News & Events

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.


Let’s have another cup of coffee

Submitted by Sr. Charlene Herinckx, SSMO Superior General

Old friends, former students, and new acquaintances – these are the people the Sisters meet each time they host a Kaffee Klatsch at a local parish.

Kaffee Klatsch is a German term used by the Sisters in their history for the afternoon break time.  After celebrating their 125th Jubilee, the Sisters decided to visit local parishes in which they taught in the past to express gratitude for the years of friendship shared.

Recently the Sisters hosted a Kaffee Klatsch at St. Pius X Parish where they served as the first teachers when the school opened in 1960.

It was a delightful event!

More photos from the Kaffee Klatsch are available on our Flickr site.


Meet the Sisters: Sr. M. Juanita Villarreal

“Perseverance is a good word to describe anything that we do for which we feel a strong  calling.”

In her own words, Sister M. Juanita Villarreal shares her journey to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) community.

We are proud to honor her ministry and service.  Her biography (shared during her 50th Jubilee in 2013) is available on our website.

Photos of Sr. M. Juanita Villarreal’s life and ministry are available on our Flickr site.

Sr. M. Juanita Villarreal

How is it that I persevere in my religious vocation and in living in a convent with many Sisters?

First, perseverance is a good word to describe anything that we do for which we feel a strong  calling.  I am the sixth child of José and Juanita Villarreal and one of eleven children.  I was born on July 23rd in Asherton, Texas.  Being the middle of eleven children was a task which required a great deal of perseverance. I was too young to do stuff with the older siblings and too old for the younger siblings.

I remember all of us kids had to work very hard as migrant workers. We worked in Minnesota, Illinois, and Washington and later settled in Oregon.  My father considered education very important and so good grades were a must.  It took a lot of perseverance to make those three-day arduous trips from Texas to Oregon every spring and the return trip in the fall.  My father helped prepare the fields for planting and we joined him in the field work in the summer.  He was a strict field boss.

At the age of 17, I decided to join the convent.  Would I join the Benedictine Sisters of Crookston, Minnesota who were missionaries in Asherton, Texas?   Or, would I join the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who taught me in St. Paul, OR?   One day I visited the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in Beaverton and I knew immediately that this was the place for me.  I joined them at the beginning of my senior year.  I felt a strong call to be a Sister and I wanted to do hard work for the Lord.

It has been 50 years now and I feel that the Lord has given me the grace to persevere living my life as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon.  When I was a young Sister, a priest said that living life in a religious community was a kind of slow martyrdom.  But now that I am older and wiser I think that living here on earth…traveling on this arduous road to heaven is just as difficult as spending those three days on the back of a truck traveling all together in a small space without all the conveniences of our real home.  I try to keep my eyes on the destination.  I will get there soon enough and all will be great.


Letter from the Superior General: February 2014

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

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings and best wishes for the second month of 2014 – already!  As usual, the Sisters will have a busy month and you will able to read about it in the next issue of “A View from the Dome.”  Last weekend, we welcomed Colleen Schmitt as a new candidate to our Community.  Needless to say, it is an exciting time for us.

The Archdiocese of Portland held a celebration of Consecrated (religious) Life on Feb. 3 with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Alexander Sample.  We are looking forward to hosting him and his mother Joyce for a visit here at the Motherhouse on February 12.

On this campus filled each day with children, it seemed appropriate to choose for the featured saint of the month two children who have been declared saints by the Catholic Church.  Their feast day is celebrated on February 20.  You will be able to read about them here.

February would not be February without thinking about Valentine’s Day.  I would like to share one of my favorite quotations about such matters.  This is from a poem by Holy Names Sister Rita Carey about her parents, but a personal application is left to you:

I’m telling you now, no one loved forgets;

no one loved is forgotten.

On behalf of the Sisters, thank you for praying for us and loving us!


Sr. Charlene


Saints of the Month: Jacinta and Francisco Marto

Francisco and Jacinta Marto are the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Catholic Church.

With their cousin, Lúcia Santos, the brother and sister tended to their families’ sheep  in the fields of Fatima, Portugal. There, they witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima. Today, the small Portuguese town of Fatima is a renowned place of pilgrimage, home to one of the world’s most famous Shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Francisco was 11 when he died.  Jacinta was just 10.

On May 13, 2000 – the the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima – Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta, a reminder that  even young children can become saints.

Learn more about Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto.


Lessons on leadership

Left to right: Liam Walsh, Sam Teague, Madeleine Henningsen, Student Body President Carter Buuck, Sr. Joyce Barsotti, Sr. Charlene Herinckx, Kimberly Duyck, Vice President Patricia Nguyen, Sr. Krista von Borstel, Sr. Catherine Hertel, Clarissa Tolan and Elena Ramirez.

Sr. Catherine Hertel enjoys hearing Valley Catholic Student Body Officers share their experiences. Left to right: Secretary Kimberly Duyck, Treasurer Elena Ramirez, Sr. Catherine and Publicity Manager Sam Teague.

Each academic year, members of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Leadership Council meet with the Student Body Officers of Valley Catholic High School.

The meeting is an opportunity for the Sisters  to express their support for the student leaders and to thank them for being ambassadors for the school. The 2013-2014 joint leadership meeting took place on Jan. 14 at the high school.

Sr. Joyce Barsotti said, “We were totally inspired by their sense of service.  They want to share with others because of the blessings they have received.”

