Agnes Onkka and Sr. Angela Aldi pose with teapots during the annual tea party benefit for Our Lady of Peace Retreat House. Onkka helped begin the tea tradition and donated items for the parties. Sr. Angela chooses the menu and leads the kitchen crew.
Agnes Onkka and Sr. Angela Aldi pose with teapots during the annual tea party benefit for Our Lady of Peace Retreat House. Onkka helped begin the tea tradition and donated items for the parties. Sr. Angela chooses the menu and leads the kitchen crew.

BEAVERTON — Usually a noble and simple hub of prayer and reflection, Our Lady of Peace Retreat House went genteel for a few hours Feb. 2. Bows, linen tablecloths, tea towers and doilies galore adorned dozens of tables for a tea party and auction to benefit the ministry.

The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, who have run the retreat ministry since it opened in 1954, thanked supporters at every turn. “Your love, your support, your faith, your prayers — without you, we wouldn’t even have a retreat house,” Sister Louismarie Premazzi told the crowd.

The tea has raised tens of thousands of dollars each year. Recent improvements at Our Lady of Peace include new pavement in the parking lot and a Marian prayer garden. A chapel renovation is due for completion by month’s end. The chapel project hit upon surprises, including asbestos in the old flooring, heating problems and a plumbing leak.

Agnes Onkka, a longtime member of Holy Trinity Parish, helped the sisters begin the annual tea. She donated hundreds of tea plates, cups and aprons and buys the door prizes. An apostle of Catholic tea parties, Onkka has marshaled similar if smaller events at Beaverton parishes and has supplied benefit tea parties in places like Hillsboro and Astoria.

“The Our Lady of Peace Retreat House Tea event is not just a fund-raiser, but also a significant community-building event within the Catholic community, including parishioners from many parishes,” said Onkka, who fell for the tradition of afternoon tea more than 40 years ago on a bicycle trek in Ireland.

Each tea is held in honor of a Marian apparition. This year, the focus was Lourdes, with a video about the apparition and the great outpouring of faith that is still present in the French town.

The menu included salad, smoked salmon, sandwiches with crusts removed, grilled shrimp, scones and cookies. Volunteers diligently kept teacups full.    

“My heart goes out to all the volunteers,” said the Franciscans’ superior, Sister Anne Marie Warren, prompting a burst of applause from teagoers.

Leading the busy and efficient kitchen crew was Sister Angela Aldi, who, along with her assistant Kim Yozamp from St. John Parish in Yamhill, decided on the menu.

Sister Agnes Clare Navarra managed food and tea service in the dining room. Among the servers in crisp matching lace aprons were members of the Franciscan Girls, a spiritual and service club organized by the sisters. 

“It gets more elegant each year,” said Franciscan Sister Maria Benedicta Hemminger.

Ken Canedo, liturgical composer and music minister at Holy Trinity, provided the background music and was also the pianist who accompanied Jeanne Enslow, lyric soprano and music teacher at Holy Trinity School for 20 years.

The tea party team also included John Malek, Carolyn Callaghan, Jossie Torres-Jurado, Mariza Funez, Martin Cruz, Joan Koessler, Gerry Delaney, George and Kathy Reis, Josephine Becker and Alecia Spiering.