News & Events

Letter from the Superior General: March 2014

Dear Friends and Families,

February had a few surprises for us – a snow and ice storm that caused us to stay home for a couple of days and the unexpected death of our Sr. Mary Hugh.  It seems strange to say that death came unexpectedly to someone who is 100 years old, but indeed it came as a big surprise to us.  Sr. M. Hugh was at the Welcome Prayer Service and Social we had for our new candidate Colleen on February 14.  Perhaps she thought the Community was in good stead with Colleen joining us because Sister died the next morning!  We were able to welcome about 25 of Sister Hugh’s relatives from Washington, Idaho, and Montana for the services.  May she rest in peace.

Please enjoy the photos and video of our Valentine Tea (which had to be postponed due to the snow).  The raffle of items made by the Sisters netted $323 for the ESOL program.  Snow also postponed a visit to the Community by Archbishop Alexander Sample and his mother Joyce.  It is my hope that they will come in the Spring when the campus is in full bloom and tour all the entities before visiting with the Sisters.

With not much patience, I am looking forward to the colors of the Spring flowers!


Sr. Charlene


Meet Our New Candidate

Submitted by Sr. Charlene Herinckx, SSMO Superior General

Left to right: Sr. Michael Francine Duncan, Colleen Schmitt, Sr. Joyce Barsotti and Sr. Charlene Herinckx

On February 14, the Community welcomed Colleen Schmitt as a candidate in our Formation Program that leads to profession of vows as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon.

Colleen was born and raised in Michigan and is the youngest of three siblings.  She graduated with a degree in Social Work and worked for about a year before returning to school and earning a Master’s degree in Social Work. Colleen worked with a county mental health agency for about six years before taking a position at Michigan State University in a large ADHD study conducted in the Psychology Department.  For 10 years, Colleen has had various responsibilities in this ADHD study program, first in Michigan, and then at OHSU in Portland.

Sr. Michael Francine (left) welcomes Colleen

After the first visit with the Sisters, Colleen reported “I am very taken with the Sisters and with what they do, especially the helping professions.”  Following a few more visits, Colleen began to discern with Sr. Michael Francine, Vocation Director, about her sense of being called to become a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon.  With the completion of the application form and the interviews, Colleen was accepted as a candidate and is now living at the Motherhouse.  She is wrapping up her work and handing over her responsibilities at OHSU while beginning information sharing sessions with Sr. Joyce, her Formation Director.

Her nickname is “Smiley” – and you will understand when you meet her.


A Gala evening!

Submitted by Lisa Meltebeke, Events Manager, Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Foundation

Our campus is busy preparing for another exciting Valley Catholic School Gala.

This year’s Gala will be Saturday, April 26 at the Hilton Portland.

The evening is a great chance for our campus community to come together to celebrate Valley Catholic School.

There are many ways you can support the Gala. You may wish to consider hosting a Sister.

Or you may wish to consider making a gift to “Light a Fire” which supports students who would be unable to attend Valley Catholic without financial assistance.

Cash donations to the Gala can be made online now or at the event. If you’re interested in donating items or services, please contact the SSMO Foundation at

I hope you will mark your calendars and join the Sisters on Saturday, April 26, 2014.

If it’s anything like last year’s event, you won’t want to miss it!


Saint of the Month: Blessed Angela Salawa

Angela Salawa was born in 1881 in Sieprawa, Poland, near Kraków. Undernourished as a child, she grew up weak and sickly.

The 11th child of  Bartlomiej and Ewa Salawa, Angela spent nearly 20 years in domestic service.

During World War I, she helped prisoners of war without regard to their religion or nationality.

She died in 1922 in extreme poverty.  Her life is striking because of its simplicity and love.

Learn more about Blessed Angela Salawa.


Heartfelt hospitality: Our 2014 Valentine Tea


Scones with jam. Cheese puffs. Tea with pastries.  All lovingly prepared and served by the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.

Delicious food and warm hospitality is the hallmark of the Sisters’ annual Valentine Tea.

First held in 2002 as part of the Sisters’ Bethany Center series, the tea has become a tradition and one of the most popular events of the year on the SSMO campus.

Lovely crafts created by the Sisters were raffled off, raising $300 for the Sisters’ English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

Photos from the 2014 tea are available on our Flickr site.

A new YouTube video captures the sights and sounds of the day.

We invite you to enjoy both – and to join us next year.


Meet the Sisters: Sister Elizabeth Ann Vanderzanden

Each month, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon honor the life and ministry of one of their Sisters.

This month, we are proud to feature Sister Elizabeth Ann Vanderzanden, who will celebrate her 75th Jubilee in 2014.

Sister Elizabeth Ann Vanderzanden

She was born on August 24, 1922 to Joseph Vanderzanden and Margaret Peters in David City, Neb.  The family’s moves found her attending schools in Oregon and Nebraska, then North Dakota and back to Oregon, where she graduated from St. Mary of the Valley High School (now Valley Catholic).

Sister Elizabeth Ann entered the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in 1939 and served as a wonderful housekeeper and Superior in mission houses. Other Sisters describe her as an efficient and organized Motherhouse laundry coordinator. She spent eight years caring for the school’s boarders who lived on the fourth floor, above the three floor of classrooms.

Sister Elizabeth Ann was a fine seamstress and was gifted in restoring worn clothing—making them seem new again for the Sisters.  She also spent much time in beautifully embroidering many sets of dish towels for the community’s annual Christmas bazaar.

Photos from Sister Elizabeth Ann’s life, ministry and journeys are available on our Flickr site.


