Born in Pueblo, Colorado, on September 19, 1935, to Hazel Lorene (Hankla) and Joseph Laughlin, Barbara Jean Laughlin attended various elementary schools in Colorado and California before finishing her elementary years at St. Patrick and St. Andrew Catholic Schools in Portland, Oregon, with her sisters Geri, Joyce, and Ahriah and brother Michael. Barbara Jean completed her secondary education at Immaculata Academy in Portland, Oregon, graduating in 1953. The following year, 1954, Barbara Jean entered the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon accepting the name Sr. Mary Joseph Lorine. She pronounced her perpetual vows on August 15, 1959. In keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, Sister subsequently returned to her baptismal name, Barbara Jean. Rich educational experiences at Marylhurst, Southern Oregon, Gonzaga, and Eastern Washington Universities and the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA) enhanced Sr. Barbara Jean’s professional and personal development.
With passion, creativity, and a talent for leading necessary change, Sr. Barbara Jean was an outstanding elementary school teacher and principal for 24 years in Portland, Tillamook, and Spokane, including the opening of Christ the King School (Milwaukie). An innovator who lived the values and vision of the Second Vatican Council, Sr. Barbara Jean collaboratively initiated the SSMO Associates program and the SSMO Bethany Center and served as a lay pastoral assistant at St. Francis Parish in Sherwood, Oregon (1996-2000)
Key advice from Sr. Barbara Jean was “Stand often in the company of dreamers: they believe you can achieve impossible things.” This is an apt description of Sr. Barbara Jean as Superior General of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon from 2000-2010. Her fresh energy and vision for the organization and success of the Sisters’ ministries stimulated a campus reorganization. This included adopting the Valley Catholic School name to encompass the pre-K through 12th-grade campus schools, constructing a new Valley Catholic Elementary and Middle School building, expanding the Maryville care options, and creating a SSMO Ministries Corporation to unite all campus entities in the mission of the SSMOs to proclaim the Good News of God’s Love.
Sr. Barbara Jean lived with a desire to know and love people as Christ does. Her greatest joy in her European, US, Mexican, and Holy Land travels was encountering Christ’s people. Her work, support, and prayer for peace and justice focused on building God’s Kingdom. Ever true to her Irish heritage, Sr. Barbara Jean loved music, enjoyed and initiated laughter, cherished her Catholic faith, and treasured her relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her vision, her attentiveness to God’s grace, her joy, her compassion, and her courage changed the SSMO Community and the world she encountered.
Sister Barbara Jean Laughlin passed away on July 24, 2021 at the SSMO Motherhouse. She is missed, loved, and survived by her Sisters in Community; her sister Joyce and brother-in-law Don Karaman (Beaverton, OR); her sister Ahriah Vocare Elario and brother-in-law Don (Reno, NV); and her brother Michael and sister-in-law Linda Laughlin (Boise, ID); her brother-in-law Larry Morin, (Portland, OR); her well-loved nieces and nephews; and her many, deeply treasured friends. Her parents, Joseph and Hazel Laughlin, her stepmother, Beulah Laughlin, and her sister, Geraldine (Geri) Morin, preceded her in death.
May Sr. Barbara Jean rest in God’s embrace.