She has just won the highest honor a layperson can receive from the pope. But Sister Krista von Borstel is intent not on accolades but on improving the lives of children. If she's done anything worthy of an award, she insists with a bit of embarrassment, it's because of all the people she relies on for help.
"I am really fortunate to be surrounded by great staff and volunteers, the boards and commissions and the sisters I live with," says Sister Krista, executive director of Oregon's Catholic Youth Organization and Camp Howard.
The award, translated “For Church and Pope” is also known as the “Cross of Honor.” It’s given for distinguished service to the church.
Archbishop John Vlazny, in announcing the award, noted that CYO/Camp Howard is “an amazing enterprise in the service of young people across the greater Portland Metropolitan area.” Sister Krista is also a member of the leadership team for the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, who are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year.
Sister Krista was born in 1956 in Sherman County in eastern Oregon. She was a young athlete who also knew how to handle herself on a farm.
She's been a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon for 25 years and held the top job at CYO for 15 years. Last summer more than 1,400 youngsters went to Camp Howard for week-long activities. CYO sponsors large sports leagues, teaches leadership and sportsmanship and holds monthly dances for Catholic school youths.
Before each CYO volleyball, basketball, lacrosse or football game or before each swim, track or cheerleading meet, a student athlete reads a prayer. Then a parent stands before the crowd and reads the CYO code of conduct for athletes and fans.
“Kids learn Gospel values just by being members of a team,” Sister Krista once told the Catholic Sentinel. “And by learning gracious winning and gracious losing.”
Sister Krista aims to keep everyone involved aware of CYO’s ultimate mission. If it weren’t for Christ, she says, there wouldn’t be any Catholic schools and there wouldn’t be any CYO.
"The philosophy of CYO is a great philosophy," she says. "In CYO you still want to win and you strive to win but you take into consideration other things as well. You realize it's for all the kids to have an opportunity and we value kids, no matter what team they're on. The world is so full of negativity, it's really refreshing to see CYO coaches and athletes strive to do it well."
She reports that some families come back to the church as a result of playing sports and building relationships with other parents.
"The world needs the philosophy of CYO," Sister Krista says, "just to make it a better world."