70 Years: Katherine Ann Markel, SP

Sister Mary Theodora

Sister Katherine Ann Markel is a student of nature’s beauty. “I have faith in people and faith in creation,” she has said. “There’s so much about creation that generates hope.”

She was born in 1923, the oldest of five children on a farm near Mandan, North Dakota. Her parents moved the family to Yakima, Wash., when grasshoppers destroyed their crops. Katherine Ann, then in sixth grade, said descriptions of the Yakima Valley made it sound like the Garden of Eden, beginning a long love affair with the Pacific Northwest. “It is in the West that I really learned that creation is God’s holy altar,” she said.

Katherine Ann graduated from St. Joseph Academy, where her teachers influenced her call to a religious vocation. She entered the novitiate at Mount St. Vincent and made first profession with Sister Jeanette Benson in 1945. Both were assigned to teach at St. Catherine School, Seattle.

Huge grade-school classes did not deter her

Sister Katherine Ann loved teaching the primary grades, even when 67 children were crammed into her classroom. Her preparation was summer classes at the College of Great Falls (Mont.) and a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. In addition to St. Catherine’s, where she served three times, her assignments were in Vancouver, Tacoma and Yakima, Wash.; Burbank, Calif.; and Fairbanks, Alaska. Among her first graders were Sister Chauncey Boyle, in Vancouver, and Sister Paula Cosko, in Burbank. Sister Katherine Ann especially loved the three years she spent in Fairbanks, flying in a small plane across the Arctic Circle in the summer months to teach religious vacation school to Eskimo children in the little village of Kotzebue.

Original member of Peace Community

She left teaching in 1966 and spent the next 16 years in Coos Bay and Medford, Ore., ministering to the elderly and the sick, teaching religious education and making home visits. Sister Katherine Ann spent a year in Spokane in Gonzaga University’s CREDO program and was delighted to travel to Israel, Greece and Rome. On her return, she joined the staff at St. Joseph Residence, Seattle, for four years before being invited to live and work with the elderly at Vincent House, near Pike Place Market in Seattle. She also was a teacher’s aide at Holy Family School in White Center before her retirement.

Sister Katherine Ann was one of the original members of Sisters of Providence Peace Community, formed in 1982, and took an active part in demonstrations against transport of nuclear weapons to Bangor. She also participated in an eye-opening Third World retreat experience in Mexico City and Cuernavaca. But in her quiet moments, she would turn to the things that have given her solace — painting, gardening and reveling in the beauty of nature.

Her words in this Jubilee year: “I praise God for all!”