Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Elizabeth Zimmerman spends a moment with her mother Marjorie Spoelstra at Martha & Mary Home.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Elizabeth Zimmerman spends a moment with her mother Marjorie Spoelstra at Martha & Mary Home.
Now that Portland's Martha & Mary Ministries has a hospice established in a homey Southeast Portland house, energies are turning toward teaching the public about care and decision-making at the end of life.

The movement began in the late 1990s when Oregon legalized assisted suicide. A group of Catholics wanted to show that compassion, attention and care were a good option to lethal prescriptions.

Speakers from the organization are now available to visit parishes and other groups to give presentations on advance health care directives, church teaching and resources for those approaching death.

"We are really working to make a connection on education," says Patricia Cary, founder and executive director of Martha & Mary Ministries. "We want to be an ongoing resource to help community groups explore the end of life."

About 80 volunteers and a board of directors make the ministry possible. The light-filled house is not far from Holy Family Parish. Because it's small, the ministry can give residents a lot of personal attention.

"The model here is fantastic," says Mary Fleury, a Providence hospice nurse who works part time at Mary & Martha Home. "The care patients get here is wonderful. It's collaborative and it's very personal, individual care."

The house includes a chapel, complete with icon of the gospel characters Martha and Mary serving Jesus in their different ways — giving the Lord food and drink and sitting at his feet to listen.

Archbishop John Vlazny blessed the chapel this summer.