Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon
Jubilarians of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon: Seated: Sr. Elma Heesacker and Sr. Marilyn LeDoux. Standing: Sr. Marie Bernadette George, Sr. Marcella Parrish and Sr. Sara Goggin.
Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon
Jubilarians of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon: Seated: Sr. Elma Heesacker and Sr. Marilyn LeDoux. Standing: Sr. Marie Bernadette George, Sr. Marcella Parrish and Sr. Sara Goggin.

BEAVERTON – The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) will honor five Sisters who have given nearly 300 years of service and ministry.

Sisters Marie Bernadette George, Elma Heesacker, Marilyn LeDoux  and Marcella Parrish will celebrate their 60th jubilees. Sister Sara Goggin will celebrate her 50th jubilee.

The jubilarians will be honored during a Mass and reception on Sunday, July 26, at 1:30 p.m. in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel of the Sisters’ Motherhouse at 4440 SW 148th Ave.

“A Sister’s jubilee celebration is an exciting milestone on her journey,” says Sister Charlene Herinckx, superior general of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. “It is an opportunity to recognize these Sisters and express our gratitude for their years of prayer, service and commitment.”

Sister Charlene adds that, the 2015 jubilarians have “served the community with joy and compassion across decades.” The women have taught at the campus school and at schools in the Pacific Northwest and California. They have provided food and shelter to people in need and supported other Sisters in their ministries. 

“I’ve wanted to be a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon since I was in the sixth grade,” said Sister Marie Bernadette. “We had a Sister who inspired us through her love of God. I wanted to be like her and inspire others to love God.”

Born in Butte, Mont., she grew up in Portland, attending Holy Cross Grade School, Immaculata Academy and St. Mary of the Valley High School (now Valley Catholic). She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Marylhurst College (now University). Her teaching career took her to St. John’s in Milwaukie, Sacred Heart in Tillamook, St. Mary’s in Spokane, St. Boniface in Sublimity, St. Matthew’s in Hillsboro, St. Cecilia in Beaverton, Our Lady of Sorrows in Portland, St. Francis in Roy, and Holy Trinity and St. Mary of the Valley/Valley Catholic in Beaverton. On the Sisters’ campus, she also worked at Maryville, where her mother, Victoria, resides at age 102.

Sister Elma Joan has devoted her life to serving other sisters. “I was able to do work – cooking and driving and serving as sacristan – that allowed other sisters to do their work,” she said.

The third of 10 children, she was born in Forest Grove. She attended St. Francis of Assisi Grade School in Roy. “Sister Thomas was my third-grade teacher,” said Sister Elma. “She was a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon and she impressed me so much that I wanted to become a sister. When I did, I wanted to serve God by being myself and by loving and serving others.”

She went on to attend St. Mary of the Valley High School and continued her education through classes at institutions as diverse as Portland Community College and Notre Dame University.  Her travels have taken her to Europe and the Holy Land.

But her heart is on the SSMO campus.

“I’m proudest of my work with children in the arts,” said Sister Marilyn. “I love teaching art. I love teaching other subjects too, but art was my specialty.”

She was born in Astoria, but her family moved a number of times so she attended grade school in Shafter, Calif. and in Seaside, Milwaukie and Portland. After earning a bachelor’s degree in education at Marylhurst, she taught at schools across Oregon including St. Boniface in Sublimity, St. Mary’s in Stayton, Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Andrew’s in Portland, Visitation in Forest Grove, St. Matthew in Hillsboro, and Holy Trinity in Beaverton. For many summers, she taught religious education in parishes in Oregon, Washington and Montana.

After retiring from teaching, she returned to the SSMO campus and volunteered with first and second graders.

“When I was four, my family moved into town from a logging camp,” said Sister Marcella. “We had been living in a large log cabin with an outhouse. We had one hour of electricity per day.”

When her mother took her older brother to register for first grade at St. Mary’s School in Stayton, Marcella went too. “We met with Sister Theresa Margaret Yettick,” she remembers. “I was four so I could only really see her shoes. I loved her shoes and I wanted to be what she was. I made a big decision that day.”

After attending college at Marylhurst and teaching elementary school in Portland and Grand Ronde, she earned a master’s degree in mathematics at Gonzaga University. She taught high school classes in math, chemistry, and religion as well as electronics, photography and auto mechanics, eventually serving as a principal. She spent three terms on the SSMO leadership team and six years as assistant superintendent of the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools in Portland. For the past 15 years, she has served at St. Joseph Shelter in Mount Angel.

“It has all been in service to people,” she said. “I love being a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon. The sisters have an inner sense of peace and beauty that attracts a lot of people. I’m just so happy to be part of it.”

At Bishop Alemany School in Mission Hills, Calif., Sister Sara teaches religion and inspires service.

Born in Townsend, Mont., she first encountered the spirit and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon at Holy Cross School in Portland. After graduating from St. Mary of the Valley (Valley Catholic), she attended Marylhurst, Portland State University and the University of Oregon. She has spent 47 years as a teacher, serving at St. Mary of the Valley, Regis High School in Stayton, Holy Cross High School in Everett, Wash., and Eastside Catholic School in Bellevue, Wash.

At Bishop Alemany, students put faith into action serving the community. They work at a food pantry at St. Ferdinand Church in San Fernando. In the Santa Clarita Valley, they build homes for veterans – including those with disabilities – through Habitat for Humanity. Students also go to Haiti to teach English.

“That has made it so clear to me that education is the answer for so many of the issues that our world faces,” Sister Sara says. “I teach religion. I’ve taught math, science and history. All of that is to bring awareness to young people that, having experienced Christ themselves, they need to bring Christ to others.”