In the tradition of the Catholic Church, the word “Jubilee” is used to designate an anniversary year. In 2017, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) will honor six Sisters who have given 350 years of service and ministry.
Sr. Clare Vandecoevering will celebrate her 70th Jubilee. Sr. Paula Fox, Sr. Marianne Giesel and Sr. Sharon Kirk will be honored for 60 years of service. Sr. Charlene Herinckx and Sr. Patricia Marie Landin will celebrate their 50th Jubilees.
The Jubilarians will be honored during a Mass and reception on Sunday, July 30, 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. Additional information about the 2017 Jubilarians is available on the Sisters’ website.
Sister Charlene Herinckx, Superior General of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, is among those being honored this year. She said, “A Sister’s Jubilee celebration is an exciting milestone on her journey. It is an opportunity to recognize these Sisters and express our gratitude for their years of prayer, service and commitment.”
She added, “The 2017 Jubilarians have served the community with joy and compassion over decades. They have taught at our campus school and at schools across the Pacific Northwest. They have provided care for those in need and supported other Sisters in their ministries. Through their 350 years of service, Sr. Clare, Sr. Paula, Sr. Marianne, Sr. Sharon and Sr. Patricia Marie have made a difference in thousands of lives. I am honored to be celebrating my Jubilee with them.”
The 2017 SSMO Jubilarians
Verboort, Oregon, holds a special place in Sr. Clare Vandecoevering’s heart. One of 14 children, she was born in Verboort, went to school there, and spent much of her ministry there after joining the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Community. A graduate of Marylhurst with a bachelor’s degree in education, Sr. Clare continued her studies at Bozeman State University, Portland State University and Mt. Angel Seminary. She taught elementary school, religious education and adult education from Grand Ronde to Portland to Tillamook. Two of her younger sisters also joined the SSMO Community. Sr. Clare, Sr. Agnes Marie and Sr. Anne Vandecoevering lived at Visitation Convent at various times from the 1980s through 2015, when Sr. Clare returned to the SSMO Motherhouse. Sr. Agnes Marie and Sr. Anne returned in 2017. Sr. Clare and her sisters are much loved volunteers at the annual Verboort Sausage and Sauerkraut Dinner, which supports Visitation Catholic Church and Visitation Catholic School, where all three of the Sisters Vandecoevering served.
Sr. Clare Vandecoevering said, “As a second-grader, I wanted to be a Sister.” She added, “I wanted to go to St. Mary’s for school, but we had a large family and finances were very limited. However, at the beginning of my junior year, I was accepted into the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. God is so good!”
Born and raised in South Dakota, Sr. Paula Fox has said, “I had heard in a sermon or read somewhere that all are called to give back to God all the good we could produce but it seemed that God and I were playing hide and seek; He was hiding and I was seeking His Will.” She added, “I found God’s Will for me as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon. I am most grateful to God for His goodness in allowing me to know and share the life, love, and joy I have found here.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in education at Mount Angel, Sr. Paula continued her studies at the University of Portland and earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. She was a teacher and principal at schools in Beaverton, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Stayton. She has said, “I taught in a public school as a religious; taught in a public school as a layperson; taught in a Catholic school as a layperson and in Catholic schools as a religious.” She added, “Those experiences were very valuable. They gave me a frame of reference and balance that has guided me through the years.”
Born in Minnesota, Sr. Marianne Giesel attended Verboort High School and Beaverton Union School before graduating from St. Mary of the Valley (now Valley Catholic) High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Marylhurst, then continued her studies at Alverno College in Wisconsin and in the master’s program at Portland State University. Sr. Marianne was a teacher, vice principal and principal at schools in Gervais, Milwaukee, Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Sublimity. She continued her service on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus, where she has been a prayer partner to third-grade students at Valley Catholic Elementary School and held weekly visits with seventh-grade students from Valley Catholic Middle School. She has also been a teacher in the English for Speakers of Other Languages classes for adults on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus.
“Visiting with a group of seventh-graders each Monday is a highlight of my week,” she said. “I teach them calligraphy and enjoy their delight as they create their own cards. I share photos and memories of my family, my calling to be a Sister, and our Community’s history.”
Sr. Sharon Kirk was born in Newberg, Oregon, but grew up in nearby St. Paul. After graduating from St. Mary of the Valley High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Marylhurst. She earned a master of studies degree in education from Portland State University and a master’s degree in administration from the University of San Francisco. Sr. Sharon taught elementary school for 20 years and served as a principal for 15 years at schools across Oregon and Washington. She served as the motherhouse administrator for the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, was a registrar for the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) and was a recorder in the education department at the University of Portland.
When asked what stands out in her life as the greatest blessing, she cites her work at Women’s Intercommunity Aids Resource (WIAR) from August 1998 through May 2000. WIAR clients speak of Sr. Sharon serving them with warmth and compassion, remembering their personal stories and making them feel supported and loved.
The 2017 recipient of the University of Portland’s Christus Magister Medal, Sr. Charlene Herinckx is Superior General of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. Sr. Charlene Herinckx was raised in Roy, Oregon, a small community near the Tualatin Valley, where the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon began teaching in 1912.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Marylhurst University, Sr. Charlene earned a master’s degree in education at the University of Portland and a second master’s degree from the University of San Francisco. A teacher and principal at schools in Beaverton, Milwaukie and Spokane, she also served at the National Religious Vocation Conference office in Chicago. A respected historian for the SSMO community, she was elected as superior general in 2010 and reelected in 2015. She is past president of the Oregon Catholic Historical Society and a member of the Northwest Association of Bishops and Religious Superiors.
She said, “Every time we accept a new candidate into the Community, I have the excuse to present the amazing story of our founding one more time. This research has extended to presentations on the history of religious life and the history of the Archdiocese of Portland.” She added, “I recall thinking at one time that I might be a high school history teacher. Instead the classroom has been in unforeseen locations.”
After growing up in Seattle, St. Patricia Marie Landin found that the first steps in her spiritual journey took her to the Tacoma Dominicans. When she left due to health reasons nearly two years later, the path diverged. She attended summer school at Edison Technological Institute, learning typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and accounting. She worked at a nurse’s aide at a nursing home, was employed by a sorority on the University of Washington campus and worked for Northwest Airlines. In 1967, her path brought her to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. At Portland Community College, she studied to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and served as a charge nurse at Maryville on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus. After become a certified chaplain, she served as chaplain at Providence Medical Center in Medford.
She said, “As a person dedicated to God and a life of prayer there are continuous and extraordinary events in every single day. I have been in healthcare ministry all of my religious life, first as a nurse, and then as a chaplain.” She added, “Daily Mass and prayer allow me to grow in relationship with God and others – both inside and outside our Community.”
The 2017 Jubilarians are profiled in the spring-summer 2017 issue of Spirit magazine.