Sister Karin Dufault is General Superior of the international community of the Sisters of Providence. She is a former provincial superior and team leader for Mother Joseph Province. Prior to that, she was vice president of mission leadership of the Providence Health System and served on several boards, including the Catholic Health Association (CHA).
Sister Karin has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the health field, with clinical specialties in oncology and gerontology and a doctorate in nursing. She served in a variety of clinical and nursing roles in Portland before returning to her hometown of Yakima, Washington, where she took over administration of St. Elizabeth Medical Center.
She belongs to Pax Christi-USA, a peace organization, and is active with Earth Ministry, an ecumenical environmental ministry based in the Northwest United States. She loves music, reading, calligraphy and taking walks by the water.
What is your background?
After the Sister Formation Program, I graduated from Seattle University in the bachelor of nursing program, and later completed my master’s and doctorate in nursing. Caring for cancer patients and the elderly were my clinical emphases.
Before graduate school, I held multiple nursing positions at St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland. Afterwards, I was a clinical nurse specialist and nurse researcher at Providence Portland Medical Center, then became a patient-care services administrator there. I subsequently served as administrator at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Yakima.
I served on several state and national nursing and health care boards and committees. I’ve had an opportunity to touch many people through health-care ministry.
I am fortunate to live with a supportive group of sisters at what we call Boston House and am an active member of our local community, Peace Community, of the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province. I participate in meetings and chapters of the province.
Whenever I can, I also participate in activities sponsored by the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Pax Christi Northwest and Earth Ministries. I find that doing so complements my ministry efforts by supporting broader public policy issues that impact the health and well-being of individuals and the society. In addition, doing so further grounds me in the spirituality that underlies the ministry.
I participate in programs which bring together other women of the Archdiocese of Seattle to pray and reflect together. I serve on the board of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau, which is a wonderful opportunity to connect globally
What has been your motivation?
I experience the call of Providence to bring healing both to the individuals and communities that we are privileged to touch.
The examples of Jesus, Mary, Mother Gamelin, Mother Joseph and others who have gone before us, as well as the current example of my colleagues, is highly motivating.
It also comes from the realization that we’ve been gifted with resources as individuals, community and a health system that are meant to be shared, and through them we can spread the good news to people that a Provident God loves and cares about us all.
Basically, it’s just realizing that we’ve been entrusted with a very special ministry and that I have a little piece to play. I have a chance to use whatever gifts I have to the best of my ability to add to what everyone else is doing. I am supporting others in using their gifts. It’s also a sense of faith, hope, and confidence in our Provident God who journeys with us. My life’s journey has placed me in positions where the healing ministry of Jesus has been central, so it impacts how I carry out my present role.
How have you seen the spirit of Providence in your ministry?
I think that Providence is God’s loving care for all creation, including all of us, whatever our roles in life or circumstances are. I have seen Providence at work in the daily life of ministry in so many ways. Definitely, Providence has been with us through some very troubled and difficult choices and times in our health-care ministry.
Our belief and trust in Providence keeps us going and provides the fuel that helps us find meaning and perseverance amid difficulties. It also helps us interpret the realities we see with faith, no matter what the outcome of our efforts. I have also seen Providence very active in and through the people I work with and those we serve.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy having the opportunity to serve with such committed people. Through my ministry I have met so many wonderful people who, while different in many ways from me, have inspired, stretched, challenged and enriched me. My position has reinforced for me that we are a part of something that has been the source of much good for the people and communities we serve and for whom we advocate
What does it mean to be a Sister of Providence?
It means to be called by God to witness God’s providential care in the world of today through our international religious community, with special concern for those who are poor and vulnerable. It is to continue the compassionate concern of Mother Gamelin and Mother Joseph, responding to needs as they exist today and tomorrow, in collaboration with Providence Associates and our colleagues in ministry.
Our response includes not only alleviating suffering and being with those in need but also working to eliminate or reduce the root causes of injustice and suffering. It includes community building. It’s a privilege to be a Sister a Providence and it’s been a great blessing in my life.
Our belief and trust in Providence keeps us going and provides the fuel that helps us find meaning and perseverance amid difficulties.