A centennial celebration for “These Valiant Women”
As Emma Bleily climbed into the wagon for the journey from Jordan to Sublimity, she couldn’t have imagined that, 100 years later, her Community would have grown to 156 Sisters and would be honored during a centennial celebration that culminated in a liturgy at the University of Portland.
As part of the centennial observance, Fr. Wilfred Schoenberg, S.J. wrote These Valiant Women, a book that chronicles the struggles and triumphs of the first 100 years of the Sisters’ history.
In a sign of the changing times, Sister Fidelis Kreutzer, who led the Community from 1976 to 1985, asked to remove the word “Mother” from her title.
Another sign of changing times came in 1984. Boys attended classes in the grade school for the first time since 1905.
Community care through faith and action
In the late 1980s, Sister Barbara Jean Laughlin and Sister Noreen Orazio focused on an emerging community need: a resource center where people could come together to learn, talk, listen, contemplate and pray. Established in 1990, Bethany Center continues to offer spiritual retreats, seminars and adult religious education.
During the first half of the 20th century, the number of women in religious communities grew rapidly in the United States. During the second half of the century, as new career paths opened for women in a wide range of professions, the number of women religious began to decline.
The impact could be seen in the Sisters’ schools and at Maryville. With fewer Sisters serving, lay staff members took on new duties.
The Sisters’ Associate Program also welcomed lay men and women – liturgical ministers, social workers, spiritual directors, parents, business people, retirees and more – who are drawn to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon charism and want to share in their mission through faith and service. In 1991, the Sisters welcomed 22 Associates at their first covenant ceremony. By 2016, the number of Associates had grown to 150.
Maryville had become separately incorporated on Dec. 26, 1979, and was now governed by a board of directors. In 1991, Maryville established Little Flower Development Center, now known as Valley Catholic Early Learning School. That same year, the high school accepted boys into their freshman class. Now coed, the school’s name became Valley Catholic High School.
In 1992, St. Mary’s Drive was added to the campus and the Sisters leased land to the Archdiocese of Portland for the construction of St. John Vianney Residence for retired Archdiocese clergy.
In the late 1990s, the Sisters took two steps that were critical to a vibrant future for the Community: initial work on a master plan to address the expansion needs of the Sisters, schools and Maryville and – in 1998 – the establishment of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Foundation.
A new millennium would soon begin.