Sister Hugh Copenhaver at her 100th birthday celebration.
Sr. Hugh Copenhaver as a novice during the late 1930s.
By Sr. Charlene Herinckx
BEAVERTON — It is not every day — in fact, it is not even every year — that the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon community celebrates the 100th birthday of one of the Sisters.
But celebration was due for the 100th birthday of Sister M. Hugh, who did not, of course, want to be the center of attention. But a noon meal last month was marked with balloons, customized placemats, and a PowerPoint with old family photos.
Alice Catherine Copenhaver was born in Wilbur in eastern Washington on July 11, 1913. She attended elementary and secondary school in Brady, Mont. and worked at the post office in Brady before attending business college for a year in Great Falls, Mont. She entered the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in 1936 and, in time, became known as Sister Mary Hugh.
She taught students in the middle and upper elementary grades and often served as the principal between 1938–1981, with the exception of 1947-57, which she spent recovering in the tuberculosis hospital in Portland. There is nothing weak about her lungs these days.
After a sabbatical year, Sister Hugh worked in a dimension of education — in her home parish in Conrad, Mont. where she served as religious education coordinator and visitor to shut-ins for four years. She continued to serve St. Michael Parish as eucharistic minister, hospital visitor, office assistant, and other tasks as needed, retiring in 2007 when she was 94.
Shortly after the community celebration, Sister Hugh traveled to Conrad to celebrate with her family and to be near her sister Margaret for a few months before returning to Oregon, where the winter weather is much milder than Montana’s. As she left for for Montana, she could be distinguished as the one wearing high heels.
The writer is superior general of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.