A Timeline of Our History: An Overview

Pre-Foundation Roots (1840s through 1880s)

Note: References to “Sisters” prior to the official founding of the Community include those who had left the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Ohio and the young women who aspired to be Sisters.


  • Missionaries of the Precious Blood arrived in Ohio under the leadership of Fr. Francis Brunner.


  • Fr. Joseph Albrecht was ordained.


  • A dispute within the Precious Blood community (the co-called “Hoop Skirt Incident”) led to Father  Albrecht leaving Ohio with a group of parishioners, Sisters and Brothers.

October 1866 to August 1867 

  • Sisters stay in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, with the Oschwald Sisters. Three Sisters of the Precious Blood decided to remain there and eventually became the foundresses of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc.


  • A settlement, which included Fr. Albrecht, parishioners, Sisters and Brothers, was established in Rush Lake, Minnesota.

1880s and 1890s

March 4, 1884

  • Father Albrecht died, leaving two hostile camps in the parish.

July 24, 1884

  • Father Albrecht’s body was secretly concealed inside a large packing case and loaded onto a train bound for Oregon with 79 members of the community.

July 31, 1884

  • The settlers arrived at Union Station in Portland, Oregon, then continued on to Jordan, Oregon.

June 21, 1885

  • Father Wernher Ruettimann, OSB, offered Mass to the community in Jordan.

August 1885

  • Archbishop William H. Gross met with the Sisters. After telling them that they were not religious women in the eyes of the church, he asked them to “be my Sisters and help me with my work.”

Pentecost Eve, 1886

  • A confrontation with the trustees of the settlers resulted in several Sisters leaving Jordan and staying with the Benedictine monks in Mt. Angel. Other Sisters remained in Jordan.

August 14, 1886

  • Two Sisters (Emma Bleily and Catherine Eifert) moved from Mt. Angel to Mariazell Convent in Sublimity. Others joined them in September and October.

March 25, 1887

  • First Profession of Sisters: Benedict Arnold, Wilhelmina (Emma) Bleily, Cecilia Boedigheimer, Josephine Eifert and Clara Hauck.
  • Reception as Novices of Sisters: Aloysius Bender, Rose Eifert, Magdalene Giebler, Gertrude Silbernagel and Johanna Silbernagel.
  • Sister Wilhelmina (Emma) Bleily) was elected the first Superior General.

September 1888

  • Education ministry began at St. Boniface in Sublimity.
  • Mother Wilhelmina and Sister Cecilia went on what was called a “begging trip” to the East Coast and Midwest.


  • Archbishop Gross began construction of St. Mary’s Orphanage in Beaverton.


  • Mother Ludmilla Langenbach and Sr. Melania Wald, Precious Blood Sisters from O’Fallon, Missouri, arrived to guide the new group in the ways of religious life.


  • Ministry began in Verboort (January) and at St. Mary’s Orphanage (March).
  • In June, all but three Sisters, including the novices, were moved from Sublimity to Beaverton to help at the Orphanage.


  • Seven-and-a-half acres just east of the orphanage property were purchased for the purpose of building a Motherhouse.
  • During the 1890s, the Sisters and the orphans harvested onions to sell at a local farmer’s market.


  • The Sisters’ first Motherhouse was built. Archbishop Gross dedicated the Motherhouse to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

January 11, 1897

  • The death of Sr. Josephine Eifert marked the first passing of a member of the SSMO Community.

November 14, 1898

  • Archbishop William H. Gross, CSsR, died in Baltimore.


  • Archbishop Alexander Christie named to head the Archdiocese of Oregon City.

1900s and 1910s


  • Mother Theresa required that English become the official language used by the Community.

January 1903

  • St. Mary’s Academy (later known as St. Mary’s Institute) opened its doors, serving boys and girls. In 1905, due to high demand, the school became an all-girls institution.

January 23, 1903

  • Mother Theresa Heuberger arranged the purchase of 60 acres south of the railroad tracks in Beaverton for $4,000. Today, that land is the site of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Motherhouse and campus.

February 27, 1905

  • The Community decided to build a west wing on the Motherhouse.

August 22, 1905

Lasting decisions made at a Chapter meeting included:

  • The Community’s name (Sisters of the Most Precious Blood) was changed to Sisters of St. Mary;
  • St. Mary’s Academy became St. Mary’s Institute;
  • Red cinctures of the habit were exchanged for black ones.

July 6, 1906

  • The chapel in the new West Wing of the Motherhouse was dedicated.


  • When the Spanish Flu ravaged the country, Sisters Agnes and Alexia O’Rourke ministered to the needs of the parishioners in Verboort.

1920s and 1930s


  • Though none of the Sisters knew how to drive, Mother Juliana bought a car.
  • Between 1919 and 1929, 19 Sisters died of various causes. They ranged in age from 16 to 64. The average age was 40.


  • Oregon’s Compulsory School Law passed, threatening the demise of private schools. The law was repealed by U.S. Supreme Court in 1926.


  • Oregon’s “Garb Law” was passed, resulting in Sisters not being able to draw significant salaries as employees of the “public” school system in various Catholic areas.


  • Community Constitutions received the Decree of Praise from Rome; it was at this time that the Congregation for Religious in Rome added “of Oregon” to the name of the Community.  This addition was used only in canonical documents until the 1950s when it was added by decision of the Council.


  • Construction was begun and completed on the new Motherhouse and school building. St. Mary’s Institute became St. Mary of the Valley.


