Building for the future
Since the earliest days of their Community, the Sisters have been teachers. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, they also became students.
Under the leadership of Mother Genevieve Vandervelden, the Sisters were encouraged to pursue higher education on their campus and at colleges and universities. Mount Angel College established extension courses at St. Mary of the Valley. Marylhurst College of the Sisters of the Holy Names (now Marylhurst University) offered classes at the Motherhouse.
The Sisters also took part in extension classes from Gonzaga University in Spokane, a city which holds a special place in the Sisters’ history.
Teaching beyond Oregon
Early in 1955, Bishop Charles White of the Diocese of Spokane asked Mother Colette Lorch if the Sisters would consider teaching outside of Oregon. After Bishop White’s death, his successor – Bishop Bernard J. Topel – took up the request.
Traveling by car and by train – and with support from Archbishop Edward Howard in Portland – two groups of Sisters traveled to Spokane in Aug. 1958 to teach at two parish schools: St. Mary’s and St. Peter’s.
From “Villa Maria” to Rome
In 1946, the Sisters purchased property to create “Villa Maria,” a parklike setting on the campus. Leo James Kinch – the father of Sr. Rose Dolores Kinch – built the house that is now known as “The Villa.”
On June 26, 1950, in Hoboken, New Jersey, 16 Sisters boarded a ship and sailed across the Atlantic. They visited Dublin, London, Paris and Turin. On July 21, they arrived in Rome to take part in the 1950 Holy Year Pilgrimage.
Growth and a goodbye
Described as a visionary who worked tirelessly, Mother Colette Lorch served two terms as Mother General. The accomplishments of the Sisters during that time were significant.
Over a 10-year period, the Motherhouse was completed and updated. An electric stove and steam cookers replaced a gas stove in the kitchen. There were new washers and dryers. An irrigation system was added so that water from the Sisters’ deep well could irrigate the lawns and the convent garden.
A mortgage of $200,000 allowed the Sisters to finally build the new wing on the east side of the Motherhouse in the early 1950s. Max P. Williams and John K. Smeed were the architects.
Mother Colette requested a five-story structure with 75 single rooms and an infirmary – plus community rooms on the second floor – and a bakery, deep freeze lockers and storage rooms on the ground floor.
To attract more Sisters, the Community established an aspirancy program and a vocational promotion plan. The results were impressive. According to a report from Mother Colette, the size of the Community grew from 195 in 1954 to 243 in 1960.
Mother Colette’s term also marked the conclusion of an important piece of the Sisters’ history.
In consultation with Archbishop Edward Howard of the Archdiocese of Portland and the Apostolic nuncio (the official representative of the Holy See) in Washington, D.C., and after discussions with the Community, Mother Colette withdrew the Sisters from St. Mary’s Home for Boys.
On June 16, 1953, the Sisters left the home for the last time.
In her final report to the Sisters, she spoke with hope about the future of the Community. She concluded by saying, “May we all meet at God’s throne as Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.”