Sister Catherine Hertel was a Washington County recipient of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Women in American History Award.
Each year, local chapters of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) select women who have made significant contributions to their communities for the coveted award. This year, The Tabitha Moffatt Brown – David Hill Chapter, NSDAR (the Aloha, Ore. DAR chapter) selected Sister Catherine Hertel based on her innovative educational leadership that helped more than 1,000 people learn English and as second language and more than 50 people earn U.S. citizenship in Washington County.
“Sister Catherine Hertel is an ideal recipient of the Women in History Award,” said Lynn Daue, Vice Regent of the local DAR chapter. “Her dedication to building and running successful ESOL and citizenship programs right here in Washington County has provided access and opportunity to thousands of people in our local community.”
The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon identified the local need for ESOL and citizenship classes in 2010. Sister Catherine Hertel took the lead to build and manage the program. Several of the Sisters in her Community and people from the local community volunteered their time, resources and knowledge to ensure each program’s success.
The primary goal was to help people learn English and pursue U.S. citizenship while removing financial barriers that often deny people the opportunity to learn. The Sisters’ official ESOL and Citizenship programs ran from 2011 to 2020. Students met biweekly at the Sisters’ Motherhouse in Beaverton, Ore. with Sister Catherine and her volunteers (approximately 300 of them throughout the decade-long venture). They also found fun ways to connect with each other, learn about one another’s cultures, and help the students practice what they were learning through parties and shared meals.
When Sister Catherine was asked to say a few words at the awards ceremony, she instantly thanked her Sisters and volunteers for making the vision a reality. She humbly acknowledged that it took a lot of helping hands and a lot of prayers to make the program a success. She also took time to thank the more than 1,000 students who completed the program.
Sister Catherine said, “I am not up here alone. The ESOL and U.S. citizenship programs were successful thanks to my Sisters and the 300 plus volunteers who joined us in building the program. A thank you also goes to the more than 1,000 students who made learning English an important part of their lives. Their dedication was essential to all of our successes.”
The Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon closed their in-person ESOL and U.S. citizenship classes in March of 2020, after the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were issued. With the help of Linda Bonder, the Beaverton Literacy Council was able to take over the classes and offer them virtually during the pandemic. Today, the council is teaching ESOL to more than 500 students.
Sister Catherine, who has been a Sister with the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon for 65 years, continues to help people prepare for U.S. citizenship. “I love serving these beautiful members of our local community,” she said. “They have always been a true blessing to me.”