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2011 Jubilee celebration

18 Sisters of Providence mark 25 to 75 years of religious life

Eighteen Sisters of Providence will celebrate 25 to 75 years of religious life at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, August 6, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, 7000 35th Ave. SW, Seattle. Father Stan Malnar will preside at the liturgy, which will be followed by a reception in Guadalupe Hall.

The Jubilarians and their current residences are:

  • 75 years – Sister Dorothy Zimny, Spokane;
  • 70 years – Sisters Maryann Benoit, Great Falls, Mont.; Joan O’Brien, Seattle; Cecilia Paganessi, Spokane;
  • 60 years – Sisters Mary K. Cummings, Spokane; Anna Marie Koval, Spokane; Scholastica Lee, Seattle;
  • 50 years – Sisters Lynn Chappell, Seattle; Maria Lourdes Cleto, Spokane; Patricia Eley, Seattle; Joyce Green, Portland, Ore.; Myrta Iturriaga, Spokane; Maria Teresa Lopez, Spokane; Carla Montante, Olympia, Wash.; Mary Kaye Nealen, Great Falls, Mont.; Marie-Claire Soucy, Limonade, Cap Haitien, Haiti; Patricia Vartanian, Seattle;
  • 25 years – Sister Renate Hayum (1930-2011), Seattle.

75 years

Sister Dorothy Zimny (Sister Margaret Yvonne) was born in Wells, Minn., in 1917. The family moved to Spokane when she was a year old and she attended public schools before becoming a boarder at St. Joseph Academy in Sprague, Wash. She entered the novitiate at Mount St. Vincent in Seattle in 1935 and pronounced first vows in 1937.

Her first ministry was teaching fifth and sixth grades at St. Thomas Home in Great Falls, Mont. Her 17-year teaching career also took her to Missoula, Mont., Sprague and Colfax, Wash., and Wallace, Idaho.

Other ministries included bookkeeping, hospital patient accounts, secretarial duties and medical records administration.

70 years

Sister Maryann Benoit (Sister Valerie) was born in Yakima, Wash., and graduated from St. Joseph Academy, as did her mother. Both were taught history by Sister Edward John. Inspired by the Providence sisters who taught her, Sister Maryann entered the novitiate in Seattle. Her first ministry was teaching third graders in Tacoma, Wash., followed by decades of teaching on the elementary and secondary levels in Walla Walla, Seattle, Vancouver, Olympia and Yakima, Wash., Burbank, Calif., and Missoula and Great Falls, Mont.

She later served as an English professor on the faculty of the College of Great Falls (MT). Invited to teach English twice in Japan, she subsequently was an advisor to numerous Japanese students at the college.

In Great Falls she also formerly provided assistance with writing and editing for people who needed but could not afford language help services.

Sister Joan O’Brien (Sister James Albert) was born Marie Jeanne d’Arc in 1921 in the village L’Assumption, Quebec. At age 8, she and her 3-year-old sister moved to a Sisters of Providence orphanage following their mother’s death.

She entered the religious community in 1940 and made first vows in 1942. Sent to Seattle, she learned the English language and American customs while working as a companion in the infirmary at Mount St. Vincent, and as a cook at St. Catherine School in Seattle and at St. Michael School in Olympia, Wash.

Sister Joan was a nursing supervisor at hospitals in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Everett, Olympia and Seattle, Wash. She opened the Pastoral Care Department at Providence Seattle Hospital and also served in pastoral care at Providence Everett Hospital.

Her last ministry was working with the elderly at Vincent House, low-income housing in downtown Seattle.

Sister Cecilia Paganessi (Sister Beatrice of Jesus) was born in Centerville, Mont., and moved to St. Thomas Home in Great Falls at the age of 7 with her four sisters after their mother’s death. Educated by the Sisters of Providence, after high school she attended the College of Great Falls for a year and then entered the novitiate of the religious community at Mount St. Vincent, Seattle.

She made first profession in 1943 and began a 31-year teaching career that took her to parochial grade schools in Missoula, Glasgow and Great Falls, Mont., Kellogg and Wallace, Idaho, and Colfax and Walla Walla, Wash. After studying accounting at Kinman Business College she was an accounts receivable clerk in the business office at the College of Great Falls for eight years and later worked in the treasurer’s office in the provincialate in Spokane.

She spent several years in community service in Spokane before returning to Walla Walla as a church and parish volunteer working on projects for the poor and visiting and assisting neighbors.

