The Garage Door

October 14, 2020

18 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#7 in a series of 25

The Garage Door

During my canonical year, that streak of fun came out in me and I couldn’t help myself.  I had tasks that required me to go between the men’s shop and the garage.  There was a garage door opener in the men’s shop and I often had it in my apron as I took wood back and forth.  One day, one of the elderly sisters was standing near the garage door and I showed her how I could kick the drainpipe and the garage door would go up.  Actually, I was clicking the clicker in my pocket.  She was thoroughly amazed.  After I had my fun, I went on my way just as one of the more boisterous Sisters drove up to the garage.  Sister Thomas called me back to show Sister Elma what I could do.  I was all too happy to go back and do it again.  I kicked on the drainpipe and up went the garage door.  Kicked it again and down it went.  Again, thoroughly incredulous at this demonstration. 

About that time the men came out of the shop and Sr. Elma motioned them over.  She encouraged me to show them what I could do.  I kicked the drainpipe and up went the door.  The head of maintenance kicked it and down it went.  He kicked it again up it went, kicked it again started to go down then overheated.   Then he kicked in between all of the garage doors (6) to see if there were any similar issues.  Then he started talking jack hammer to open up the area behind the drainpipe to see what was going on.  Uh oh…I waited till everyone left then I went out to the shop and told Dave I had the clicker in my pocket and was fooling the Sisters.  He hung his head, didn’t have to say a thing, and I felt bad I had sort of humiliated him.

OK time to self-report.  I went to Sr. Fidelis and told her what I had done.   She of course laughed and enjoyed the story and told me not to worry about it.  Whew!  The story made the rounds.  About two weeks later, one of the Sisters was seen kicking the drainpipe trying to get into the garage.  Sr. Thomas saw this happen and told me about it.  Sister Dismaria had been watching from second floor of the convent out the window and surmised the garage door would go up if you kicked the drainpipe.  She did not hear the rest of the story and figured it would not have been fixed yet.  She just couldn’t seem to find the right place to kick!

The Canonical Year

October 13, 2020

20 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#6 in a series of 25

Sister Fidelis Kreutzer gives an inspirational talk before giving my classmate and I our white veils.

My Canonical Year

I talked about “Formation” in an earlier piece as a time of discernment before making final vows with the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.  This process can take seven and a half years in our community.  After finishing six months minimum as a “candidate”, I wrote a handwritten letter to ask to become a novice with the community.  This then began a two year “novitiate” and for the first time, we were then referred to as “Sister.”

The first year of novitiate is generally referred to as a “Canonical Year.”  This year is dedicated to prayer, studying all aspects of the vows and really learning about religious life and the unique charism or spirit of the community.  The second year of the novitiate is often spent in furthering education or ministry.  In my case, I entered after college but went on to get a fifth year at Portland State while teaching part time at the high school and engaging in formation classes at the convent.

I clearly remember the gift of my canonical year as I had the time to think, pray, work, study and come to really know the community.  Some interesting aspects of the year included ringing the electric bell which reminded us hourly to say a prayer and turn our thoughts to GodThe switch for the bell was located in chapel and I had to remember to ring it on the hour.  I found a simple egg timer to remind me as it was well before I phones with timers!

Canonically, most of our time was to be spent at the Motherhouse and we could make few trips outside to do things.  It was a year set apart, a special year and not one that was to be in competition with the distractions of the world.  I did not listen to music, watch TV, or go to movies that year. 

I cleaned the tables in the grade school cold and hot lunchrooms after their lunch each day which gave me an opportunity to meet people who taught or worked at the grade school.  My classmate and I also led a rosary every day at 1:00 to pray for vocations to religious life.  The elder Sisters would join us in the chapel.

We learned all aspects of setting up for Mass each morning.  The Sacristan would teach us everything about the liturgical seasons, the rites and rituals and it was our job to carry it out.  It was very interesting to me and I appreciated this knowledge.

There were many projects we were kept busy with during that year along with formation classes, writing papers on the vows and deepening our prayer lives.  By the time the canonical year was finished, we had a sound foundation about religious life, the sisters, prayer, the ministries of our community and much about ourselves. 

Time to Develop Talents

October 10, 2020

21 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

St. Mary of the Valley School Photo 1990

In 1982 I began teaching at St. Mary of the Valley High School while also attending Portland State University to get my fifth year and participating in formation classes.  I taught a couple of classes at the high school then went to PSU for the rest of the day until around 4:00 when I returned for classes at the convent.  I was a busy little “first professed” as I continued to learn the ropes.  I enjoyed teaching at the high school very much and could see myself full time in the future.  I really appreciated teaching at our community high school.

My main assignment was to teach religion and I found enjoyment in coaching the jv Softball team.  Prior to 1991, St. Mary of the Valley was an all-girl school which went co-ed and changed the name to Valley Catholic.  My school experience as a youth had been co-ed and I was more at home in that environment.  I think it is good for youth to be with the opposite gender at school while they have their feet under their parent’s roof.  There are a lot of lessons best learned at home.

I realized how fortunate I was to be called to religious life and what satisfaction I got out of it.  A religious who dedicates their life to Christ has the time to do things that a married person with the responsibilities of family would not have in many cases.  I realized the many talents God had given me and I had the time to develop them.