She added, “It was so gratifying to know that the students are there for each other – not only today – but that they are building relationships for a lifetime. That has been the hallmark of our campus schools for generations. It’s wonderful to see that tradition continue.”

Photos courtesy Sr. Krista von Borstel.

Director of Campus Life Mary Donovan (right) listens as Student Body Officers describe their aspirations as leaders.

Left to right: Valley Catholic Director of Campus Life Mary Donovan, Sr. Joyce Barsotti and Sr. Charlene Herinckx.


What does serving on a nonprofit board really mean? Find out on Feb. 15.

Today, more than ever, nonprofit organizations rely on volunteer board members for talent, time and support.  If you’re serving on a board – or if you’re considering board service – do you have the information and skills you need to support your organization?

On Saturday, Feb. 15, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) will host an informative workshop on developing board skills.  It will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Conference Room 2A/B of the SSMO Convent & Administration Building, 4440 SW 148th Avenue, Beaverton.

Following an introduction to serving on a board, panelists will discuss financial oversight, legal and ethical integrity and accountability, and programs and services.  Participants will also learn by exploring case studies on important issues.

Presenters will include Sr. Charlene Herinckx, Superior General of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon; Sr. Adele Marie Altenhofen, President of the SSMO Ministries Corporation; Dan Mallea, Vice President and Controller of the Regence Group and Chair of the SSMO Ministries Corporation Board; and Dr. Thom Faller, professor of philosophy at the University of Portland and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Catholic Education Association.

The workshop is offered free of charge, but a free-will offering will be gladly accepted.  Lunch will be included.

To register, contact SSMO Superior General Sr. Charlene Herinckx at 503-906-1131 or by email at

The deadline for reservations is Feb. 7.


Letter from the Superior General: January 2014

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

January 2014

Dear Families and Friends,

Happy New Year!  Welcome to the season of increased gym memberships and newly purchased exercise equipment!  All kidding aside, the New Year is the perfect time to take stock of goals and resolves.  Here are some suggestions if you are considering resolutions regarding your spiritual life:

  1. Memorize a short passage of Scripture and meditate on it.
  2. Commit to daily prayer.
  3. Encourage others (letter, text, email, phone).
  4. Be silent (by turning off technology for 5 minutes) and listen.
  5. Do the unenjoyable (once in awhile) – and do it with great love.
  6. Read and reflect on a short, spiritually uplifting article or book.
  7. Commit a “random act of hospitality” even for someone who doesn’t “deserve” it.

I hope you found the perfect action on which to focus in 2014.  I also hope you enjoy this issue of “A View from the Dome” which includes information about some of our events, past and upcoming.

The saint of interest this month is Br. Andre Bessette, who died at the age of 91.  It is estimated that a million people came to pay him tribute at the time of his death in 1937.  What would cause that many people to honor this simple man who served as a doorkeeper at the provincial headquarters?  Click here to find out.

Wishing you many blessings in the New Year!

Sr. Charlene


“A” is for Admirable, Artistic, Amusing, Awesome Activities

Left to right: Sr. Rebecca Mary (a former member of the SSMO Community who is now with the Hermit Sisters of Mary in Idaho), Sr. Ina Marie Nosack and Sr. Alberta Schwall

People who know the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) campus well know that it is a very active place – from Valley Catholic School to Maryville to the SSMO Motherhouse. The third floor of the Motherhouse enters the new year with renewed energy.

When the SSMO Archives were moved to the third floor of the West Wing, a room became available for activities on the third floor of the East Wing.  Along with renovations in the Dining Room for the Sisters living on that floor, the Activity Room has definitely become a room true to its title.

All of the Sisters are invited to Tuesday and Thursday activities – not only the Sisters who live on the third floor.  There are birthday parties for those 80 years or older and there are Bingo games on a regular basis.  Other activities have included board games, planting pansies, hanging a hummingbird feeder and watching YouTube videos about hummingbirds, enjoying music provided by Archbishop Vlazny or Valley Catholic Elementary School kindergarteners, watching travel DVDs, sharing memories of Community canning parties, viewing old photos of our Sisters and trying to identify them, taking a drive to see the fall colors, sharing about a vacation souvenir, taking a walk (or a ride) on the grounds to see the flowers, or having lemonade under the flowering cherry trees in the courtyard.

The list goes on and on.  The planners try to come up with new ideas each month.  It is life-giving for both the planners and the participants.  Who knows what excitement awaits us in 2014?

For more photos – courtesy of Sr. Charlene Herinckx – visit our Flickr site.

Retired Archbishop John Vlazny shares his love of music with the Sisters.



Christmas cheer(s): a GED-ESOL celebration

Christmas had a special meaning during a celebration at the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO). In fact, it was spelled out in big, bright letters across a stage on the first floor of the SSMO Motherhouse.

On December 19, in front of a standing-room-only audience of families and friends, 120 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and General Educational Development (GED) students entertained the audience with Christmas readings and songs including  “Go, Tell it on the Mountain” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

In addition, eight students were honored for passing the five tests needed to receive their GED diplomas.

After the program, everyone joined together to enjoy a rich variety of foods representing different cultures.

Click here to see more photos from the joyful celebration, courtesy of Sr. Charlene Herinckx.

And click here to learn more about the Sisters’ classes in a touching article from the Catholic Sentinel.

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