Sister Alberta Schwall

In July 2016, Sr. Alberta Schwall will celebrate her 70th Jubilee as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon. We are honored to share her story. Photos from Sr. Alberta’s life and ministry are available in an album on our campus Flickr site.


When I was in the fifth grade, I first began thinking of my future as a religious. However, I knew it would be a long way off as I did not think people had to decide until they were about 21 years of age.

Then when I was in high school, my little brother passed away and I realized we would not be a close-knit family all our lives. I was the third in the family of seven children and I missed my brother very much.

In Sacramento, California, I began investigating religious orders and discovered the Mercy Sisters were mostly nurses. That did not appeal to me at all. A Social Service Sister used to visit us a great deal, and I realized I could never do the things she did, for example, visiting women in prison. Some girls in our parish invited us to visit them in their Catholic school run by the Franciscans. We arrived at 8:00 a.m. and by 10:00 I was ready to leave. They were teachers, but they were entirely too strict to suit me. Next I inquired about the Carmelites, and sleeping on hard beds and getting up for night adoration did not appeal to me. My father said if I joined that order and he could not see my face, he would come to visit with his face covered also.

Finally, I was invited to attend my cousin’s final vows in Beaverton, Oregon. I could not believe they were teachers and could laugh and joke with each other. I felt I could handle this type of living, so when I returned to California, I wrote to the Superior General and asked what I had to do to enter.

That meant resigning from my position as Senior Secretary for the State Department of California and moving to Oregon. This step was taken in February 1946 when I was 21 years old, and I discovered I was the oldest in age in a class of eight. The others were students in the St. Mary of the Valley Academy at the time of their entrance.

As a postulant I was assigned to teach commercial subjects in the high school, and this made me very happy. When I was professed I earned my bachelor’s degree from Marylhurst College. In 1966 I studied at the University of Illinois and received my Master in Education Degree. Upon my return to Oregon, I was appointed principal of St. Mary of the Valley Academy and organized our move into the new St. Mary of the Valley High School in three days, an event I shall never forget.

Later, I moved to St. Matthew School in Hillsboro as principal of the elementary school. I can honestly say I have enjoyed every day of my forty-eight years of school life and I pray daily for all those students I have met during those years.

The moral of the story of life is, “Live one day at a time and enjoy it to the fullest.”