After 50 years, Reparation Sisters continue to share Christ’s love
After 50 years, Reparation Sisters continue to share Christ’s love
In the enormous seven-bedroom Southeast Portland house live just two women — though, a solitary existence it is not.

Mother Mary of the Angels and Sister Mary Immaculate, devoted members of the Sisters of Reparation of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus, use the residence as hub for their many works for the Archdiocese of Portland and spiritual endeavors.

This year, the community marks 50 years since the beginning of its mission “to carry forth the personal charisma of the community’s foundress, Mother Mary Rose Therese, who looked at ‘mission’ as God’s call to give completely of self — to match in extraordinary ways, Christ’s own pouring out of self in his unending redemptive love for others.”

A Mass of thanksgiving and renewal of vows for the Sisters was held on Pentecost Sunday, at St. Anthony Parish in Portland.

Archbishop John Vlazny celebrated; and there was a special music presentation by the Ave Maria Chorus, founded by Mother Therese in 1973, with music at the heart and soul of her ministry and community life.

The chorus is now one of many directions the sisters’ apostolate has developed since the founding of the community.

In the early 1950s, concert artist Yvonne Chalfonte was working her way up in the New York music world, even landing performances on the latest medium of the era — television.

A devoted Catholic, she always found time for charitable works for the Church, women Religious and individuals in need.

Meanwhile, two young women who felt the call to religious life, Margaret Mary Bunty and Myrtle Jeanie Clutz, made private vows to become the first of the consecrated ladies of the Sisters of Reparation under the direction of Father O.A. Boyer. They honored Marie Rose Ferron, a Canadian-American woman who died in 1936 after spending her life bedridden and partially paralyzed, who was deeply spiritual and was said to experience visions and bear bleeding wounds from stigmata.

In working on the cause of “Little Rose,” the two women encountered Chalfonte, who offered to present a benefit concert to make Ferron’s story known.

In time, they came to live together, creating a “kitchen table apostolate” that attracted other young women to religious life. After much hard work in local parishes and Catholic hospitals, and prayer, the women professed their vows Feb. 22, 1959, with Father Titus Cranny in the small chapel of Graymoor in Garrison, N.Y.
Mother Therese, who had sewn her own costumes as an opera star, designed their habits.

In blue colors that represent the joys and sorrows of Mary, the habits include a cape as a symbol for priestly dedication and medallion and ring to honor the passion of Christ.

After being called to rebuild Catholic school communities in the Mojave Dessert, Archbishop Robert Dwyer invited the community to transfer its work to the City of Roses, Portland.

They moved here in 1973.

The Motherhouse, at the heart of the Hosford-Abernathy neighborhood, runs with the help of the Donnés of Reparation. This group of devotees assist with yard work, sewing, mailings and setting up for Mass, offer prayer and sacrifices, contribute financially or offer their own suffering for the ministry and spiritual development of community.

Mary Miller is one of those dedicated to the sisters. She has helped out in any way she can for many years.

This year past, she came to understand in full how deeply the sisters touch souls when her partner, Al Lucero, was dying of cancer.

Mother Mary helped him soul-search for reasoning and peace before his death.

“She helped him move forward with his death,” Miller said. “I don’t think he could have died peacefully without her help.”

Miller’s nephew, John Miller, remembers accompanying his aunt to sing with the sisters’ choir as a second-grader. He loved holiday performances at the Festival of Trees and voice lessons in the convent, he said.

John also admired Mother Therese for turning down the potential of fame singing in opera houses like the Met for the religious life.

“To sing for the benefit of the Church, to sing only for the Lord, that was very inspirational,” he said.

He followed suit. John serves as associate director for the Denver Archdiocese’s Office of Liturgy and director of music at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

“I love this career of working for the Church, and I’m serving the Lord through the ministry of liturgy and music,” he said.

Dave Hertz first encountered the sisters 10 years ago, when his mother encouraged him to join her at a prayer group in the basement of Rose Hall.

“The sisters were very hospitable, cordial and inviting,” he said. “They opened their convent, and we were greeted as longtime friends.”

At the time, Hertz had been away from his faith for 25 years, but the sisters helped bring him back to the fullness of the Church.

Today he and his wife, Barbara, are Donnés who deliver bread to Southwest Washington food banks twice weekly.

“The nuns have been an extraordinary instrument in changing our lives,” he said. “And we enjoy visiting them, too. To us, they’re not just nuns, they’re friends. They pray for us and we help them in any way we can.”

Despite the amount of faith work that goes on inside the house, the convent and its residents are still just another part of the neighborhood.

During the summer, neighbors ask the sisters to please open their windows so they can listen to choir practice.

In the winter, little ones use their steep grassy yard as a sledding hill, and the sisters have even been known to engage in snowball fights with the neighborhood kids.
One day, a little girl rang the bell and asked, “Can the sisters come out and play?”

These interactions are beneficial for the sisters’ social outlet, but they also serve as part of the ministry of the community, to share and spread reparation spirituality with laypeople.

“They have a positive experience of the life of the Church,” Mother Mary said.

Mother Mary’s salary from her full-time nurse administrator position at Portland Providence Medical Center pays the bills, as well as funding upkeep for their home and vehicle.

Lisa Vance, chief executive officer for the hospital, has worked with Mother Mary for seven years. One of their fist times working together, Vance said, was making sure the hospital ran smoothly during an ice storm that shut down the city for several days.

“Mother Mary is one of the most committed people we have here at Providence in regards to that commitment to patient care,” Vance said.

In noting the 50-year mark, Mother Mary shared a hope for the future of the community.

“Our greatest prayer on this 50th anniversary of our community is for the increase number of religious vocations to our community so that we can continue to build up the Archdiocese of Portland and contribute to the faith of the people of God,” she said.