News & Events

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.


Celebrating 60 years as a priest: Msgr. Arthur Dernbach

Above: Retired Archbishop John Vlazny and Msgr.
Arthur Dernbach share a joyful moment during Mass marking Msgr. Dernbach’s 60th anniversary
as a priest.
Left to right: Sr. Barbara Jean Laughlin, former SSMO Superior General; Sr. Adele Marie Altenhofen, president of the SSMO Ministries Corporation; Msgr. Arthur Dernbach; and Archbishop John Vlazny.

Joined by retired Archbishop John Vlanzy and many of the Sisters, Msgr. Arthur Dernbach observed the 60th anniversary of his ordination as a priest during a Mass and reception on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) campus. Msgr. Dernbach lives at the St. John Vianney retirement residence on the SSMO campus.

As a young man, Arthur Dernbach attended St.  Stephen Parish in the Hawthorne District. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he entered college seminary at Mt. Angel.  He was ordained in Rome in Dec. 1953.

SSMO Superior General Sr. Charlene Herinckx said, “At different times throughout the years, Msgr. Dernbach has been our student, teacher, supervisor, chaplain and always our friend.  To this day he continues to serve us. He frequently offers the 8:00 a.m. Mass in the small chapel on the third  floor of the Motherhouse and serves as one of the confessors at our monthly Reconciliation Service. During the celebration, he shared that his mother was one to strive for perfection. So when he, child #17, was born, she quit, he said with a smile.” She added, “The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon have been blessed by his friendship, ministry and service.”

Learn more about Msgr. Dernbach’s life and ministry in a 2010 article from the Catholic Sentinel.

Special thanks to Sr. Charlene Herinckx for providing photos of this special day.


The spirit of giving: Christmas at St. Joseph Shelter in Mt. Angel

The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon: Christmas at St. Joseph Shelter in Mt. Angel

On the Saturday before Christmas, eight Sisters traveled to Mt. Angel, Ore. to support a brighter holiday for men, women and children in need.  Their destination: St. Joseph Shelter, which provides hot meals; clothing; advocacy; and safe, temporary and transitional housing. Sr. Marcella Parrish, SSMO, is the shelter director.

Surrounded by bags and boxes filled with gifts, the Sisters joined volunteers including Father Philip Waibel, OSB, pastor of Mt. Angel’s St. Mary Parish Church. Fr. Waibel serves on the Board of Directors of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Ministries Corporation.

Together, they helped to distribute more than 100 food boxes and bags of gifts for those in need in the Mt. Angel-Silverton area.  After getting a card with a family’s registration number, the “runners” started at one end of the basement to get the prepared box and bag, then stopped along the way to pick up dessert, bread, butter, cottage cheese, potatoes, onion, frozen beans, salt and flour.  At the end of the line, there was always a grateful family – as well as members of Mt. Angel High School’s football team who helped carry items to the cars.

We invited you to visit our Flickr site to see more photos – courtesy of Sr. Charlene Herinckx – from the Sisters’ time at St. Joseph Shelter.


Christmas at the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Motherhouse


Images of the Holy Family. Beauty. Grace. And a bit of fun.

The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Motherhouse takes on a special glow at Christmas.

SSMO Superior General Sr. Charlene Herinckx said, “The SSMO Motherhouse is a large building with large spaces to decorate for Christmas.  It is amazing to witness what happens when everyone does a little.  There are six Christmas trees, not counting the ones in chapel.  On the day before Christmas, the morning hours are spent decorating chapel while choir practice is taking place.  The transformation is breathtaking.”

Earlier, outdoor lights had been installed with help from the maintenance staff.  Tables, window sills, stairways are all decked out with festive décor. A collection of Nutcrackers is on display in the first floor Dining Room.

We invite you to enjoy more photos – many courtesy of Sr. Krista von Borstel – from the Sisters’ 2013 Christmas on our Flickr site.

The lights and decorations brighten a winter day and remind us of the brightest Light who came to save us. We wish you the joy and peace of Christmas throughout the year.


A special blessing for Sr. Rita Rose Stohosky

In her own words: Sr. Rita Rose Stohosky shares a journey to Italy that ended with, literally, a special blessing.

Additional photos – courtesy of St. Rita Rose – are available on our Flickr site.

Click here to watch a video capturing the moment as Sr. Rita Rose renews her vows.


In October 2013, I was privileged to join, with my sister, a 10-day Year of Faith Pilgrimage to Italy, sponsored by her parish, St. Vincent de Paul  in Federal Way, Wash. The Pilgrimage was designed to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Vatican Council and to walk in the footsteps of its visionary architect, Blessed Pope John XXXII, (soon to be canonized).  We traveled from his humble beginnings on the northern-Lombard plains of Italy and all of the places where he served as Patriarch, Bishop, or Ambassador, to Rome when he was Pope.  We visited Milan, Venice, Sotto il Monte, (his birth place), Assisi and Rome. We had Mass in all of the major Basilicas of each city.

The climax of the trip was in Rome,  when the leader of our pilgrimage, Father Bill McKee, surprised me by saying he was going to honor my 60th Jubilee as a Sister, which I had celebrated in July.  Father Bill offered Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica over the tomb of Pope John XXIII and after the homily I renewed my vows before the group and received a special blessing.  That was a moment I would never have dreamed of and one that I will never forget.


Saint of the Month: Brother Andre Bessette

Born in Quebec in 1845 (the eighth child of 10 children), Alfred Bessette was an orphan by the time he was 12.

While battling sickness for most of his life, he devoted his life to prayer and comforting the sick and afflicted.  When he died in 1937, more than a million people are estimated to have made a pilgrimage to pay their respects.

Learn more about the ministry of Brother Andre Bessette.


Meet the Sisters: Sr. M. Grace Schonlau

“As a young child, even before grade school, I always said I was going to become a nun.”

In her own words, Sister M. Grace Schonlau 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 60th Jubilee in 2013) is available on our website.

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


Sr. M. Grace Schonlau

As a young child, even before grade school, I always said I was going to become a nun.  Perhaps it was because of my dad’s younger sister — Sister M. Grace Schonlau from Wichita, Kansas.   My family was living in Chicago; my aunt spent several of her summers in Chicago going to graduate school there.  The many visits with her contributed to my dreams of being a nun.

That dream disappeared as my family moved from Chicago to Peoria and eventually to Oregon.  We settled on the Oregon coast where I was enrolled in the sixth grade at Sacred Heart Grade School in Tillamook.  There I met the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon for the first time. All the sisters impressed me both for their kindness and as teachers.  But I did not think about joining them.

A few years later, our parish priest from St. Mary’s by the Sea in Rockaway was a dinner guest of my family.  By that time I was thinking about going to college and studying to be a teacher of mathematics and English.  But I knew my family could not afford the expense.  In the conversation with my pastor about my further education, Father turned the topic to religious life by asking if I had considered entering the convent.

After discussing the possibility of that happening, Father made arrangements for me to attend the high school retreat at St. Mary’s of the Valley the end of that week. As I returned home from retreat on Friday, the decision was already made for me to return to St. Mary’s as an aspirant – a young person who lived with the Sisters in the convent to become more acquainted with their way of life.

I returned home from Beaverton after finishing school that spring, excited to be going home for the summer but also excited by the knowledge that the plans for me to enter the convent was already set to take place on August 10.

I am grateful to my parish priest who guided me in my vocation to become a religious.  I am also grateful to my parents who supported and encouraged me in my vocation.  I am especially filled with gratitude to God for calling me to religious life and for sustaining me with His abundant graces throughout my life.

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