St. Charles Parish
Sr. Phyllis Jaszkowiak says a good relationship between priest and lay leaders can help a parish thrive. She led the administration of St. Charles Parish in Portland before retiring this summer. 

St. Charles Parish

Sr. Phyllis Jaszkowiak says a good relationship between priest and lay leaders can help a parish thrive. She led the administration of St. Charles Parish in Portland before retiring this summer. 

A good partnership between priests and lay ecclesial ministers can help both thrive in their proper roles, says an Oregon nun retiring after decades in parish leadership. 

Holy Names Sister Phyllis Jaszkowiak, 72, served at St. Charles Parish in Northeast Portland as pastoral administrator, meaning she oversaw administrative tasks at the church while a priest led sacramental ministry. 

“I think it’s a good model,” said Sister Phyllis, who will remain a member of St. Charles, where she has served for 12 years. “It engages the lay folks who have leadership potential and leadership qualities. Some great priests are not necessarily great administrators. This model can free them up to be priests for the people.” 

“Gaudium et Spes,” a document from the Second Vatican Council, said it is the task of lay people to “see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city” and that they should look to priests for “spiritual light and nourishment.”

For Sister Phyllis, that means let the laity lead where they can. 

“Some lay people are good at making a parish grow,” she says. “If there is a priest and pastoral administrator or pastoral associate and they are a good team, the parish can really bloom. All the gifts get used. It gives time for the staff and pastor not just to work in the parish but in the community.” 

Sister Phyllis professed vows at Marylhurst in 1970. She earned a master’s degree in social work then taught at the Christie School for children with emotional trauma and then at Assumption and Holy Redeemer schools. 

It was not long before she felt drawn to parish ministry. She was hired to coordinate family life ministry at St. Henry in Gresham and also worked as treasurer for the Holy Names Sisters. She studied nonprofit business management at Notre Dame.  

St. Charles is in the Cully Neighborhood, which includes poverty, stable long timers and now gentrification. Sister Phyllis likes the improvements, but sees that higher rents are forcing out some residents. She has spoken up against the closure of nearby mobile home parks. 

“We are trying to keep part of the place affordable,” she says. “We don’t need more homeless people.”

Sister Phyllis put ideas into action, including summer days when parishioners would gather for early morning prayer and then walk to someone’s house for learning and conversation. The events were called backyard retreats.

The Hispanic community in Cully is growing and St. Charles is a hub of their faith and social life. Latinos recently held a carnival and raised $1,200 for brick work on the church. 

Sister Phyllis is optimistic about the future of St. Charles and it’s in large part because of the cooperation of about a dozen different cultures. 

“We are integrating, but not getting rid of the differences we have,” she says. “The differences give us color.” 

Parishioners are glad Sister Phyllis will remain a part of the community. 

“I think of her just having a quiet strength,” says Barbara Hays, a longtime parishioner and former staff member. “She has the ability to quietly lead things and she has the confidence of so many people.” Hays calls Sister Phyllis “a woman of peace and justice.”

“What I appreciate most about her is that she encourages people to grow,” says Marianne Mauldin, a parish volunteer. “She shares power.”