Introduction to a new parent organization: Providence St. Joseph Health

By Barbara Schamber, SP

Since the partnership of the sponsors of Providence Ministries and St. Joseph Health Ministry formally came together on July 6, 2016, a great deal of information has been shared about our religious community legacies, as well as our ministries.  Mother Joseph, from Montreal, foundress of the western missions in Vancouver, Washington Territory,  and Mother Bernard, CSJ, who came to Eureka, California, from LaGrange, Illinois, were both the dedicated women religious called to begin new foundations in the American West.  Accompanied by sisters who were not sure what work they would be called to establish, they forged ahead with trust in Providence and St. Joseph.   They opened schools, hospitals, orphanages, and expanded their original works to all in need.  

These sisters invited laity to help in these works, just as the laity lead the ministries today. Both the Providence and St. Joseph sponsors learned about one another’s cultures after many days of retreat and meetings over three years. 

The sponsors shared how each was founded and questioned how we are to carry out the ministry together now. Paramount is the reality that the mission of Providence St. Joseph Health would continue to be strengthened by this coming together.   Both heritage stories indicate that the times were not easy for our foundresses.  Today’s environment challenges us in new ways to assure that the “dear neighbor” or “poor and vulnerable” will continue to be served with compassion.  Of particular importance in these years of uniting was visiting with the bishops in each diocese in which we are called to serve.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane is very familiar with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange since he served in many positions in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.  When he was appointed bishop of the Spokane diocese, the sponsors of Providence Ministries and St. Joseph Health Ministry met with him.   His opening remark was, “I can see the connection of your health systems coming together since you both are French.”   Yes, the CSJ’s heritage is from France, but the Sisters of Providence heritage is French Canadian.  Two beautiful cultures united in faith for a future full of hope.

Display highlights the founding histories of Providence St. Joseph Health

This display features dolls depicting the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange on the right and the Sisters of Providence on the left.

By Rosalie Locati, SP

The founding histories of the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange reflect similar charisms to reach out to and address the needs of the poor and vulnerable serving the sick, widows, orphans, elderly and homeless.  Responding to the signs of the times, both congregations courageously and passionately answered requests from bishops and local communities to serve the unmet needs of the people as they established ministries of education, health care and social services.  The early sisters embraced “being called and sent“ as pioneers. As each congregation came West to establish their good works, they invited others to share in their ministries, relying on the gifts and talents, the generosity and dedication of lay women and men. The sisters — visionary and faith-filled women –trusted in Divine Providence to sustain them in serving the needs of the “dear neighbor”. As each invitation came, they expanded, enhanced, initiated and established their ministries. They engaged and inspired a diversity of people in establishing new structures, organizations and collaborative works to carry out the mission of Jesus.

Having been born from this rich heritage, and reading the new signs of the times, in recent decades both congregations of sisters have entrusted the administrative and operational leadership responsibilities of their contemporary health-care, education and social-service ministries to the lay people.

In July 2016, the ministries and legacy of the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange were brought together when Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health formed a new parent organization: Providence St. Joseph Health. Since that time, our ministries have begun a journey of formation and education to learn about the roots of our two legacy stories, the history and heritage of both congregations of sisters, and the development of their ministries.  By understanding our legacy stories, Providence St. Joseph Health leaders will continue to be grounded in our mission and values, seek to inspire caregivers, record sacred encounter stories, and chronicle the developing history of our ministries of creating healthier communities together.

To assist Providence caregivers and visitors in learning, telling and blending of the stories, Sister Rosalie Locati has prepared a display, near the Main floor FISH elevators of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, which includes pictures of the foundresses and early pioneer sisters of both congregations.  Also on display are “sister dolls” wearing traditional religious habits, books, mission statements and stories of the sisters.   

All are welcome to come to view the display and to learn something new about our legacy and heritage.