Sr. Rae Skinner
Sr. Rae Skinner
In much of the country, summer is rodeo time — and rodeo queen time. In the 1930s, a skillful ranch girl from Jordan Valley was not only queen of the Caldwell Rodeo in Idaho, but was discerning religious life.

Holy Names Sister Rae Skinner (known as Sister Elizabeth Maureen for decades) died in 2013 at age 90. There was always a little of the cowgirl left in her.

She grew up on the locally famous Skinner Ranch, which has roots reaching into the 1870s. At 15, she was chosen as queen of the Caldwell Rodeo and by age 17 was riding in Madison Square Garden in New York in the rodeo troupe of master cowboy singer Gene Autry.

The fame was fun, but young Rae had a higher calling. After graduating from Jordan Valley High School, she spent a year at Marylhurst College in Lake Oswego. There, in the fall of 1941, she was a freshman honors student who joined the Sodality of Mary, a faith-based guild. As a sophomore, she was elected class officer and also played the role of a hapless suitor in an all-women Marylhurst Chinese drama.

She entered the Holy Names novitiate in 1942 and received the habit the following year with two dozen other young women.

In his homily for the occasion, Father Francis Schaefers assured the parents of the women that they were not losing daughters because “the closer our union is with Christ, the closer we are to one another.”

As Sister Elizabeth Maureen, she taught middle grades at Sacred Heart in Medford, St. Joseph in Salem, St. Mary in Eugene, and Holy Redeemer and The Madeleine in Portland. Later a principal, she served in that capacity at St. Peter in Southeast Portland, and St. Vincent and St. Joseph in Salem.

In 1970, she was one of five Catholic educators to meet with Oregon lawmakers on the relationship between private and public schools. One of her constant themes was ahead of its time: closer collaboration between laity and religious communities.

She spent six years in administration for the Oregon Holy Names province as associate provincial.

In 1981, when a group of sisters became lost in the Columbia River Gorge on a hike, it was not surprising that the outdoorsy Sister Rae joined the search party on foot. There was a happy ending.

Sister Rae directed a training program at Gonzaga University and then entered parish work as an educator, spiritual director and consultant in The Dalles and Milwaukie.

She was longtime director of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. John the Baptist Parish. “It’s the most gratifying work I’ve ever done,” she told the Sentinel when she retired in 2005. “It’s walking with people on their search for God and meaning in their lives.”