Catholic Sisters bring monthly meal to clients of Catholic Charities
BEAVERTON — Each month, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon here serve Jesus through the clacking of kitchen knives, the whir of a blender and the whoosh of a whisk.
For more than two years, the small but energetic community of Catholic religious sisters has been preparing a monthly lunch and delivering it for the women who drop in at Catholic Charities headquarters in Southeast Portland. The clients are houseless or working their way out of houselessness.
“The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon are most appreciative of Catholic Charities for allowing us to share in this ministry to assist women move to stable homes,” said Sister Sara Goggin.
The Sisters began their monthly culinary project to reach those on the margins during the pandemic. It also was a tribute to the Sisters’ Foundresses’ Day, a celebration of the women who started their community in the 19th century.
In the 1920s, one of the foundresses, Sister Johanna, encountered a hungry and homeless man who came to the door of an orphanage the Sisters tended. She offered to give him her own meal from sparse resources.
That example inspired in the Sisters a special care for the vulnerable in need of food.
Sr. John Therese Miller, Sr. Patricia Lulay, Sr. Ellen Therese Berger, Sr. Marianne Geisel and Sr. Josephine Pelster chop fruits and vegetables for a meal to serve homeless women at Catholic Charities in Portland.
“To reach out to Catholic Charities to volunteer to provide a lunch made that SSMO spirit alive today,” said Sister Sara, who recalls that first meal in March 2021. “With so many contributing time and skills, the project was completed with efficiency and echoed the SSMO spirit of ‘joyful servants of the Lord,’” she explained, citing the Sisters’ charism statement.
After that meal, the Sisters received a note of thanks from Victoria Waldrep, program manager for Catholic Charities’ Homeless and Transitional Housing Services.
“Homemade food is delightful and so appreciated by our community,” Waldrep wrote. “Many thanks for your service to the women of Housing Transitions Program. We welcome your culinary skills and the love which showed in the meal you made.”
Sr. Maria Kieu Tran and Sr. Thanh Pham at the grill.
The Sisters at first thought they’d prepare and deliver an annual lunch on Foundresses’ Day. But it went so well that they made it a joyful monthly occasion.
The lunches get paid for from the SSMO Social Justice Charity Fund and donations from the Sisters and their friends.
Key players on the project at the convent include Sister Catherine Hertel, who handles food preparation and transportation. Assisting with food preparation each month are Sister Anna Nguyen, Sister Rosina Pham, Sister Josephine Pelster, Sister Barbara Rose Sohler, Sister Marianne Giesel and Sister Rita Rose Stokowski.
“When all parts of the meal preparation are counted — from veggie peeling to washing dishes — half of our 44-member community have in some way participated,” said Sister Sara. “When one adds in prayer for those who share in these monthly meals, it is really a whole SSMO community response.”
Sr. Charlene Herinckx and Sr. Anna Nguyen team up on a veggie salad.
The success of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon lunches is a reminder that Catholic Charities is in need of more volunteers to bring lunch for homeless women. Ordinarily, cooks should make enough food for 20 people. To ask questions or get on the calendar, contact Victoria Waldrep, firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-688-2672.