News & Events

An Invitation to Our Advent Retreat

Submitted by Sister Charlene Herinckx, Superior General, Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon

Father Bob Barricks

December! Such a busy time!  Many resolutions such as shopping earlier next year and getting an early start on the Christmas card list are perennial aspirations.

To get the Advent season started in a peaceful and joyous way, consider coming to the Advent Retreat hosted by the Sisters on November 30.

The day will begin with a presentation by Fr. Bob Barricks, familiar to many students and parents on campus for presiding at elementary school Masses.  His presentation will aid us in preparing our hearts for this wonderful season that anticipates the celebration of Christmas.

Following his presentation there will be a short time for prayerful reflection before Mass.  Lunch will follow Mass and then Fr. Bob will make another presentation before the retreat ends at 2:00 p.m.

Please let Sr. Noreen ( know of your intention to attend so that we  have an accurate count for lunch.  Cost: a free-will offering.


Meet the Sisters: Sister Marie Bernadette George

“I had a great love for God and Our Mother Mary, and I wanted to share that love with others.”

In her own words, Sister Marie Bernadette George shares her journey from Holy Cross Parish to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO).

We are proud to honor her ministry and service.  Photos of Sr. Marie Bernadette’s life and ministry are available on our Flickr site.

Sister Marie Bernadette George

My family lived in Holy Cross Parish and it was in the sixth grade that I first thought about becoming a Sister. Sr. Baptista, a very charismatic religion teacher, seemed to be on fire with the love of God.  She inspired her students with her loving example.  With that same love, the girls would make visits to the church at recess, noon hour and after school just to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

My family was very religious.  We would say the rosary every evening after dinner. I lived next door to my grandparents, aunt and uncles and I would go with them to Our Mother of Perpetual Help novenas on Tuesday evening and to Mass on Saturday morning. We lived about a mile from church and did not own a car, so we would walk to church. I would go to the Grotto on the bus with my aunt and we would meet my uncle there for the St. Ann Novena.

I had a great desire to go to a Catholic high school so I worked my way through Immaculata Academy. I felt it was a great and wonderful sacrifice, since I had to take several buses to get there. While on the bus, I would pray and ask God to help me to know my vocation. I also prayed to St. Joseph every night and asked him for help. My mother, aunt, uncles, my two sisters, my brother and I were all taught by the Sister of St. Mary of Oregon. The Sisters had a great influence on my family. Some of my siblings were taught by the same Sisters who taught my mother.

Sr. Andre Campau was my seventh and eighth grade teacher; she invited some of her former students to come for the profession ceremony on August 15. When I went to the profession ceremony, Sister Andre asked if I wanted to come as an aspirant to see if I liked religious life. I came in September 1954 and was received into the community as a postulant in February 1955.

After I entered I felt a great peace and joy. This was God’s way of letting me know this is what He wanted me to do for Him.  I had a great love for God and Our Mother Mary, and I wanted to share that love with others. I taught first and second grades hoping to instill in the children that great love for God and Mother Mary. I found that working with little children is always a joy.


SSMO and the Northwest Association of Bishops and Religious Superiors

Submitted by Sister Charlene Herinckx, Superior General, Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon

Left to right: Abbot Neal Roth, OSB; Bishop Joe Tyson of Yakima; Bishop Carlos Sevilla, SJ, Bishop Emeritus of Yakima; Sr. Judith Desmarais, SP; and Bishop William Skylstad, Bishop Emeritus of Spokane.
















In 1969, the bishops and major superiors of women’s religious communities in the Northwest started to meet annually to discuss concerns and issues affecting the lives and ministries of Sisters in service to the Church.  Within three years the major superiors of men’s communities were also invited.  This informal organization known as the Northwest Association of Bishops and Religious Superiors (NABRS) includes leaders from Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska.  This gathering provides a wonderful opportunity for the community leaders and the bishops to become acquainted, pray together, and discuss important issues affecting the People of God throughout the Pacific Northwest.

At the recent meeting held in Federal Way, Washington, several new bishops and religious leaders joined the group for the first time.  One of the major topics was the history of ministry to the Native Peoples of the Northwest and how ongoing service might continue.

The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon leadership has participated in this meeting ever since our former Superior General Sister M. Fidelis Kruetzer was part of the originating group.


