked in the laundry.  Later, I was a driver for the Convent and became sacristan for the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Chapel. Over the years I found it has been a real joy and blessing to serve. I have always been a “hands on” person, behind the scene working for the Sisters’ Community.  I know that I did not like to be in public eye and I am very much a farmer’s daughter.

I love my God, I love Mother Mary and I have great love for many of the Saints and Angels. I find that praying comes easily to me and I feel God’s presence very much. He is my center and my guiding force.


Letter from the Superior General: July 2013

Sr. Charlene Herinckx, Superior General, Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon

Dear Families and Friends,

One of our Community’s core values is “Celebrate God and Life” and so here we are again – celebrating!

We are celebrating with our nine Jubilarians on July 28 this year, recognizing their cumulative 520 years of dedication, love and service!  You are welcome to join us.

On June 23, we celebrated the retirement of Sr. M. John Therese from the Music School after 50 years of joyful music-making and teaching.

On June 28, our annual summer retreat week ended with the celebration of a rare occasion – the 100th birthday of one of our Sisters – Sister Mary Hugh.  In our 126 year history only two other Sisters (Sr. Johanna and Sr. Constance) celebrated this event in their lives.

Unlike our Sister Centenarian, Sr. M. Hugh, the saint we are focusing on this month died young.  St. Maria Goretti is an outstanding model of courage and of standing up for one’s moral principles.

As you enjoy special plans during these summer months, remember “the biggest garage sale EVER” will be taking place in the play court in August.  The date is August 24 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Please mark your calendar now.

Wishing you all many blessings during these lovely summer days!

Sr. Charlene


Reaching the 100 milepost: Happy birthday to Sister Hugh

Submitted by Sister Charlene Herinckx, SSMO Superior General


It is not every day -  in fact, it is not even every year – that the SSMO Community celebrates the 100th birthday of one of the Sisters.

But celebration was due for the 100th birthday of Sister M. Hugh, who did not, of course, want to be the center of attention on Sunday, June 30.  The noon meal celebration was marked with balloons, customized placemats, and a PowerPoint with old family photos. (We invite you to enjoy those photos and more photos of the birthday celebration on our Flickr site.)

Alice Catherine Copenhaver's high school graduation photo (1932). Today, she is Sister Mary Hugh and she is 100 years young.

Alice Catherine Copenhaver was born in Wilbur, Wash. on July 11, 1913.  She attended elementary and secondary school in Brady, Mont. and worked at the post office in Brady before attending business college for one year in Great Falls, Mont.   She entered the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in 1936 and, in time, became known as Sister Mary Hugh.

Sister taught students in the middle and upper elementary grades and often served as the principal between 1938–1981, with the exception of the 10-year period (1947-57) which she spent in the Tuberculosis Hospital in Portland.  Nothing weak about her lungs these days!

After a sabbatical year, Sr. Hugh worked in a dimension of education – in her home parish in Conrad, Mont. where she served as religious education coordinator and visitor to shut-ins for four years.  She continued to serve St. Michael Parish as Eucharistic minister, hospital visitor, office assistant, and other tasks as needed, retiring in 2007 when she was only 94!

Shortly after the Community celebration, she will be traveling to Conrad to celebrate with her family and to be near her sister Margaret for a few months before returning to Oregon, where the winter weather is much milder than Montana’s.  If you can catch a glimpse of her before she leaves for Montana, she’ll be the one wearing high heels.


In their own words: the 2013 Jubilarians on being Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon

On July 28, 2013, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon will honor their 2013 Jubilarians: Sister Angeline Sohler (70 years); Sister M. Grace Schonlau, Sister Janet Slingerland, Sister Rita Rose Stohosky, Sister Agnes Marie Vandecoevering and Sister Anne Vandecoevering (60 years); and Sister M. Juliana Monti, Sister Barbara Rose Sohler and Sister M. Juanita Villarreal (50 years).

They will be honored during a Mass on Sunday, July 28, at 1:30 p.m. in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel of the SSMO Motherhouse. The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus is located at 4440 SW 148th Avenue, Beaverton.

Together, they have given 520 years of ministry and service.  We invite you to hear – in their own words – their joy in being Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.


A golden retirement celebration for Sr. John Therese Miller

After a ministry of 50 years as an exceptional music teacher – including 47 years at St. Mary of the Valley and Valley Catholic Schools – Sr. M. John Therese Miller, SSMO, was honored at a retirement reception on June 23.

It was an afternoon filled with warmth and memories and laughter as Sister John Therese greeted past and present students, campus families and friends.

Photos from the reception are available on our Flickr site.


We also invite you to enjoy a video from the retirement reception, which is available on our YouTube site.


Saint of the Month: Saint Maria Goretti

She died as the result of injuries she sustained defending her belief in God against an attacker. She was just 11.

On her deathbed, she forgave her attacker but he did not repent until years later when, in prison, she appeared to him in a vision.

On her feast day in 2003, Pope John Paul II noted that her life provides an exemplary witness of what it means to be “pure of heart.”

Learn more about the young virgin and martyr, St. Maria Goretti.


Meet the Sisters: Sister M. Juliana Monti

Sr. M. Juliana Monti

Sr. M. Juliana Monti is a 2013 Jubilarian of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.

For the majority of Sister’s 49 years of teaching in the Valley Catholic schools, she also served as Fine Arts Chairperson and as Music School Chairperson.  In 2012, the Beaverton Arts Commission honored Sister Juliana and the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Music Program as “Performing Arts Educator of the Year.”

Sister Juliana shared these thoughts about the journey that brought her – 50 years ago – to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.  Photos from Sister Juliana’s life of ministry are available on our Flickr site.


From the third grade on I knew that I wanted to be a Sister.  Devotion to Our Lady was instilled by the example of my mother who never failed to go to Mary with big and small requests and never failed to adorn her altar at St. Ignatius Church with beautiful bouquets in thanksgiving.  A love of Scripture was fostered by a Child’s Bible and The Lives of the Saints which I loved to read.  It didn’t hurt that I loved the Holy Name Sisters.

My mother was taught by the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) and we would often visit with her favorite teacher, Mother Mary Angela.  I was always going to go to Marylhurst College but my mother wanted me to go to the University of Portland, which was coed, and board there.  I knew that, when I was able to enter, I would. So I told my parents that I would go to University of Portland but would stay at home.  I wanted to be with them as long as I could.

I chose the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon because they would allow me to visit my parents’ home if I was driving in the area.  At that time, the Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary would not.  And so, with my parents blessing, I entered our Community, Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, when I was six months from my twenty-first birthday.

God has been very good to me and my soul is filled with peace and joy.


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