Remembering Sister Mary Hugh Copenhaver

Sr. M. Hugh Copenhaver

The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) are honoring the life and service of Sister Mary Hugh Copenhaver, SSMO, who died on Feb. 15 at the age of 100.

A vigil service was held on Feb. 20 in the SSMO Motherhouse. A Mass of Christian Burial took place on Feb. 21 in the SSMO Motherhouse Chapel.

Sister M. Hugh Copenhaver requested that memorial offerings be directed to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.

In July 2013, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon honored Sister Hugh as she celebrated her 100th birthday.

Additional photos from that celebration and from Sister Hugh’s remarkable life are available on our Flickr site.

About Sister M. Hugh Copenhaver

Born on July 11, 1913, Alice Catherine Copenhaver was the oldest of four children born to James and Alice Copenhaver of Wilbur, Wash.  By the time she started school, her family had moved near Brady, Mont.  Before she entered the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in 1935, she attended Great Falls Business College for a year and then worked in the Brady Post Office.  After entering, she was known as Sister Mary Hugh. She attended Marylhurst, earning a bachelor’s degree in education.

A skilled teacher and administrator, Sister Hugh served at St. Mary of the Valley (now Valley Catholic School) in Beaverton, St. Stephen in Portland, Sacred Heart in Gervais, Visitation in Verboort, St. Mary’s Home for Boys in Beaverton, St. Mary in Stayton, and St. Cecilia in Beaverton. She was the founding principal at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Seattle and served for 16 years at St. Mary in Spokane.

When Sister Hugh finished teaching in 1981, she took a sabbatical year, then began serving in her home parish, St. Michael, in Conrad, Mont., as the Religious Education Coordinator and Visitor to the homebound. From 1986-2007, she visited the sick and elderly of the parish, took people shopping (in a 1969 Ford Torino), did sewing for the parish church, and continued to help out as her energy would allow.

She retired in 2007 at the age of 94.

Sister Hugh continued to stay in the family home in Conrad during the summer months to be near her sister, Margaret.

We are proud to honor the life and ministry of Sister Hugh.


Our Valentine’s Tea has been rescheduled for Feb. 16

Service with a smile: Sister John Therese (standing) and Janice Altenhofen.

Due to this weekend’s winter weather – and to ensure safety of our guests – our annual Valentine’s Tea – scheduled for Feb. 9 – has been rescheduled for Sunday, Feb. 16.

We apologize for any inconvenience, and we look forward to welcoming our guests at that time.  The tea is sold out.

Part of the Sisters’ Bethany Center series, the 2014 tea will be held on Sunday, Feb.  16 at from 1:30-4:00 p.m. in Conference Room 2A/B in the SSMO Motherhouse.

The Sisters continually seek new ways to reach out to those in need. This year, guests will have the opportunity to support the Sisters’ ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program.

Guests will be invited to “take a chance” for drawings to win handcrafted items made by the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. Proceeds will benefit the ESOL program.

Additional photos from our 2013 Valentine Tea are available on our Flickr site.


Consecrated Life Mass and Celebration

Second from left: Sister Anna Nguyen, SSMO. Center: Archbishop Alexander Sample. Far right: SSMO candidate Colleen Schmitt.

On February 3, 2014, Archbishop Alexander Sample and Archbishop John Vlazny – and many of the men and women religious in the Archdiocese – gathered at St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland to give thanks for the gift of their vocation.

Among those participating in the Mass: several of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.

Archbishop Sample expressed his appreciation as he gave honor to those who in the local church give radical witness of the Gospel by consecrating their lives to Jesus and the continuation of His ministry.

A reception after the Mass provided time to enjoy both new and renewed relationships.  Additional photos from the Mass and reception are available on our Flickr site.

Renewal of Vows for the Consecrated Life Celebration

Eternal Triune God, trusting in your faithful love,
I _____________, renew my vows
to live my life following Christ
In chastity, poverty and obedience.

I commit myself anew
to serve the Church in the ministry
entrusted to my institute.

Grant me the grace, Lord,
Through the intercession of Our Lady,
and the prayers and support of my institute,
To live these vows faithfully.  Amen.


Honoring a distinguished, valiant life

Left to right: SSMO Foundation Alumni Relations Manager Meghan Blood '09; Valley Catholic School President Bob Weber; Myrna Church, who accepted the Distinguished Alumni Award on behalf of her son, Richard; and SSMO Ministries Corporation President Sr. Adele Marie Altenhofen.

Dr. Richard Church - 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award honoree

One of the highlights of Catholic Schools Week on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) campus is the presentation of the annual Distinguished Alumni Award.

The 2014 honoree is Dr. Richard Church, Valley Catholic Class of 1995, our first coed graduating class. He currently serves as a full attending physician at the University and Memorial campuses of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The award was presented at an All Campus Mass and Assembly on Jan. 29.

His mother, Myrna Church, accepted the award on his behalf.

Myrna Church is an icon in her own right on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus. In addition to having two sons (Richard and John) graduate from the high school, Myrna served in the SSMO infirmary for many years, is an SSMO associate, and continues to volunteer at both St. Vincent’s Emergency Room and the SSMO convent.

Although Richard was unable to accept the award in person, he sent a wonderful video about his experiences at Valley Catholic.


About the Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award honors graduates who have had a positive impact on society. The award presentation is coordinated by the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Foundation and is held during Catholic Schools Week in January.

Previous honorees include two-time Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, Valley Catholic Registrar Pat Joyaux, all of the members of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon who attended school on the SSMO campus, and Pamela Olberding, who established a fund to support the educational needs of nurses, technicians and other employees at Providence Newberg Medical Center.

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