Gathered at the Seminary Tea new member coffee are Becky Lang, Seminary Tea membership co-chair; Dina Marie Hale, honorary member; Deacon Randy Hoang; and Ramona Harrington, membership co-chair. (Judith Winczewski/Seminary Tea Committee)
Gathered at the Seminary Tea new member coffee are Becky Lang, Seminary Tea membership co-chair; Dina Marie Hale, honorary member; Deacon Randy Hoang; and Ramona Harrington, membership co-chair. (Judith Winczewski/Seminary Tea Committee)
“Do everything with style” was the motto of Gladys Dunn, foundress of the Seminary Tea Committee. The group was instituted nearly 85 years ago in the Archdiocese of Portland to give spiritual and financial support to seminarians.

As they prepare for the 85th Seminary Tea on April 29, 250 Catholic women know that tea party elegance has a religious goal — emphasizing the eternal value the church places on priesthood.

One of the newest transitional Deacons ordained in the Archdiocese of Portland, Deacon Randy Hoang, shared part of his vocation story at the annual new member coffee in November. His advice was simple: Seminarians love getting letters and cards from the “tea ladies.” He told the women their continual encouragement and prayers for their formation means so much and helps the men through the joys and trials of seminary life.

Deacon Hoang revealed that his road to the priesthood was rocky. Like many teens, he questioned his belief in God and wondered why God was allowing challenges to hit his own family. Born and raised Catholic in the Vietnamese community at Our Lady of La Vang Parish, Deacon Hoang was always surrounded by priests and religious, yet he questioned why he was Catholic.

Then one day he “gambled with Mary.” He told the Blessed Mother he would give his life over to her and even promised to abstain from meat on Fridays for the rest of his life, if only he could experience some peace. While his life didn’t change overnight, and all his problems didn’t go away immediately, Deacon Hoang admits he started to experience peace a little at time. He discerned he should try the seminary immediately after high school. Since then his devotion to Mary has blossomed and, God willing, he will be ordained a priest in June 2021.

The annual New Member Coffee is a reminder to the entire Seminary Tea membership and the greater Catholic community that the laity play a significant role in supporting priesthood.

Each year the committee grows. Members already are dedicated to family life, parishes and Catholic schools. But they roll up their sleeves to serve the community. They fervently pray, unselfishly give and value holy priests.

The women stand firm in their Catholic identity and are serious about the responsibility they assume by offering their spiritual motherhood to each seminarian in the archdiocese. Committee members hope the tradition ignited by Dunne eight decades ago will inspire more Catholics to participate in the formation of seminarians, fostering good shepherds.


New Seminary Tea Committee members for 2020

Christine Bolger of St. Thomas Parish in Camas, Washington; Rocio Deatherage of Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton; Anne Naughton of St. Pius X Parish in Northwest Portland; Cherie Maesaka of Holy Trinity; Gina O’Neill of St. Pius X; Christy Uhrich of St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Northwest Portland; Gail S. Wilhelms of St. Juan Diego Parish in Northwest Portland; Viviane Hibbler of The Madeleine Parish in Northeast Portland.



Women of the Seminary Tea Committee gather at Mount Angel Abbey Retreat House where they heard from Archbishop Alexander Sample and Brother Cyril Drnjevic. (Courtesy Carol McMenamin)

‘Tea Ladies’ value friendships through the ages

ST. BENEDICT — The Archbishop’s Seminary Tea Committee and friends held their annual retreat recently at Mount Angel Abbey’s newly remodeled guesthouse.

The women say the new center is beautiful. “When eating meals in the dining room you feel like you are floating above the valley with the new floor-to-ceiling windows,” reports committee member Carol McMenamin.

All rooms have been updated, with many new larger and ADA accessible rooms in the new wing facing an expanse of Willamette Valley farmland.

More than two dozen women attended. Honors for the oldest attendee when to 96-year-old Florence DiBenedetto. The committee warmly welcomed new tea members Christine Bolger and Gail S. Wilhelms.

Benedictine Brother Cyril Drnjevic and Archbishop Alexander Sample presided over the retreat, giving the tea ladies four presentations.

Archbishop Sample spoke about the troubling times in the church and how we are challenged to live our faith daily. He said he cherishes the women’s prayer and financial support for seminarians.

Brother Cyril spoke about Mother Theresa, St. John Paul II and their friendship over the years. He pointed out similarities in their early lives. Brother Cyril also addressed the friendships of saints through the ages including Sts. Gregory of Nazianzen and Basil the Great; Sts. Perpetua and Felicity; Sts. Francis and Clare; Sts. Jane Frances de Chantal and Francis de Sales; Sts. Damian Van Veuster and Marianne Cope. Friendships must be nurtured and treasured, he said.

The tea ladies had time for contemplation, confessions and enjoying the abbey grounds.