Ruth Kathryn Etzel, the daughter of Frank and Anna (Minden) Etzel, was born in Stayton, Ore. on March 13, 1932. She grew up in a lively Catholic family with her two brothers and two sisters. She attended Fern Ridge Elementary in Stayton and St. Boniface Catholic School in Sublimity. She graduated from St. Mary of the Valley Academy (now Valley Catholic High School) in Beaverton in 1949.
On Aug. 15, 1949, Sister Ruth Etzel entered the Community of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon and received the name Sr. Marciana. She made final profession as a SSMO on Aug. 15, 1954. After Vatican II, Sr. Ruth reaffirmed her baptismal name.
Sr. Ruth continued her education at Marylhurst University earning a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1959. Her post-graduate studies were at University of Portland, Seattle University, Gonzaga University, where she earned her master’s degree in education in 1969, and Portland State University, earning an Oregon Administration Certification in 1987.
Sr. Ruth proclaimed the Good News of God’s love throughout her exceptional 45-year career in Catholic education. She served as teacher at Visitation in Verboort, Sacred Heart in Tillamook, Holy Cross in Portland, St. Francis of Assisi in Roy, St. Mary’s in Stayton, St. Michael in Grande Ronde, and St. Pius X in Portland. An educational leader, Sr. Ruth Etzel served as principal at St. Mary’s in Spokane, Wash., at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Seattle, at St. Boniface in Sublimity, and, for 19-years, at Visitation in Verboort.
In 1997, Sr. Ruth moved to the SSMO Motherhouse in Beaverton as Director of Formation for the new members of the community. The novices she worked with were challenged and inspired by her prayer, simplicity, and compassion. They also found inspiration in her love of God, neighbor, and vocation. Her daily life echoed that of Mary, the joyful servant of the Lord – filled with prayer, simplicity and love.
Sister Ruth Etzel was a teacher in words and actions to her students, the newer SSMOs, and to everyone she encountered.
The last 20 years of Sr. Ruth’s ministry was in service to her SSMO community as treasurer and sacristan.
Sr. Ruth cherished her experience working alongside her fellow Sisters in a migrant camp in 1977. She found joy revealing God’s love by serving food, helping with childcare, and teaching religion and English.
Sr. Ruth shared in the SSMO care and prayer for priests – even added gifts of produce from her well-cared-for tomato garden. SSMOs remember waiting for the second round of ripe tomatoes, as the priest chaplains received the first.
Sr. Ruth often spoke with thanks to God, saying “God has been so good to me. I am always thankful.” She had a passionate love for Christ in the Eucharist. Her years as sacristan allowed her to demonstrate that love with the beautiful chapel bouquets she made.
Sr. Ruth Etzel passed away on March 15, 2023 at the SSMO Motherhouse. She is missed, loved and survived by her Sisters in Community, her brother Donald, her many nieces and nephews, the Motherhouse caregivers, and her many dear friends. Sr. Ruth was preceded in death by her parents Frank and Anna Etzel, her brother Francis, her sisters Mary Ann Silbernagel and Jeanne Bradley.
May Sister Ruth rest in God’s loving embrace.