Kathleen Hepner, SNJM
Kathleen Hepner, eldest child of Vernon and Elizabeth Hepner, was born in Eugene, Oregon. She lived with her parents and two younger brothers in a small “garage” home her carpenter/cabinetmaker father built.
Kathleen attended a local public school for first and second grades and walked across a lot to the local grange for a weekly released time religion class. On Sundays she remained after Mass at St. Mary’s Church, attended CCD class, and rode home with neighbors afterwards. During the summer she went to religious vacation school. She met Holy Names Sisters in the Sunday and summer classes, but was frightened of her teachers with the long black dresses.
Third grade was a significant year for Kathleen. Her family and about twenty other families were the founding families of St. Paul Parish and School. Many weekends her family helped build, plant, sew or create whatever was needed for the new parish, school or home of the St. Joseph Sisters.
Kathleen had learned simple hand stitching and embroidery at home and then joined 4-H, where she learned how to use a sewing machine and how to construct clothing. These skills were to become a life-long hobby, craft and way to pray and renew. During this time, Kathleen also first felt the urge to enter the convent.
When they were a little older, Kathleen and her brothers rode their bicycles to neighboring farms and picked crops during the summer. Their earnings gave them money to help their parents with their school expenses and some spending money.
Kathleen attended St. Francis High School where she again had Holy Name Sisters as teachers. In 1966 she entered the novitiate at Marylhurst, responding to the call she had felt since she was nine. At Marylhurst College she completed a baccalaureate degree in Elementary Education and Language Arts and went on to teach grades 4-8 in Seattle and Portland, Salem, Bend and Medford, Oregon, and in Summer Vacation schools in Central Oregon. During this time she obtained a Master of Education at Western Washington University with a focus on Elementary Education and Language Arts.
After retiring from classroom teaching, Kathleen was an itinerate teacher traveling to schools in the Portland, Baker, Spokane, and Yakima dioceses teaching about the beginning of Catholic education in the Pacific Northwest and the arrival of Holy Names Sisters in Oregon and Washington. When this program ceased, she became Coordinator of Chapel of the Holy Names at Marylhurst, the position she currently holds.