  • The final Approbation of the SSMO Constitutions was received, creating a Papal Institute.


  • The new chapel was completed in the SSMO Motherhouse.


  • The Golden Jubilee of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon was celebrated with a pageant at Benton Polytechnic High School. Produced and directed by Sr. Eugenia Eberhard, the pageant featured students from all the schools in which the Sisters taught.

1940s and 1950s


  • The Sisters purchased property from Eddie Vancoelen to be developed into Villa Maria.


  • James Kinch – the father of Sr. Delores Kinch – built the “park house” in Villa Maria.


  • The east wing of the Motherhouse was completed.


  • The Community withdrew from ministry at St. Mary’s Home for Boys.
  • The first television was purchased and placed in the school auditorium.


  • The Community purchased a bus to bring students to St. Mary of the Valley Academy.


  • Sister Imelda Vandehey received the Pope Pius X medal for her ministry in religious education. It was the first of two papal recognitions for Sister Imelda, who received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal in 1959 for her service to the Church.


  • The Sisters began teaching their first ministry beyond Oregon, teaching at Saint Mary and Saint Peter Schools in Spokane, Washington.


  • Installation of the cafeteria unit and a room for dishwashing simplified meal service.

1960s and 1970s


  • A lay Board of Advisors was established.


  • The first modification of the habit was approved.


  • Maryville Nursing Home was built and dedicated.  Sister Joseph Terhaar was named the first administrator.


  • In 1966, the Community which had its origins in Europe entered into their first foreign mission work. After four months studying Spanish at Cuernavaca, Mexico, four Sisters began their ministry in January 1967. In the jungle at Tamshiyacu, Peru, located some 3,000 miles from the mouth of the Amazon River, the Sisters taught students and educated teachers.


  • Archbishop Edward D. Howard retired and lived on campus.
  • Murray Blvd. was created, running through the Sisters’ property.


  • A new  building for St. Mary of the Valley Academy was completed. Students helped move furniture and fixtures during Thanksgiving break. The school became known as St. Mary of the Valley High School.


  • The relocation of the SSMO Cemetery from the former Motherhouse location to its present location was completed.

1980s and 1990s


  • The Development Office was established to support the Sisters and their ministries.


  • Boys were admitted to the elementary school for the first time since 1905.
  • Fr. Louis Urbanski became the first non-SSMO principal of the St. Mary of the Valley High School.


  • The SSMO Community celebrated its centennial, which culminated in a Liturgy at the University of Portland.
  • As part of the centennial celebration, Fr. Wilfred Schoenberg, S.J., wrote “These Valiant Women.”


  • The Sisters attended their first computer class, taught by Dick Hermens.


  • Revised Constitutions were approved.


  • Our Lady of Lourdes Convent on campus became the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Formation House until 1997, when it became the Discernment House.


  • The Motherhouse was renovated to improve the infirmary facilities, consolidate libraries, and move administration offices to the second floor.


  • Bethany Center founded to provide opportunities for spiritual growth and lifelong learning.
  • The SSMO Associate Program was approved by the chapter.


  • Little Flower Development Center (now known as Valley Catholic Early Learning School) was opened.  RoseMary Zoucha was the first director.
  • At the first covenant ceremony,the SSMO Associate Program welcomed 22 members.
  • In fall 1991, the high school became coeducational. Its name was changed to Valley Catholic High School.


  • St. Mary’s Drive was added to the campus.


  • The SSMO Community leased land to the Archdiocese of Portland for the construction of St. John Vianney Residence for retired clergy of the Archdiocese.


  • Holy Spirit Sisters came to the United States from Tanzania. They resided at the Motherhouse until 2001.


  • The Sisters held their first General Chapter meeting with full participation rather than delegates.


  • Jean Bomber became the first lay principal of the St. Mary of the Valley Grade School.
  • All libraries on campus were connected electronically as the result of a grant from the E. L. Wiegand Foundation.

2000s and 2010s


  • Kathleen Parry became the first lay administrator of Maryville Nursing Home.


  • Campus ministries became separately incorporated under the title: SSMO Ministries Corporation. Sr. Adele Marie Altenhofen became the first president of the SSMO Ministries Corporation.
  • A new athletic center and all-weather track were dedicated at Valley Catholic High School.


  • All levels of education on the campus (pre-kindergarten through grade 12) were unified as Valley Catholic School


  • Groundbreaking was held – and construction began – for a new school building for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.


  • Dedication ceremonies were held for the new Valley Catholic Elementary School and Middle School building, which earned LEED gold certification.


  • The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon observed their 125th Jubilee with events and social justice projects.


  • Maryville celebrated its 50th anniversary.
  • The addition of lights on the Valley Catholic athletic field allowed the school to host its first nighttime football game and other sports.


  • Groundbreaking was held for a new unit at Maryville for adults who need high-quality, short-term rehabilitation.
  • Upgrades to the Valley Catholic athletics included installation of a synthetic turf field and the addition of  a grandstand, press box and the Baek Family Field House, which houses a team room, lockers, a training room and concessions.


  • Maryville dedicated its new south unit and therapy courtyard.
  • Enhancements to Valley Catholic High School’s Kelly Auditorium included 350 new seats and carpeting, an enhanced sound system and acoustics, lighting, fresh paint, grand curtain and rigging, removable stage thrust with recessed risers plus stagecraft, storage, dressing and makeup areas.


  • A dedication ceremony was held for the new Valley Catholic science building.