60 Years: Claire Bouffard, SP
Sister Elaine Frances
“I said I would follow Christ wherever he leads me, and that is exactly what I have done,” Sister Claire Bouffard says of her 60 years as a Sister of Providence.v“I never refused a mission, and I moved often.” Her brother warned her that the novitiate would be like Army boot camp, “and it was.”
“Be ready to go on the train in the morning” was a phrase she often heard, she said. “Change has been a part of my life.”
The oldest girl in a family in Winooski, Vt., she spent time in an orphanage in Burlington after the early death of her mother from tuberculosis. She returned home after her father remarried three years later. She knew she wanted to enter the Sisters of Providence, “but every time I thought about it, something – a family death or illness – happened. But every time I had an excuse, God removed it,” Sister Claire said.
Professed first vows in 1952
She entered the novitiate in Montreal in 1952. Six months later she was asked to take the train to the West to finish her novitiate at Mount St. Vincent in Seattle. She professed first vows in 1953 and was assigned to the former St. Ignatius Province, in eastern Washington and Montana, and has remained there ever since.
Her ministry assignments through the years have been in the business and finance offices of small, rural hospitals, including St. Clare Hospital in Fort Benton, Mont., Holy Family Hospital in St. Ignatius, Mont., St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Mont., Providence Hospital in Wallace, Idaho, and St. Mary’s Hospital in Walla Walla, Wash.
Inspired by pioneer sisters
“Those sisters in the small hospitals were real missionaries,“ she said with great admiration in her voice. One French sister that she learned about, Sister Helen of Troy, especially impressed her because she lived in a tent for half a year as she served in ministry. Sister Claire’s longest ministry assignment was as director of finance at St. Joseph Care Center in Spokane, Wash., from 1976 to 1993. After “retiring,” she went to work in the Provincial Administration archives, remaining there for six years.
As she recalled the highlights of those years she spoke of life on the St. Ignatius Indian reservation, and its beautiful snow-covered mountains. She also remembers the many wonderful pioneer sisters she was blessed to know. “It has been a happy life, but there have been a lot of hardships,” she said. “All the things I worried about were taken care of by the Lord in one way or another.”