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9/8/2012 9:35:00 AM
Benedictine women mark milestones

MOUNT ANGEL — Three Benedictine Sisters this summer celebrated golden jubilees at Queen of Angels Monastery here, and one sister celebrated her silver jubilee.

Rebecca Pirkl, Sister Alice Ann Schaefer and Sister René Foster all celebrated the 50th anniversary of their monastic professions, while Sister Jo Morton marked 25 years as a Benedictine.  

Sister Rebecca Pirkl was born in her grandparents' house in Hubbard in 1942 and grew up on her family's farm near Yoder with her parents and three sisters. She attended high school at Mount Angel Academy and entered the Benedictine Sisters' community shortly after her high school graduation. Sister Rebecca earned a bachelor's degree from Mount Angel College, a master's degree in education from the University of Oregon, and a school administrator's credential from Portland State University.

Sister Rebecca began her ministry as a teacher at St. Edward's in Lebanon and went on to serve as a teacher and principal in parochial schools in Oregon City, St. Paul and Arcadia, Calif. After nearly 30 years of serving in schools, Sister Rebecca began ministering in hospitality settings. She worked at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Portland, and then spent 13 years at Salishan Lodge and the Inn at Spanish Head on the Oregon Coast.

In 2011, Sister Rebecca returned to Mount Angel, and, soon after, joined the staff of Shalom Prayer Center at Queen of Angels Monastery, where she serves as hostess.
"The time has gone quickly," Sister Rebecca said about her 50-year milestone. "I feel very blessed to be a part of this Benedictine community."

Sister Alice Ann Schaefer was born in Hoven, S.D. in 1934, the second youngest of six children. She attended Mount Marty College in Yankton, S.D., became certified as a teacher, and earned her undergraduate degree in 1958. She moved to Oregon, and found a teaching job at St. John the Apostle School in Oregon City, where she became acquainted with the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel. Two years later, she entered the sisters' community, and almost immediately began teaching at St. Mary School in Mount Angel. She later taught in parochial schools in Woodburn, Lebanon, and Albany. During summer vacations, Sister Alice Ann taught religious education classes in various locations around the state. Later, she served for 18 years as the religious education coordinator at St. Mary Parish in Mount Angel.

Her life-long love of music and aptitude for it led her to serve as music and liturgy coordinator for her community for more than 10 years. Though now retired from outside ministry, Sister Alice Ann has served as eucharistic minister at the Providence Benedictine Orchard House and regularly handles the monastery switchboard.  

"If the Lord is calling you to religious life, it is really a good life," Sister Alice Ann said. "I always feel I am on the way to the kingdom, to the promised land, ready to hold the hands of my community members on the journey."

Sister René Foster was born in Denver, Colo. in 1942, and moved to Oregon with her mother at age 10. Sister René met the Benedictine Sisters through catechism classes she attended in Lebanon, and she attended Mount Angel Academy as a high school student. She entered the Sisters of St. Mary in Oregon in 1960 and made her religious profession in 1962. She later transferred her vows to the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel.

Sister René earned her undergraduate degree at Marylhurst and her master's degree in library science from the University of Portland. She served as a teacher and a librarian for several years before studying accounting and investing, and moving into the financial services field.

After working as a bookkeeper for the Benedictine Nursing Center for five years, Sister René was employed by a mutual fund company and an investment firm. She also worked in the trust department of U.S. Bank before the effects of rheumatoid arthritis forced her to retire at the age of 50.

Sister René said she is profoundly grateful for the security and stability provided by her community.  "I have a strong belief in the Providence of God, and have witnessed how God always provides what is needed."

The youngest of eight children, Sister Jo Morton was born in Hamon, Oklahoma in 1931. She was raised in Central Oregon from the age of five, and attended Redmond High School. After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Oregon, Sister Jo was commissioned in the United States Air Force. She served her country in the Air Force for 10 years before resigning and returning to school.

After earning a masters in social work degree in 1974 from Portland State University, Sister Jo worked for the Children's Services Division and a treatment center for emotionally disturbed children.

She became acquainted with the Benedictine Sisters by attending retreats and workshops at Shalom Prayer Center. She entered the community in 1985 and made first profession in 1987. Sister Jo then began an active 20-year-long ministry as a counselor and retreat leader at Shalom. In 2007 she was appointed assistant to the prioress, and has continued to serve her community in that role for the past five years.

Now 80, Sister Jo said, "I came here at age 53 and have lived here longer than I have any other place in my whole life. When I first came here I wasn't even a Catholic, but this place grabbed me and I wished I could be buried in the sisters' cemetery. But not right away."

The Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel were established in Oregon in 1882. At present, the sisters have 39 professed members and 80 lay oblates.

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