Nonprofit Senior Living Community

History & Heritage

Our story begins more than 150 years ago when 12 Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) from Montreal disembarked from a steamer ship in Portland, Oregon. They arrived on October 21, 1859, at the request of Portland Archbishop Francis Norbert Blanchet, to establish schools in the Northwest territory. Although they carried few possessions, they did, however, bring an abundance of faith, dedication and sense of mission.

SNJM Sisters work in the garden near the historic Provincial House.
SNJM Sisters work together to clear leaves from a forested area of the land near the historic Provincial House.

When the Sisters set foot in their new home, Oregon had been a state for just eight months. Portland’s population was just over 1,200 and consisted mostly of wood frame structures with only a handful of brick buildings. These dedicated Sisters, only a few of whom were fluent in English when they arrived, quickly set to work and on November 6, just a few short weeks after their arrival, opened St. Mary’s Academy to the girls of the city.

With the success of the Portland mission, other Sisters were sent to Oregon, spreading across the state to found missions and open or teach in schools. In 1893, they established St. Mary’s College (Marylhurst University), the first liberal arts college for women in the Pacific Northwest. In 1906, the Sisters purchased property in Lake Oswego to establish a Convent, build a home for orphans, and expand the college.

1911 marked the dedication of the Convent of the Holy Names in Marylhurst — a name the Sisters created from the name of Mary, mother of Jesus, and hurst, meaning woods.

OUR FOUNDING as a Nonprofit

In 2001, the Sisters created Mary’s Woods, a nonprofit continuing care retirement center. Their vision was to develop a continuum of housing, health, and educational services for seniors. Situated on 40 acres, Mary’s Woods was developed in a park-like setting in Lake Oswego on land owned by the Sisters.

Photo of the Provincial House from the 1950s.
View of the Celebration Garden and Provincial House at Mary's Woods in Lake Oswego.

The Sisters’ vision continued to evolve in 2017 with the creation of the Village Square. This expansion introduced additional independent living and assisted living homes, enhancing the options available to residents. In addition, the Village Square offers convenient on-campus access to retail and medical services for residents and the public to enjoy.

The original Provincial House, constructed in 1910, still stands as a centerpiece of this vibrant community. This historic building now houses a variety of restaurants, meeting and event spaces, classrooms, a fitness center with pool, and the beautiful Chapel of the Holy Names. 

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