Sister Irene Charron smiled brightly at her Jubilee interview at St. Joseph Residence, Seattle, where she has lived for about nine years. “I have always considered SJR my home,” she explained. She came to live there after 34 years in Yakima, the last months spent working at St. Elizabeth Hospital and volunteering at a nursing home to be near her beloved brother Edward before his death.
Sister Irene loves the serenity and peacefulness of SJR, and the fact that she “lives like a queen” there, with no worries and with all the spiritual benefits like Mass, retreats and lectures. She especially loves to be with the sisters, all working towards the same thing, “towards heaven.”
Born in Duluth, raised in Yakima
Irene Marie Charron was born in Duluth, Minn., and raised in Yakima. From the first day of school at St. Joseph Academy, she has been with the Sisters of Providence. “My mother asked me, ‘Did you like school today?’ I said, ‘Yes. I’m going to be a teacher and a Sister of Providence,’ and I never deviated from that.”
Irene’s mother was a Lutheran of Norwegian heritage. She promised her French Canadian husband, who was Catholic, that she would raise their children as Catholics and send them to Catholic schools. “Every January 1 she would get the Catholic calendar to see the fish days, when we weren’t supposed to eat meat. That was the start of the Providence of God that has carried me through all these years.”
God’s providence guided her to successful thesis
Sister Irene entered the religious community in 1942, after a year at Seattle University and a year of teaching second grade at St. Joseph’s. She made profession in 1944 and spent the next 15 years teaching, in Vancouver, Wash.; Fairbanks, Alaska; Yakima; Sun Valley, Calif.; Moxee City, Wash.; and at Maryville Academy, Des Plaines, Ill. She was librarian at Providence High School in Burbank, Calif., and then patient visitor at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Yakima, followed by 17 years as medical librarian at Providence Yakima Medical Center and then as sister representative.
It was Mother Judith who encouraged her to add a master’s degree in library science to her bachelor’s degree in English from the College of Great Falls (MT). The idea of writing a thesis was a daunting one, but Mother Judith said to go anyway. Sister Irene did not have all the requirements needed for the University of Washington, but wrote to the University of Portland and was accepted. She lived at Providence Hospital. Sister Alice St. Hilaire helped her with writing her thesis and an employee who was finance manager helped her with the statistics work. “That was the Providence of God,” Sister Irene said.
“Providence of God, I thank you for all!”