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Home \ Sisters have significant legacy in the West

Sisters have significant legacy in the West

Beyond the first sisters who arrived in the West, Sister Judith Desmarais highlighted the following sisters: 

Sr. John Gabriel Ryan (1874–1951) (Georgia Gately) was a pioneer in nursing education and she wrote about her nursing specialty in a book entitled, Through the Patient’s Eyes, which was very well accepted. She became the supervisor of all Sisters of Providence schools of nursing in the Pacific Northwest. She taught at Seattle College, Holy Names College-Oakland, Calif., and Loyola University-Chicago.

Sr. Mary Loretta Gately (1869-1946) In 1893, she transformed the structure and curriculum of Sacred Heart Academy, Missoula, Mont., and was there 20 years. In 1912 she became directress of schools for Sacred Heart and St. Ignatius provinces. She encouraged teachers to take the state board exam to be eligible for a teaching certificate, long before this was required by law. She also encouraged teachers to get a college education and got permission from superiors for them to attend teaching colleges and universities.

Sr. Mary Philothea (1902-1983) (Genevieve Gorman) was provincial superior of Sacred Heart Province from 1952 to 1958. At this time, Pope Pius XII had just published a mandate to religious superiors to educate Sisters to the level of lay teachers. She took this directive to heart and established the Everett Curriculum Workshop. She was the foundress and first dean of the College of Sister Formation. She helped organize the Gately-Ryan Program, a course used by religious communities to implement the documents of the Vatican II Council in their communities and personal lives.

Sr. Teresa Lang (1904-1994) (Judith) began to work in 1938 with Sr. Mary Loretta Gately and in 1943, was appointed directress of schools. She was provincial superior of Sacred Heart Province from 1958 to 1964. She also was one of the foundresses of the Sister Formation Program and was dean of the College of Sister Formation from 1964-1968. She was a charter member of the national Sister Formation Movement.

Sr. Providencia (1909-1989) (Denise Tolan) taught sociology at the College of Great Falls from 1948 to 1974. She worked tirelessly to improve the conditions of Hill 57, Mount Royal and Wiremill Road, the areas where Native American residents of Great Falls, Mont., lived in poverty. She lobbied for federal aid to these communities and for improvements to federal policies that affected Native Americans. She wrote “A Shining from the Mountains,” a history of the St. Ignatius mission. She was politically savvy and outspoken, sometimes ruffling feathers and breaking with tradition.

Sr. Loretta Marie Marceau (1914-2012) (Ida Mae) Throughout her life, she spent 58 years in finance, with 21 years in hospital finance. She spent 20 years as provincial treasurer for St. Ignatius Province. Known for her fundraising prowess, she was so successful at this because she believed so deeply in the Providence mission and was focused on serving those in need.

Sr. Simonne Begin (1918-2006) (Laure Angeline) was born in Quebec and was sent west after first vows in 1942. By 1950 she spoke fluent English and had finished three years of nurse’s training. During the Vietnam War, she worked as a health-care advisor (assistant to the director of US AID) at Kahn Hoa General Hospital in Wha Trang from 1968 to 1970. She helped train Vietnamese nurses and went on medical missions by helicopter, traveling over the war zone.

In the 1980s, as part of the East Coast Migrant Health Project, she headed a team of outreach health workers who traveled with migrant farm workers in North Carolina. Sr. Simonne described her work with migrant workers in this way: “To serve the voiceless, the marginal, the downtrodden, the poor. That has been from the beginning the work of Sisters of Providence. The work done in this program is uninviting, and is demanding. Truly, it fits us well.”

Sr. Cecilia Abhold (1915-2000) (Mary Loretta)had an exceptional talent for business. She was provincial of Sacred Heart Province from 1964 to 1970, a time when the community was choosing a direction to take following the changes communicated by the Vatican II Council. She was appointed first director of East Coast Migrant Health Project, which was based in Washington, D.C., but her work took her all over the east coast. She implemented the first Head Start program for children of migrant workers.

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