SSMO and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

Submitted by Sister Charlene Herinckx, Superior General, Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon

The Sisters in the leadership of their religious communities in the Pacific Northwest find great camaraderie and support as they meet twice a year.

The regional meetings of the national organization known as the Leadership Conference of Religious Women (LCWR) are usually held in Seattle, Portland, or Spokane and provide an opportunity for prayer, discussion, and planning joint undertakings.

One example is an ongoing 20-year-old project inaugurated by this group, the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (IPJC) in Seattle. The accomplishments of the small staff of this organization is nothing less than phenomenal!

For a truly inspiring experience, go to the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center website to see how the resources and programs offered have reached international audiences.


The Sisters Want to Remember Your Loved Ones in Their November Intentions

In the Catholic Church, November is dedicated as a month of prayer and remembrance for those who have gone before us. As Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, we observe this centuries-old tradition in many ways, including the All Saints’ Day Mass celebrated at Maryville on November 1 devoted to Maryville residents who have gone home to God in the past year. On behalf of all the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, we invite you to join us in prayerful reflection of those who have gone before us.

Please submit the names of your departed family and friends by emailing them to us and we will include them in the SSMO Convent Chapel’s Book of Intentions and remember your loved ones in Masses and prayer during the month of November. Names can be sent to


Letter from the Superior General: October 2013

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

Dear Families and Friends,

Fall is upon us . . . from the colored and falling leaves to no more need to water the garden.  I am always grateful to live in a place where the four seasons are distinct.

As you will see in this newsletter, the activities and events of the Sisters began anew as the new school year commenced.  September saw several Sisters helping with the Golf Tournament, the Alumni Weekend, the annual Clergy Gathering, and the canning of some of the delicious produce given by the generous, local farmers and gardeners.

Classes began in September at Valley Catholic School as well as at the Motherhouse.  I encourage you to go to our website to see what classes/presentations will be offered through the SSMO Bethany Center this month.

October will find us continuing the classes as well as assisting with our annual fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank – Soup’s On – on October 5 in the Valley Catholic High School gym.  Tickets are available online.

Which do you think would be more difficult – leaving your homeland (language, culture, family) or founding a new religious Community of Sisters?  The saint featured this month is St. Theodora Guerin.  This brave Sister was sent by her religious Community in France in 1840 to found a new group of Sisters (separate from France) in the wilderness of Indiana.  Her Community’s ministry continues today.

Wishing all the blessings needed at this time!

Sr. Charlene


Meet the Sisters: Sister Mary Ellen Hanson

In her own words: Sister Mary Ellen Hanson shares her journey from Nebraska to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) campus.

We are proud to honor her ministry and service.  Photos of Sr. Mary Ellen’s life and ministry are available on our Flickr site.

Sr. Mary Ellen Hanson

As the firstborn in a Catholic family with three children I experienced love, stability and early formation in the faith.  My mother was of a lifelong Catholic family while my father celebrated five Sacraments at the time of their marriage at St. Francis Mission, S.D.  I was born in Valentine, Nebraska, and baptized three weeks later at St. Bridget Church on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, Rosebud, S.D.

At the age of three I made my first move of many when we moved from Rosebud to Warm Springs, Oregon.  My convert father taught me catechism through the Baker Diocese in Oregon via a home study program developed by Franciscan Sisters from Pennsylvania at the time. We drove 45 miles to Redmond Mass each Sunday while living in Warm Springs.  Sometimes Mass was in our home for the few Catholics in the area thanks to the Irish Capuchins from Bend.  In the summer I attended Religious Vacation School run by the Holy Names Sisters from Bend and made my First Holy Communion in Prineville.  I experienced a strong interest in religious life for the first time then.  I also met the experience of the accidental death of a friend who sat behind me in school.  In a year we moved to an eastern Montana Indian reservation where we could walk to Mass.  I was confirmed there.

In my freshman year and with my siblings, we enrolled at St. Labre Indian Mission when after three months we as family moved to another reservation near the Canadian border in N.E. Montana. There my mother resumed her nursing practice in a small hospital and my father changed from being a forester fighting wildfires to directing land management affairs for the tribe.  In general I felt my high school experience positive and appreciated the parish youth group.  In summer the Sisters of St. Agnes came for religious vacation school and I taught preschoolers.  Attendance at a summer CYO conference in Billings was a highlight.  As a senior, I applied to enter the Victory Knoll community as I was also attracted to their ‘social service’ ministry and received a letter of denial.  Awareness of living my own life became apparent.  Within a few weeks my application to Columbus School of Nursing run by the Sisters of Providence in Great Falls was accepted.

