“My sense of gratitude and thanksgiving is beyond expression,” said Sister Susanne Hartung, after surviving a life-threatening health struggle most recently. “My illness has been my blessing because I see life differently. Every morning I wake up grateful. My life, though full, is not stressful as I see it so differently. It is about relationships, not tasks to complete.”
Born the youngest of six children in Portland, Oregon, Susanne got to know the Sisters of Providence as a senior tending 3-year-olds at Providence Portland Child Center. She entered in 1957 at Mount St. Vincent, Seattle, made first profession in 1959 and enrolled in the new College of Sister Formation. She has a bachelor’s degree in science, master’s degrees in psychology and counseling, master studies in history and theology, and has done doctoral studies in theology and ethics at the University of Louvain in Belgium.
For 25 years, Sister Susanne taught in Catholic schools in Vancouver, Seattle and Olympia, Washington; Anchorage, Alaska; and Burbank, California. She taught seniors and was a counselor and campus minister at Providence High School in Burbank, and then was academic administrator at Eastside Catholic High School in Bellevue, Washington.
In 1987 she began 31 years in health care in mission and ethics at Providence Seattle Medical Center (now Swedish), followed by Providence Health System’s board of directors. Today, she is chief mission integration officer for Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH), charged with sustaining the mission and culture of the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.
She developed the mission ambassador program, working with six Seattle partners aiding the homeless: Union Gospel Mission, Tukwila School for kids at risk, Joseph House, the Des Moines Food Bank, Hope Place, Mother Joseph Farm, and Providence Regina House. “Our work with the homeless gives our caregivers an opportunity to touch the poor and to be touched by them.”
She is on the faculty for the Providence St Joseph Health program that sets direction for the leaders, and she works with all the leadership teams to strengthen their commitment to the mission, values and heritage.
The highlight of her Jubilee year was a medical-surgical trip to Guatemala, serving the poorest of the poor in a place that has no health-care system. “I was so thankful I had the energy and health to work the 12-hour days.” She was deeply touched by the people she met – the 50 team members working and the patients they cared for and their family members.
“I am so grateful to be celebrating my 60th Jubilee at the time of the 175th anniversary of the founding of Sisters of Providence.” She also feels blessed by “the extraordinary love and support” of her large family, her community of sisters and friends.