Sister Marcella Parrish

Sr. Marcella Parrish: In her own words

When I was four, my family moved into town from a logging camp. We had been living in a large log cabin with an outhouse, one of hour electricity per day, and lots of space for my older brother and me to explore.

Shortly after moving, I went with my mother and brother to register him for first grade at St. Mary’s School in Stayton. We met with Sister Theresa Margaret and, being four year old, I could only really see her shoes. But I made a big decision that day. My reasoning was that I didn’t know if she was wearing cowboy boots or some other kind of shoe, but I knew that I wanted to be what she was and wear that kind of shoes.

My resolve continued to grow the more I was around the Sisters. We almost always stayed after school to help clean classrooms so I got to know the Sisters well. After graduating from eighth grade, I was excited to go to St. Mary of the Valley (now Valley Catholic) High School as an aspirant. We lived on the convent side of the building and went to school with the boarders and those who travelled to the campus to attend classes. In the middle of my junior/senior year I entered as a postulant.

College at Marylhurst went quickly and I returned to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon campus in January of 1960 to teach seventh and eighth grades in the elementary school. I went upstairs twice a day to teach geometry for St. Mary of the Sacred Heart. In the fall I was assigned to St. Andrew’s school in Portland where getting across Alberta Street was a big challenge for a country kid. My next two years were in Grand Ronde where I again appreciated the peace and quiet, the Saturday trips to Lincoln City to teach religious education classes with Sr. Agnes Coussens.

After finishing my master’s degree in mathematics at Gonzaga University in Spokane, I began teaching high school – mostly math, chemistry, and religion. But, since I loved challenges, I also taught electronics, photography, and auto mechanics and coached volleyball on the side.

Interspersed in my 40 years of educations were years of leadership and administration. I served as a high school vice principal, dean of girls and high school principal. I served three terms (15 years) on the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Leadership Team and six years as assistant superintendent of the Department of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon.

In recent years, I have been ministering to the poor and homeless.

I am a perpetual optimist and I can honestly say that I loved every ministry where I have served. I learned early on that it is important to pray – always. I learned the morning offering as a child and it has been my daily companion, connecting me with the Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I’ve had opportunities to make many varieties of retreats and learn many different kinds of prayer. I know that I am strengthened by the prayers of my family, friends, and community.

Photos and video

We invite you to enjoy photos from Sr. Marcella’s life and ministry.

In their own words (video): The 2015 Jubilarians of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon