Sister Theresa Ann Bunker celebrates seven decades of service to God this July, during the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon’s Jubilee celebration.
Sr. Theresa Ann was born on Nov. 5, 1933, at her family farm home in Dayton Prairie, Oregon, in Yamhill County. Her birth was difficult. The attending physician ordered an ambulance and took them to the McMinnville Hospital. Her parents prayed to St. Therese of Lisieux — “The Little Flower” — for both her and her mother. If she lived, they promised to name her Theresa. Her middle name would be Ann, after her grandmother Anna and St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus.
Sr. Theresa Ann believes her vocation to religious life started at her challenging birth. It was a Sunday morning, and her parents told her she was born between the first and second Mass. She was close to the Sisters in McMinnville throughout her youth, bringing milk and butter from her family’s farm to the convent. At the age of seven, she declared she would be a Sister.
In high school, she dated boys and attended sporting events and dances like other girls, but she did not know if she was being called to a traditional married life. Her mother asked if she remembered her childhood pledge. With that inquiry, Sr. Theresa Ann started praying again about her vocation to religious life. It was so freeing. At 18, she knew religious life was her calling.
When Sr. Theresa Ann Bunker entered the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, she knew she did not want to teach, but was eager to care for others. This confirmed that nursing would be her vocation. She admits that early life in the Convent was challenging. She was desperately homesick and bonded with the other Sisters struggling with separation from their families. Some of her favorite memories included the joys of serving together and having fun playing games like softball. “I taught them how to do the backbend,” she commented.
In 1963, when Maryville officially opened on the Sisters’ campus, Sr. Theresa Ann became one of its first nurses. After 40 wonderful years serving Maryville residents, she now serves her Sisters in the Motherhouse.
Sr. Theresa Ann said, “I am very grateful to God for my vocation, my family, my Sisters in the community, those with whom I have worked, met, and those who have supported me in so many ways through these years.” She said if she had to make the choice again, “I would do it again. I would do it all over again.”