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Durochers birthday proves blessing

Marylhurst honors woman who brought Catholic education to the region
by: SUBMITTED PAINTING Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher’s 200th birthday celebration was a party to remember.

Celebrating the 200th birthday of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher turned out to be an excellent idea, as proven with the party held at Marylhurst University on Oct. 6.

As many as 250 people flocked to the university commons - all that the building could hold. This was a happy surprise for Judith Johansen, president of Marylhurst University, who had this idea.

'I called Christina Friedhoff, president at St. Mary's Academy,' said Johansen, now in her third year as the leader of Marylhurst. 'I said, 'Let's have a party for Sister Marie-Rose.' This proved to be a sensational event. It caught everybody by surprise.'

Showing up were alumni, supporters and friends of the Catholic community, but most of all there were the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. More than 110 of them 'rolled into town' to celebrate a woman who paved the way for Catholic education in the Northwest.

'They came from all over,' said Sister Carole Strawn, longtime archives director for Marylhurst. 'Some of them came a long ways.'

The birthday party was pretty simple, but was greatly enhanced by the outstanding Marian Singers of St. Mary's Academy. There was something else, too.

'It definitely had a flavor of women's lib,' Johansen said. 'There was pride shown in women fulfilling a mission in a church that is patriarchal.'

Although Durocher died at age 38 in 1849 and never set foot in the Northwest, she was the one who started the mission to bring Catholic education to the region. While other missionaries flocked to California for the Gold Rush of 1849, the SHNJM order stayed in the Northwest and made history.

'Sister Marie-Rose holds a special place in our hearts,' Strawn said. 'She formulated 'care-ism.' That is what we try to live out. She purposely opened schools for girls.'

The sisters opened St. Mary's Academy, Marylhurst University and Christie School.

Truly, the 200th birthday party struck a chord, and Johansen thinks it will have an impact on Marylhurst University beyond one great day.

'This was a seminal event,' Johansen said. 'It connected with a community we want to stay in contact with.'