The Rule of Separation

October 9, 2020

23 days till National Vocation Awareness Week – post 3 of 25

Preparing cookies for Christmas celebrations LtoR: Sr. Ruth Etzel, Sr. Maryann Giesel, Sr. Magdalene, Sr. Adele Marie

Fourty years have passed since I entered Religious Life.  Things have changed as the world changes.  Nothing stays the same and that is for the most part good, I think.  Not in all cases but mostly.  When I was in formation, we had what was called a “Rule of Separation” which mean’t if you were in formation you could not talk with the sisters who were professed.  Why? You are probably asking?  Formation takes place through the interaction with one formation director.  Every single person has a suggestion for how something should be done.  If you want a uniform formation for your members in religious life, best it be done through one, trained director.   In my day there were a dozen of us in various stages of formation and we were able to create a good community of young sisters.

Today, we no longer have the rule of separation, but we do have 4 Sisters in formation, three of whom are under the age of 30.  They are a wonderful group of young women who give me a lot of hope and confidence in our future as a religious community.   The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon accept women between the ages of 18 and 45.  Even though we no longer have a rule of separation, the older sisters have an understanding of what should be deferred to the formation director.

Finding the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon

My Journey to Religious Life by Sister Krista von Borstel – in preparation for Vocation Awareness Week I will write 25 short stories that paint a picture. 1 of 25

VOCATION APPRECIATION WEEK November 1-7, 2020 Countdown 25 days to go…I am going to start with my own vocation story. I grew up in Sherman County in Oregon (North Central) the second smallest county in Oregon next to Wheeler! I remember having a very serious religious experience as a very young person where I realized how short life is and how important it is to make the most of it. This inspiration hit me at my grandfathers funeral, it was also the first funeral I remember. About two years later I went to my first “CCD summer classes” taught by Sisters of the Holy Names in Grass Valley. I knew at that moment (third grade) that I would be doing that some day. Still amazed by that insight. I liked what they were doing and I was inspired to want to do it too. The thought lay on my mind the rest of my youth and through college. Though I dated in college, I knew I did not want to get married because I wanted to enter religious life. I had not yet found the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. That happened my junior year when I met Sister Maureen Kalsch. We were taking a class together and met one day as we were checking our grades. I invited her to come to my sorority (Sigma Kappa) for dinner and she accepted. Later she invited me to make a retreat in Sublimity (near OSU) where I did go and meet several SSMO’s (Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon) Finally I was invited to make a trip to the Motherhouse in Beaverton and made another retreat. I loved it! When I finished college my Senior year, I had a job offer with Boeing which I had planned to accept in order to pay off my college debt ($2,000). I went to the convent and met with Sr. John Therese to tell her I was going to Seattle and accept the job with Boeing. Before I left the convent that day, I was going to enter the convent in February! A neighbor farmer, and close family friend, John Schadewitz, who was Baptist I might add, handed me a check for $2,000 to pay off my debt and the rest is history. I entered the convent February 3, 1980 with the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon

Final Vows Sr. Rosina Pham


On August 15, 2017, Sr. Rosina Pham made her Final Vows with the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO).  The ceremony took place in the Convent Chapel, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  August 15, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, is the date which the Sisters generally make vows.  It is a very special time of the year for the Sisters and an extremely important occasion filled with joy!  Sister Rosina is a very special member of the community and works at Maryville Nursing Home, which is one of the ministries of the SSMO’s.

BELOW: Sister Rosina Pham responds to the call to live her life as a religious Sister of St. Mary of Oregon.


Archbishop Alexander Sample presides over the vow ceremony.


Sister Rosina answers, “Yes” to the call to live her life as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon.


Sister Rita Watkins, Vicar of the Community, assists Sr. Rosina.


Sister Charlene Herinckx, Superior General of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon and Sister Rosina sign the vow documents after the recitation of the public vows.


Priest friends of Sister Rosina take part in the ceremony.


Sister Rosina with her brother, parents and Archbishop Sample.


Meanwhile…Back at the Convent…What’s all that Construction on Campus You Ask?

Exciting times on the campus of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon!  Who can get excited about a renovated parking lot?  When it adds several extra spots and addresses the underground water collection etc. it is pretty exciting huh?  The entrance to the back of the campus is also being changed as Murray Blvd. makes changes.

The old gym was taken down this spring to make way for a much needed campus maintenance facility and space for the maintenance Dept. to call home.  Personally I am very excited about this and look forward to the facility being finished!  It will greatly enhance the campus with the capabilities of really being able to take care of maintenance needs very professionally!

And the Sisters, are doing something fun for the community, putting in a bocce court and patio for outdoor activities.  We will be enjoying the bocce court this next week during community days so I will be sure to share that soon.  Meanwhile, here are some photos from this past week.

Bocce court and patio begins to take shape.

Bocce court and patio begins to take shape.

Walls begin to go up on the new maintenance facility.

Walls begin to go up on the new maintenance facility.

moving dirt around to make room for a new location for the dumpster near the new parking lot.

moving dirt around to make room for a new location for the dumpster near the new parking lot.