60 years

Sister Mary K. Cummings (Sister Katrina) lives just a short stroll from her birthplace at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. Her family moved to Spokane from Northport, Wash., near the Canadian border, when she was 10. She graduated from Marycliff High School and discovered that she had a vocation while attending Holy Names College. She taught fifth through eighth grades for eight years, in Missoula, Mont., Wallace and DeSmet, Idaho, and Great Falls, Mont., and later taught high school.

Other ministries have been in finance at the College of Great Falls, as treasurer of the former St. Ignatius Province, in parish ministry in Hayward, Calif., and nine years as director of pastoral care and of volunteers at a small rural hospital in Polson, Mont., while also serving as a part-time provincial council member.

After retiring 10 years ago in Spokane, she assisted the elderly at Mount St. Joseph and Emilie Court. Today she is a part-time volunteer in the religious community’s library in Spokane.

Sister Anna Marie Koval (Sister Mary Ursula) is a native of Staples, Minn. She and her family moved to Missoula, Mont., where she was taught by Sisters of Providence at St. Francis Xavier, Sacred Heart Academy, St. Patrick School of Nursing and also at the College of Great Falls (MT).

She entered the novitiate in 1950 and served as a nurse in hospitals in Idaho, Montana and Washington, including 20 years as a nurse and in pastoral care at St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula. After a renewal program for religious sisters in 1984, she enrolled in training for pastoral education and was certified as a chaplain.

She currently works part time as chaplain at St. Joseph Care Center, Spokane.

Sister Scholastica Lee (Sister Scholastica Mary) was born in Eden, County Roscommon, Ireland, in 1921 and came to the United States with her brother in the early 1940s in search of work.

Her first job was as assistant to Sister Tekawitha in the pharmacy at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. She entered the religious community at the age of 29. Her first ministry was teaching third grade at St. Patrick School in Walla Walla, Wash. She also taught at Providence Academy and at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Vancouver, Wash.; St. Catherine School, Seattle; Holy Rosary School, Moxee, Wash.; St. Joseph grade school, Yakima, Wash.; and Immaculate Conception School, Fairbanks, Alaska.

In 1972 she switched to parish work, serving at St. Monica Parish Center in Coos Bay, Ore., Holy Names Parish in Coquille, Ore., and St. Michael Parish in Snohomish, Wash. Later she returned to St. Joseph Grade School in Yakima to coordinate religious education and teach.

One of her favorite ministries was her 17 years as hospital chaplain at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Ore. She retired to St. Joseph Residence, Seattle, in 2000.

50 years

Sister Lynn Chappell (Sister Inez Elizabeth) was born in White Center, Wash., and met the Sisters of Providence at Holy Family School. She entered the religious community as a postulant at Mount St. Vincent in Seattle and attended classes at Providence Heights in Issaquah, Wash.

After graduation from Seattle University in 1965, she taught fifth grade at Sacred Heart School in Tacoma, Wash. Other teaching assignments were at Holy Family School in White Center, St. Joseph School in Yakima, Wash., and Villa Academy and Assumption Schools in Seattle.

She was local coordinator/administrator at St. Joseph Residence, Seattle, and took studies to become licensed as a nursing home administrator in Washington State. Next she served as provincial secretary for the former Sacred Heart Province, and then as part of the administrative team at Mount St. Vincent.

In 1995 she was called to serve as a provincial councilor for Sacred Heart Province’s last leadership team and in the fall of 1999 she was appointed provincial councilor/treasurer for the first leadership team of Mother Joseph Province.

She has served on the boards of Providence Health System and of Providence Senior and Community Services, and as chair of three Department of Housing and Urban Development boards. She also was the first records manager for Mount St. Vincent. She currently is secretary to the superior of St. Joseph Residence and manager of Caritas Court in West Seattle.

Sister Maria Lourdes Cleto (Given name: Soledad) was born in Manila, Philippines, She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Providence in 1960 in Seattle and made first profession in 1963. A graduate of the College of Great Falls (MT), she spent 15 years as a parochial school teacher in DeSmet, Idaho, Great Falls and Missoula, Mont., and Spokane and Walla Walla, Wash.

She has worked with adults on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, with black residents of Chicago and with Mexican migrant children in Walla Walla.

After completing the chaplaincy program at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, she was a pastoral assistant at St. Edward Parish in Seattle for a total of 24 years, including work with the parish’s Filipino community. Next she worked with the Seattle Diaconate Formation Program for three years before moving into her current role as a member of the Vocation Team for the Sisters of Providence.

Sister Patricia Eley was born at Providence Hospital, where her parents met as teenage employees, and she knew from the first grade that she wanted to be a Sister of Providence. She entered the religious community after graduation from Providence Academy in Vancouver, Wash., and made first vows in 1958. Initially assigned to study nursing, she was sent to teach at St. Finbar School in Burbank, Calif., beginning a 31-year career teaching every grade from third through eighth.

