BRIDAL VEIL, Ore. -- A group of nuns was among those displaced by the Eagle Creek Fire on Monday.
“It was smoky and the ashes were falling so that was disconcerting,” said Sister Jacinta Coscia.
Coscia and nine other nuns living at the convent in Bridal Veil were put on Level 1 evacuation notice Monday afternoon. By mid-evening, it was Level 2.
“There was definitely some fright,” said Sister Therese Gutting.
The sisters watched as the Eagle Creek Fire threatened their beloved, historic convent, built in 1916.
“You have the idea of, is this going to all go up in flames?” Asked Sister Anne Clare Keeler, who prayed “Please God, no.”
All of the sisters prayed, waited and wondered, until it was time to go.
"At 10 o’clock, the knock came at the door that we should evacuate,” recalled Gutting.
The sisters packed small things, such as check books, passports and sacred items.
“I removed the blessed sacrament, the Eucharist and we all left in our cars heading to Portland,” said Gutting.
“They are tough,” said Tanya Offerdahl, whose daughters attend the Franciscan Montessori Earth School in Southeast Portland, where the sisters teach. “They get in their Subarus and drive right to school.”
The sisters had a quick turnaround. Their first day of school was Tuesday, the day after they were evacuated.
“It's truly a testament to their just being resilient,” said Offerdahl. “They show up with smiles on their faces Tuesday morning to open the school for first day and it's amazing.”
“The whole thing has been kind of surreal,” said Coscia.
The sisters were staying with family and at hotels but hoped to be back in Bridal Veil as soon as it was safe to return. They’re thankful their convent was still standing.
“It’s not just the house,” said Coscia. “It's all of us being together.”
A party planned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Montessori School was planned to take place at the convent but was relocated to the school, itself.
“We can't recreate the gorge here, but we're still going to have a fun party!”Offerdahl said.
“Material things don't really matter,” said Gutting, pointing instead to tenets, refined by the fire. “Having the hope and faith in God, that all will be well."