“Being a Sister of Providence is what I was meant to do,” explains Sr. Dianne Crawford. It is a simple, straightforward declaration, without a hint of hesitancy or doubt and spoken with true joy and conviction.
Sr. Dianne radiates her love for her vocation and her joy at caring for the elderly at every turn. Her desire to care for the old, she explains, dates back even before she could even walk.
“My grandmother took care of me since my parents had to work,” she says. “When a friend told my grandmother that must have been a great burden, my grandmother said it was no burden at all. She would put me near my sick grandfather, and I would sing to him to him and pat him.”
Sr. Dianne grew up on Vashon Island, the largest island in Puget sound, on five-acres. She delights in telling stories of their onery goat and the tranquility she found on the farm’s pond. But she becomes more somber when she remembers, with a very a special fondness, her twin sister who died at birth.
“I miss Suzanne deeply, but I can feel her presence throughout my life,” she says. “In fact, my mother tells me that my first word was sister. I know Suzanne is with God.”
Sr. Dianne also has two brothers and another sister. Caring for the elderly is something of a family trait citing how one of her brother felt called to care for their grandmother and aunt until her death. Her father was Catholic and her mother Protestant and her extended family, as a result, were mixed too. Her dad worked in the Seattle shipyards and her mother worked outside the home on and off.
She attended public schools growing up but finally convinced her father to allow her to attend Immaculate High School in Seattle for her last two years. She would take the ferry from Vashon with her father and brother when they went to work in the shipyards, then two buses until she got to school – about an hour early. After school activities were not possible.
Her father was reluctant to have her enter religious life, but he did say that if she really had to, he would only give his blessing if she entered the Sisters of Providence. They “understand people” she remembers him saying.
She cannot remember a time when she did not want to be a religious. She entered the novitiate in her early 20s at a house near the University of Washington.
Sr. Dianne has a way of connecting with people that goes beyond words. She talks of her visit to Montreal:
“There are several things that made a big impression on me: the long hallways of the motherhouse, the beauty of the Chapel at Maison de la Providence and the magnificence of Notre Dame Basilica. But what surprised and delighted me the most was our Sisters. No matter where we went, we were welcomed with joy, love and warmth. I felt truly at home.
“Even though we could not speak the same language, I felt I could understand what my fellow Sisters were saying through their expressions and gestures,” she explained.
A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and then a Registered Nurse (RN), after graduating from Seattle University, Sr. Dianne has served in hospitals and elder care facilities in Olympia, Everett and Portland. She tells story upon story of how she gains strength from those she served.
“After a terrible day, an elderly sister smiled at me and eased all the stress.” “The beautiful smile on the sister was like I was seeing the face of God.” “Here are St. Joseph Residence, just sitting and visiting with the Sisters brings joy.”
“God’s love is always growing, whether you are serving someone or they are ministering to you. It’s a continuous circle,” she says when she reflects on her ministry.
Sr. Dianne says she has not regretted one day of her vocation:
“As you come to your life’s work, you need to come with an open heart,” she explains. “Be open to everything that comes your way. If you’re open, you will learn what you need to learn and God will be there.”
She has a love of art and music, even though she does not play an instrument. She reads biographies, religion, theology and science for enjoyment and edification.
When speaking of her Sisters in religious life, the conversation circles back to her twin sister and she takes comfort in remembering that she is with God.
“I’ve always believed in Providence, the one who has created everything that is alive and growing,” she reflects. “Our lives show us how much God loves us that he would allow us to work in a ministry that we love so much.”
Read more about Sr. Diane in this profile of her ministry – CARITAS,Sum07,6.15 (sistersofprovidence.net)