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Irene G. Junga

January 1, 1934 ~ November 22, 2018 (age 84)

Irene Gladys Junga was born on New Year’s Day in 1934 to parents Mary and Edward Sniezewski (Schnick) in Meriden, Connecticut. Born into a traditional Polish family and community, her long braids were the envy of many. She attended Meriden High School where she met her boyfriend, Frank Junga, and graduated with the class of ’52. She then attended the University of Connecticut from 1952-1956. Frank would attend Yale during these same years, but they still remained a couple. Even though she initially hated chemistry class, she would graduate with a degree in zoology and chemistry in 1956. Frank would graduate with a degree in physics, and they were married on June 23, 1956. Shortly thereafter, they would make the big move west and begin their new life together in Menlo Park, California.

Irene started her career as a biochemist with SRI, where she worked until 1965 when she joined the Stanford Medical School Research Branch, where she worked in a lab that conducted cancer research. They bought their first house in 1970 on Hobart Street, and their son, Franz, was born on November 3 (election day) that year. Frank worked at Lockheed Research Center and finished his PhD in Physics from UC Berkley in 1963.

In September of 1992, they both retired and in June of 1996, they returned to Connecticut to her parent’s property at 50 Gadpouch Road. Adding to her public service as an Election’s Judge, she became an EMT, serving the township of East Hampton. In 2007, they sold their 45 acre property to the State of Connecticut as an annexation to the Mashomasic State Forest and moved to Harvey Way, Lake Oswego, to be closer to their son and his family.

Irene had many sports passions in her life. In football, as an avid 49ers fan in California, Stanford University tailgate professional and always a supporter of her hometown New England Patriots. She eventually gave a nod to the Seahawks after living so long in the Northwest. In basketball, she was a fanatic of her alma mater’s UCONN women’s basketball empire. And she loved gold, playing courses in Bay Area as well as an annual pilgrimage to Pebble Beach in Carmel to watch the Crosby Pro-Am. She was one of those rare people that enjoyed watching golf on TV.

Music was a large part of her life with Frank, and they attended countless classical concerts wherever they lived. She had a special interest in Broadway shows and famously saw seven productions of “Cats” in multiple cities on both coasts.

However, Irene was the most passionate about the church than any of her other interests, and was active in service for over 40 years.

In the early 1970’s, Irene and Frank joined St. Raymond’s Parish in Menlo Park, California. Shortly after joining, they read a notice in the Sunday bulletin looking for lectors and Eucharistic ministers. The lectors had to “audition” to see if they qualified. There were about 12 people who signed up for the lector audition. Irene was one of the last ones to do a reading and when she started, the room went completely silent. The silence made Irene really nervous and concerned about how she was doing. After everyone finished reading, the person in charge “the judge” came over to Irene first. Irene thought she was going to be dismissed. Instead, the judge was totally impressed with how articulate Irene was and signed her up right away. Now, Irene likes to work in the background and was a little embarrassed with the attention on her. When Irene and Frank did their first mass as lectors, their son Franz was the altar server…now that was special.

Those of us here at Our Lady of the Lake who have heard Irene proclaim the readings know what a great lector she was. Irene and Frank always read as a team; Frank did the first reading and Irene did the second. Any of us who have done the second readings know how difficult it is at times, especially when reading the letters from St. Paul, who is a true master of run-on sentences. Irene was able to break them down, adding the right pauses, so you could understand what he was saying…now that was a true gift.

After becoming a lector at St. Raymond’s, Irene joined the Liturgy Committee. Now this was the time when the Vatican Council and major changes with the Mass were being implemented. The pastor asked her to be on a special group to plan and implement the removing of the altar rail and moving the altar closer to the congregation! Many parishioners were totally against the tide, but Irene kept a calm presence and patiently explained to people the intent behind the Vatican II changes. She helped mend a lot of bridges.

When they moved back to Connecticut, they became members of her family’s church, St. Patrick’s Parish. Again, Frank and Irene became lectors and Eucharistic ministers. Irene was selected to take a three year in-depth course to become a certified commissioned liturgical minister. The men who also completed the course were able to continue on to become deacons. Irene, now a certified instructor, was able to teach classes, train lectors, altar servers, and Eucharistic ministers throughout the Archdiocese.

When they moved back to the west coast here in Oregon, they joined Our Lady of the Lake, and Irene contacted Sister Marilyn, who at the time was the liturgical minister coordinator for the parish. Irene showed Sr. Marilyn the letter from her pastor of St. Patrick’s stating her commissioning. Sr. Marilyn quickly signed up Irene and Frank as lectors and Irene joined the Liturgy Team. After a few years, Irene took over the scheduling of the lectors and their training. She quickly whipped this ministry into shape, filling the open positions and gracefully asked some lectors if they would consider only lecturing at one mass a month to give others a chance to serve! Every month, she would send out the schedule so we all knew who was scheduled at what mass. Irene also made a copy and posted it to in the sign-in area. Besides being on the Liturgy Team, she also served on the Pastoral Council, and was the faithful secretary for both groups.

Safety was a big concern for Irene. She brought this up at our Liturgy meetings, and if it got postponed to the next month, Irene did not forget to make sure it was added again to the agenda. Some of the issues were: the carpeting in the church made it difficult to clearly distinguish the steps around the altar; also there were no railings to assist moving between different levels on the altar. We can all thank Irene for the white tape on the altar, the brass railings and safety ladders in the choir loft.

One of Irene’s most visible accomplishments to Our Lady of the Lake is the albs for the altar servers. When Irene first recommended albs at a liturgy meeting, she was told to submit a plan. So, Irene did a plan, formed a little committee, and they worked out all the details. There was some resistance, but those of us who know Irene know she does not take no as an answer! Two parishioners donated money toward the purchasing the albs and cinctures, and Irene donated the difference. A year after Irene first brought this up at the liturgy meeting, the altar server’s albs were ordered and the first mass was on a Sunday at 11:00 AM. Father Andrew Thomas presided at the mass and at the end, he asked parishioners if they noticed anything new about the mass…and then about the servers and their new albs…everyone started to applaud, and the rest is history!

Irene was a fighter her whole life, always finding the strength to pull through even in the face of great adversity. Her commitment to family, friends, and faith was never ending. Even with her own health issues, she continued to prove countless doctors, nurses, and counselors wrong. Her faith and steadfast will kept her going when others told her she could not. All who knew her were better for it. Her positive impact and generosity will never be forgotten.

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