Following graduation I enrolled at Seattle University upon advice of one of the Sisters in order to earn a BSN.  During this time I became active in Catholic Nurses organization (where a nursing Sister of Notre Dame asked if I had ever thought of becoming a Sister) and the Chancellor Club.  The latter was a group for young adults sponsored by the archdiocese.  I read the story of St. Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of Charity and knew when religious life became like that I’d try again.  Each Advent I made an annual retreat in a center run by the Visitation Sisters.  Discovery of finding a work I truly loved, public health nursing, drew my whole attention for a few years.  Moving to Aberdeen, WA, to assume position of PHN Supervisor, I met the Dominican Sisters and helped with CCD in the parish.  My sister came to work as a nurse in the hospital and relieved some of the social isolation I was feeling with lack of peers near my own age.  During an Advent retreat the director inquired as to whether I had ever thought of being a Sister.  With my ready affirmation we arrived at a plan for discernment which included my visiting 4-5 religious communities within a day’s drive.  The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon were at the end of the list.  There were a few ‘older’ new Sisters.  But what I really felt was the love which existed there, the fact the new Maryville Nursing Home might be a ministry site, and a certain “German/Irish” atmosphere which reminded me of my mother’s gifts.  I was accepted!


This month at Bethany Center: Habits of health and guidance for trustees

Through Bethany Center, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon offer lifelong learning opportunities to women and men throughout the greater Portland community.

The Bethany Center offers a rich array of programs and lectures.  To register for Bethany Center workshops, please contact Sister Noreen Orazio at 503- 644-9181 ext. 1268, or by email at

A new series – Habits of Health – is one of our 2013-2014 Bethany Center highlights.

Craig Blanchette, certified health coach, will lead "Habits of Health"


Looking for insights on how to live more healthfully and more fully?

Certified health coach Craig Blanchette uses Dr. Wayne Andersen’s book, “Habits of Health,” to lead and guide individuals to understand the body’s mechanism regarding food.

Learn more about the class from Craig Blanchette in this YouTube video.




Join us

October 2, 16, 23; November 6, 20; and December 4
6:30 p.m.
SSMO Motherhouse, Conference Room 2AB

Textbook + Workbook = $45

I’m a Trustee, Now What?

Have you recently been named a trustee or executor of a will? Do you know what this entails? Robert LeChevallier of Buckley Law share insights about collecting life insurance policies, assessing your income, and estate tax liabilities and other responsibilities of a trustee.

Join us

Tuesday, Oct. 15
7 p.m.
Valley Catholic High School


Mutual support strengthens

Submitted by Sr. Charlene Herinckx, SSMO Superior General

As in the last several years, the SSMO Community invited the local clergy to join us for sharing, prayer, and dinner.

After some time for small group visiting, each guest was invited to the microphone to share a bit about themselves, where they are serving and any special projects or challenges for which they would like the Sisters to pray this year.

We are always impressed by the great work that the Lord is accomplishing through these priests.  They express their appreciation of our support and the invitation to gather each year.  Impressive also was the fact that some left as quickly as possible after dinner because they had meetings to attend!

May God bless them all!


Home canning is a lost art! Or is it?

Submitted by Sr. Charlene Herinckx, SSMO Superior General


Shelf after shelf in the Sisters’ fruit cellar would indicate that Sr. Jean Marie and her multitude of helpers have the skill down to a science.  Thanks to the generosity of family members and friends, the Community has been blessed again this year with the gift of fresh and healthy food.

The photos speak volumes but the numbers reveal even more about the generous donors and the good Sisters who filled the jars: 440 half-gallon jars of peaches; 47 half-gallons of pears; 80 quarts of tomatoes, green beans and peaches with no sugar added; 126 pints of jam – ten different kinds; and 132 gallons of frozen peaches, rhubarb, boysenberries, marionberries, blueberries, and corn.

As noted by Sr. Jean Marie and her #1 assistant, Sr. Ruth Frank: “Many hands make light work.”  Besides, the laughter coming from the cannery was contagious!

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