Protestant connects with sisters’ mission to poor; logs more than 25 years’ service

Roberta Sample, a Protestant, says being associated with the Sisters of Providence is “an opportunity everyone should have.”

One of the first to join the Providence Associates in the Northwest was Portland’s Roberta Sample, who has logged more than 25 years as part of this movement.

Roberta was director of the department of nursing at Providence Portland Medical Center when she first heard about the associates program. She was intrigued but put the idea on hold for the back burner before getting actively involved.

“One of the reasons I became more interested,” she says, “is because my own Protestant church did not seem to have programs to help the old, the sick and the poor in the ways that I saw Sisters of Providence doing. I had a longing for that.”

Motives met with suspicion in some quarters

Roberta is an active Christian, who remains a Protestant. When she began her work as an associate, she says, she was “seen with suspicion by the older sisters,” some of whom questioned her motives.

“They didn’t know how to relate to me,” she explains: “They thought, ‘She’s not Catholic; she’s not interested in becoming a sister.'”

Now, all that has changed, as other non-Catholics have joined this growing movement.

Today, there are about 30 Providence Associates in the Portland/Vancouver area, with others active in Spokane, Seattle, Walla Walla and Yakima, in Washington, as well as in Anchorage, Great Falls, Mont., northern and southern California, and Central America.

In Portland, Roberta says, the associates have supported educational programs in El Salvador, provided winter clothes and coats to an Indian reservation, and sent clothing, educational materials and vitamins to Ethiopia.

She is eager to share the organization with others, Roberta says, particularly “when I see a person who has compassion in their heart for people they work with or on behalf of a similar mission. I feel privileged to talk to them about the associate program.

“The privilege of being associated with the sisters is an opportunity everyone should have.”

“The privilege of being associated with the sisters is an opportunity everyone should have.”