BEAVERTON — As they processed in for their 125th Jubilee Mass, the Sisters of the St. Mary of Oregon were accompanied by ancestors of the women who founded their community in Sublimity in 1886.
These sisters pioneered what is still today the only religious community founded in Oregon.
“Today we look around and see you, our family and friends, standing shoulder to shoulder,” said Sister Charlene Herinckx, SSMO superior, as she welcomed several hundred people who attended the celebration Sunday at the Valley Catholic Athletic Center. For supporters of the community, this was the culminating event of a yearlong celebration, marking the community’s 125 years of living out their mission in Oregon. The Mass, celebrated by Archbishop John Vlazny, took place on the Feast of the Annunciation, when angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive and be the mother of Jesus, the son of God. “She accepted God’s call without protest,” the archbishop said during his homily. Though Mary struggled at times to understand his plan, she had great trust in the Lord, he said.
“For 125 years, you my dear sisters, have followed that courageous example in all that you do,” Archbishop Vlazny said. In an era when choosing religious life could be considered “counter-culture,” the sisters listen to God’s call to make a difference and be a light, especially during hard times, the archbishop said.
“You stay because you really and truly believe gospel values can make a difference in our sometimes bleak world today,” he said.
During the liturgy, the Sisters renewed their vows, pledging chastity, poverty and obedience forever.
After the Mass, visitors greeted one another and shared stories at a reception. The day was the culmination of many hours of planning for Sisters serving on the 125th Jubilee, the 125th Liturgy and the Reception committees.
“The combined effort of everybody doing their parts made this day so special for us,” Sister Charlene said. “Everyone was so appreciative of the celebration. People were so gracious and loving to us. It was a great day.”
In 1894, the first motherhouse in Beaverton was built just north and west of the current location. The 43-acre campus is where the Sisters turn faith into action by providing education for infant through high school-aged children at Valley Catholic School. They serve older members of the community by offering adult educational opportunities at the Bethany Center and by caring for the residents at the Maryville Nursing Home.
The Sisters also have taught at schools all over western Oregon and served in parishes and even a homeless shelter.
For the community, the yearlong celebration concludes in late April, when 26 sisters will travel to Sacramento for the Women and Spirit Exhibit, a history of Catholic sisters in the United States.