Lucy Morris, a fifth grader at Our Lady of the Lake School in Lake Oswego, recognized at a tender age the profound importance of CYO and its longtime leader, Sr. Krista von Borstel. (Courtesy Morris family)
Lucy Morris, a fifth grader at Our Lady of the Lake School in Lake Oswego, recognized at a tender age the profound importance of CYO and its longtime leader, Sr. Krista von Borstel. (Courtesy Morris family)
Lucy Morris, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Our Lady of the Lake School in Lake Oswego, was excited about her first CYO track season last spring. So she wrote a thank-you letter to the person she deemed ultimately responsible for it.

“This was my first year at track, and I never knew it could be such fun,” Lucy informed Sister Krista von Borstel, executive director of CYO/Camp Howard. “Thank you for running a program where kids like me can discover new things that we’re good at.”

Lucy’s sounded like music to Sister Krista’s ears. For more than 25 years, this Sister of St. Mary of Oregon has worked long hours to help children embrace healthy and faith-filled lives, finding their best role in the world.

Lucy, who won several races in the final meet and who also has taken part in CYO basketball and swimming, appreciates Sister Krista’s efforts: “It’s great she has kept CYO going because otherwise people couldn’t find their talents.”

On most weekends, Sister Krista stands for hours along the track, on the sidelines, poolside or at summer camp giving encouragement to youngsters who have given their all, win or lose. This summer, because staff were hard to come by, she also took shifts as camp cook.

Catholic Youth Organization athletes and Camp Howard attendees receive a lesson in hard work, fairness and grace from Sister Krista, who does her best to infuse everything — even frantic, close games — with the ways of Jesus.

“Sister Krista, working closely with the Lord, deserves our deepest gratitude,” said Archbishop Alexander Sample. “It has become clear over the past 25 years that she was meant for this ministry of marshalling volunteers, setting high standards and creating moments of joy for our young people. I am personally touched at how she maintains CYO’s foundation of Christian belief.”

Sister Krista sees her chief accomplishment as bolstering the organization’s Catholic identity. One of her favorite things is when families come back to Mass because of CYO or Camp Howard.

“She is an unbelievable blessing to our community,” said Bob Burtchaell, a longtime CYO/Camp Howard supporter. “She is absolutely afraid of nothing.”

Burtchaell recalls marveling as Sister Krista sloshed around a rainy camp in rubber boots doing manual labor one day and then convincing big donors to contribute the next.

She grew up on remote a ranch in north central Oregon, milking cows, selling eggs to neighbors, defrosting frozen water troughs and slinging bales of hay. The animals depended on her and her five siblings’ dogged work.

At Sherman High School, she asked administrators for more girls’ sports. They listened, and she emerged as a star in track, basketball and volleyball. As CYO chief, she makes sure boys and girls alike have plenty of opportunity.

There have been many improvements under her leadership.

Through recruitment and good organizing, CYO basketball has gone from 32 junior high teams to more than 300 teams, with all grades included.

She has guided upgrades at Camp Howard, adding a new dining hall and a welcome center with offices, which she said has improved the way camp operates. Sister Krista also spruced up cabins. Now a chapel is on the drawing board.

“She’s a powerhouse when something needs to be done,” said Judy Winczewski, chairwoman of the Oct. 18 Champions of Faith dinner. Winczewski also credits Sister Krista for helping people put their talents to good use. “She’s a hard worker who knows where to draw the line and yet has a sweet personality under that.”

Winczewski recalls watching Sister Krista think up fun games for kids to do when they arrive at camp and feel uncertain.

“She is talented and creative in many ways,” Winczewski said. “And she uses those talents for kids.”

Brian Thompson, chairman of the CYO/Camp Howard board, admires Sister Krista’s tenacity and integrity.

“She has high values and keeps them even when it’s hard,” said Thompson. “We have higher purpose here. You are not just coaching basketball or cooking around the campfire.”

Joe Pisaneschi, a longtime CYO coach and now a referee, says Sister Krista has done an amazing job, getting tough when needed. “You don’t want to get in front of Sister Krista when she’s mad,” Pisaneschi said. Please use a different quote. Not “mad”. She is firm in a positive way perhaps??

“Sister Krista is quite a gal,” said Joe Weston, one of the top philanthropists in the region. “She’s been a good leader. People have good respect for her. She’s a doer, and that’s what we need. She helps people who need help.”

“To say Sister Krista is a force to be reckoned with is an understatement,” said Sheri Dooney, a longtime friend and supporter. “She never gives up. The impact she has made is incredible, for the children and their greater good, and the experiences and memories they are making.”

As for when she’ll retire, Sister Krista said she has no immediate plans but knows she needs to prepare.

Karen von Borstel, a blood sister and property manager at Camp Howard, said Sister Krista is motivated first by faith and second by seeing young people grow in joy. Karen likes to look at the photos of Sister Krista standing with teams and notice the faces of children who are excited and proud and looking up at a woman who has given her life to Christ.

“I think she was meant for that job,” Karen said.