BEAVERTON — The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon this month honor six women who have given a combined 350 years of ministry.
Sister Clare Vandecoevering will celebrate her 70th jubilee. Sisters Paula Fox, Marianne Giesel and Sharon Kirk will be honored for 60 years of service. Sisters Charlene Herinckx and Patricia Marie Landin will celebrate their 50th jubilees.
The jubilarians will be honored during a Mass and reception on Sunday, July 30, at 1:30 p.m. in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon motherhouse.
“A sister’s jubilee celebration is an exciting milestone on her journey,” says Sister Charlene, who is superior general. “It is an opportunity to recognize these sisters and express our gratitude for their years of prayer, service and commitment.”
The jubilarians have taught at the campus school and at schools across the Pacific Northwest. They have provided care for those in need and supported other sisters in their ministries.
Sr. Clare Vandecoevering
Verboort holds a special place in Sister Clare’s heart. One of 14 children, she was born in Verboort, went to school there, and spent much of her ministry there after joining the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. A graduate of Marylhurst with a bachelor’s degree in education, Sister Clare continued her studies at Bozeman State University, Portland State University and Mount Angel Seminary. She taught elementary school, religious education and adult education from Grand Ronde to Portland and Tillamook. Two of her younger sisters also joined the religious community. Sisters Clare, Agnes Marie and Anne Vandecoevering lived at Visitation Convent at various times from the 1980s through 2015, when Sister Clare returned to the motherhouse. Sisters Agnes Marie and Anne returned in 2017. The Vandecoeverings are much-loved volunteers at the annual Verboort sausage and sauerkraut dinner, which supports Visitation church and school, where all three served.
“As a second-grader, I wanted to be a sister,” Sister Clare said. “I wanted to go to St. Mary’s for school, but we had a large family and finances were very limited. However, at the beginning of my junior year, I was accepted into the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. God is so good.”
Sr. Paula Fox
“I had heard in a sermon or read somewhere that all are called to give back to God all the good we could produce, but it seemed that God and I were playing hide and seek,” says Sister Paula, born and raised in South Dakota. “He was hiding and I was seeking his will.” She added, “I found God’s will for me as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon. I am most grateful to God for his goodness in allowing me to know and share the life, love and joy I have found here.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in education at Mount Angel, Sister Paula continued her studies at the University of Portland and earned a master’s in education from the University of Oregon. She was a teacher and principal at schools in Beaverton, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Stayton. “I taught in a public school as a religious, taught in a public school as a layperson, taught in a Catholic school as a layperson and in Catholic schools as a religious,” she said. “Those experiences were very valuable. They gave me a frame of reference and balance that has guided me through the years.”
Sr. Marianne Giesel
Born in Minnesota, Sister Marianne attended Verboort High School and Beaverton Union School before graduating from St. Mary of the Valley (now Valley Catholic) High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Marylhurst, then continued her studies at Alverno College in Wisconsin and in the master’s program at Portland State University. Sister Marianne was a teacher, vice principal and principal at schools in Gervais, Milwaukie, Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Sublimity. She continued her service on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus, where she has been a prayer partner to third-grade students at Valley Catholic Elementary School and held weekly visits with seventh-grade students from Valley Catholic Middle School. She has been a teacher in the English for speakers of other languages classes for adults on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus.
“Visiting with a group of seventh-graders each Monday is a highlight of my week,” she said. “I teach them calligraphy and enjoy their delight as they create their own cards. I share photos and memories of my family, my calling to be a sister, and our community’s history.”
Sr. Sharon Kirk
Sister Sharon was born in Newberg, but grew up in nearby St. Paul. After graduating from St. Mary of the Valley High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Marylhurst. She earned a master’s in education from Portland State University and a master’s in administration from the University of San Francisco. Sister Sharon taught elementary school for 20 years and served as a principal for 15 years at schools across Oregon and Washington. She served as the motherhouse administrator for the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, was a registrar for the Catholic Youth Organization and was a recorder in the education department at the University of Portland.
When asked what stands out in her life as the greatest blessing, she cites her work at Women’s Intercommunity AIDS Resource, 1998-2000. Clients of that ministry speak of Sister Sharon serving them with warmth and compassion, remembering their personal stories and making them feel supported and loved.
Sr. Charlene Herinckx
The 2017 recipient of the University of Portland’s Christus Magister Medal, Sister Charlene has been elected and re-elected as superior general. She was raised in Roy, a small community near the Tualatin Valley, where the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon began teaching in 1912.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Marylhurst, Sister Charlene earned a master’s in education at the University of Portland and a second master’s from the University of San Francisco. A teacher and principal at schools in Beaverton, Milwaukie and Spokane, she also served at the National Religious Vocation Conference office in Chicago. A historian for her religious community, she was first chosen as superior general in 2010 and re-elected in 2015. She is past president of the Oregon Catholic Historical Society and a member of the Northwest Association of Bishops and Religious Superiors.
“Every time we accept a new candidate into the community, I have the excuse to present the amazing story of our founding one more time,” she says. “I recall thinking at one time that I might be a high school history teacher. Instead the classroom has been in unforeseen locations.”
After growing up in Seattle, Sister Patricia Marie found that the first steps in her spiritual journey took her to the Tacoma Dominicans. When she left because of health reasons nearly two years later, the path diverged. She attended summer school at Edison Technological Institute, learning typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and accounting. She worked as a nurse’s aide at a nursing home, was employed by a sorority on the University of Washington campus and worked for Northwest Airlines. In 1967, her path brought her to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. At Portland Community College, she studied to become a licensed practical nurse and served as a charge nurse at Maryville on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus. After becoming a certified chaplain, she served as chaplain at Providence Medical Center in Medford.
“As a person dedicated to God and a life of prayer, there are continuous and extraordinary events in every single day,” she says. “I have been in health care ministry all of my religious life, first as a nurse and then as a chaplain.” She added, “Daily Mass and prayer allow me to grow in relationship with God and others — both inside and outside our community.”
To see a video about the jubilarians, click here.