She left the community for personal reasons in 1971, continuing to teach, and then returned three years later. She went to the novitiate again and professed first vows for the second time in 1975 and final vows three years later. Other teaching assignments were at Holy Rosary School, Moxee, Wash.; Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Vancouver, Wash.; Our Lady of the Holy Rosary School, Sun Valley, Calif.; and Holy Family School, St. Paul School, and St. Bernadette School, Seattle.

She also served as co-principal of St. Paul School in 1986. In between teaching assignments, she worked in the finance departments of the health system’s corporate offices and of the religious community.

Sister Joyce Green (Sister Joyce Marie) was born with impaired vision and today is blind, but it is an experience that has enriched rather than defined her. She developed a phenomenal memory for taking in information that got her through high school in her small town in Missouri, and used a tape recorder and paid readers to earn a college degree at St. Louis University as a scholarship student.

After graduation, she worked for eight years as a correspondence secretary at a paper company, became a Catholic as an adult, and entered the Sisters of Providence in Seattle. She professed first vows in 1963 and worked for two years as a medical records transcriptionist at St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, Calif., followed by four years at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Portland, Ore.

She served in social work at Providence Portland Medical Center (PPMC) from 1971 to 1990, with time out to earn a master’s degree in social work at St. Louis University. She developed the mission integration program at PPMC, established the recognition program for employees who model the mission, and began a medication assistance program for the needy. In addition, she has served on a number of advocacy boards for the blind, including the Oregon State Commission for the Blind, on the board and as treasurer of the state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, and on the board of Outreach Ministries in Portland.

Sister Myrta Iturriaga (Sister Juana Rosa de Jesus) was born in Temuco, Chile. She was taught by Sisters of Providence at Sacred Heart School and entered the religious community in 1961, a year after graduation. She taught math, arts and religion in elementary school and high school in Chile, and was principal of the Professional School in Ovalle, where she helped with the Christian formation of the students’ families.

She came to the former St. Ignatius Province, headquartered in Spokane, Wash., in August 1988, when she was called to be a missionary to the Hispanic community in Connell, Wash. Her transfer to the province was formally approved in 1992. She became a U.S. citizen in 2002 in Spokane.

For more than 20 years, Sister Myrta worked for the Diocese of Spokane, as director of Hispanic ministry, as a translator, and also in prison and detention ministry. This year, when she ended her ministry with the diocese, she received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Airway Heights Correctional Center.

Sister Maria Teresa Lopez (Sister Maria Teresa of Jesus) was born in San Miguel, Manila. She completed high school in 1940, and then studied secretarial work at the University of Santo Tomas. During the Japanese occupation she worked at the Welfareville Institute for delinquent boys and girls, as well as at the Home for the Aged and the Infirm and the orphanage there.

Next, she worked for nine years as secretary to the director of the Military Welfare Service Department of the Philippine National Red Cross while taking graduate studies in social service work at the Centro Escolar University and doing field work at the Settlement House, an institution for abandoned children. Later, she was secretary to the general manager of Warner-Chilcott Laboratories Inc. in Manila.

She made and paid for her own arrangements to come to the United States to enter the novitiate of the Sisters of Providence in 1960, making first vows in 1963. She was assigned to Columbus Hospital in Great Falls, Mont., as a medical social worker and volunteered at Opportunities Inc., and with Women in Community Service.

For six years she was director of the Social Services Department at Columbus Hospital, helping to launch its Medical Social Service Program. She did post graduate work in psychotherapy at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., and was director of social services at St. John Hospital, Longview, Wash.

She returned to the Philippines in 1979 to work with Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Manila, and then went to work in the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program in Florida and South Carolina. She studied clinical pastoral education at Deaconess Hospital, Spokane, volunteered with refugee resettlement efforts, spent time in the Sisters of Providence Philippine sector (now a vice province) and returned to Mount St. Joseph, Spokane, when she retired in 2003.

Sister Carla Montante (Sister Carla Marie) was born in St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Wash., and was taught by Sisters of Providence at St. Michael grade school. She entered the religious community in 1959, but left in the early months of novitiate due to ill health, returning in 1961.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Seattle University and a master’s degree from the University of Portland, both in education. Her first ministry was teaching the middle grades for six years at St. Joseph School in Vancouver, Wash. She also taught at St. Michael School in Olympia and at St. Catherine School in Seattle.

In 1974, she helped the Archdiocese of Seattle support the laity through the Channel program by assisting recent college and university graduates as they put their faith into action as teachers or ministers. She transitioned into vocation and formation ministry, serving from 1976 to 1981 at a formation/vocation house in Holy Angels Province in Calgary, Alberta.

Next, she spent two years there as a retreat and spiritual director at the multi-faith Religious Life Center of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. Returning to the United States in 1983, she became director of religious education at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in Spanaway, Wash. She later worked at Loyola Retreat House in Portland, Ore., providing individual and group spiritual direction and retreats. Her leadership positions with the congregation have included serving on the Provincial Council of Sacred Heart Province and as a director of the Sisters of Providence Health Care Corporation.

In 1997 she returned to the Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton, and then became provincial superior for the sisters of Western Canada for six years.

Sister Mary Kaye Nealen (Sister Leonore Mary) has served in ministry on the campus of the University of Great Falls (MT) for 20½ years. She currently is director of mission integration and associate professor of theology and ministry. She also has served as provost and vice president of academic affairs. She holds degrees from Seattle University and Aquinas Institute of Theology, as well as a doctorate in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America.

Born in Spokane, she entered the novitiate in Seattle in 1960 and attended college at Providence Heights in Issaquah, Wash. She professed first vows in 1963. After nine years of teaching junior high and high school, she asked to study theology and was permitted to carry out research in South America, primarily in Chile

Subsequent ministries included parish ministry in three rural parishes near Great Falls, Mont., and spiritual formation and field supervision with permanent deacon applicants and their wives in the Diocese of Great Falls/Billings (MT). She also served on the General Council in Montreal, Quebec.

Sister Marie-Claire Soucy (Given name: Florence Soucy) is a nurse who has practiced her profession for more than 40 years in a number of countries in South America and Africa, in addition to Haiti, where she currently serves in a rural clinic in the mountains north of Port au Prince.

Born in Lowell, Mass., she attended schools operated by the Grey Nuns of Ottawa and took nursing studies at Sacred Heart Hospital in Montreal, Quebec. She made temporary vows as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate in Quebec City before being granted a transfer to the Sisters of Providence motherhouse in Montreal. She entered the Providence community in 1961 and made first vows in 1963.

When Pope John XXIII called for missionaries to go to Latin America, Sister Marie-Claire was ready. After studying Spanish, she went to Argentina and worked as a nurse in a regional hospital. Next, she traveled in 1975 to Cameroon, Africa, where she served as nursing director in a clinic in the bush where there was no doctor. In 1978 she went to Haiti, where she has spent most of the years since then, with intermittent stays in Seattle in Mother Joseph Province, which she joined in 1994.

Sister Patricia Vartanian (Sister John Marie) was born in Sacred Heart Hospital in Hanford, Calif. She moved with her family to Burbank, where she was taught by the Sisters of Providence at St. Finbar grade school and Providence High School. She entered the religious community as a postulant in 1960 and took classes at Providence Heights in Issaquah, Wash. She professed first vows in 1963 and, after two more years of study in the juniorate, was missioned to teach seventh grade at St. Joseph grade school in Vancouver, Wash. She taught for six years, including one year in Fairbanks, Alaska.

A bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and master’s degrees in business administration and in public health from the University of California at Berkeley prepared her to go into health care and religious community finance. The health care finance ministry included eight years in Providence Hospital, Oakland, Calif., and two years in Anchorage, Alaska. She served as provincial treasurer of the former Sacred Heart Province, and then as provincial treasurer of Holy Angels Province, Edmonton, Alberta.

Returning to Seattle to join the new Mother Joseph Province, she began a third phase of ministry in alternative/complementary health care, with a massage license and a certificate in reflexology.

25 years

Sister Renate Hayum (1930-2011), a Jewish convert to Catholicism, entered the Sisters of Providence at the age of 52. An only child born in Germany in the 1930s, she fled with her parents to New York in 1939. She was sent to live with relatives in Denver, where she learned English, and was reunited with her parents in Seattle with the help of a Jewish refugee organization.

She graduated from Franklin High School, enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Ore., and then transferred to the University of Washington. Moving to San Francisco after graduation, she converted to Catholicism in 1953. She moved to New York and for 11 years was editorial assistant for the director of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University.

She returned to Seattle in 1966 and earned a master’s degree in library science at the University of Washington. For 19 years she was a reference librarian and department head at Seattle Public Library. Sister Renate also became involved in parish works at St. Patrick’s Church. Inquiries about joining a religious community led her to the Sisters of Providence. She entered the novitiate in 1986 and made first profession in 1988.

Her ministries in the community included being one of five founding sisters in the Philippines and serving for 17 years as school librarian at Providence High School in Burbank, Calif. She died in Seattle on January 27, 2011, three days before her 81st birthday.

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