50 Years: Marilyn Charette, SP

I was born in Schenectady, NY, the second of seven children and the first daughter of Mary Frances Emerich and Edmond Francis Charette. I was 6 in 1947 when my father’s job with General Electric was transferred to Richland, Wash. We lived in a small house on the beautiful Columbia River, which became our playground, and I went to public schools.

We were a close-knit family, probably because every single relative was 3,000 miles away in Schenectady. Actually, that was typical for Richland residents as it was a government town and almost everyone came from someplace else. Our neighborhood and our Catholic parish became like extended family.

After high school I went to Holy Names College in Spokane, Wash., and studied biology and chemistry to become a medical technologist. After graduation I returned to Richland and worked in a hospital laboratory. A couple of years later a visit to sunny southern California enticed me to make a move. I found a good job in the laboratory at St. Joseph Hospital, Burbank, Calif., and began attending morning Mass in the chapel there.

A call is a mystery that can’t be articulated

I think my vocation was buried inside of me since childhood, but was unarticulated. Leaving home and being on my own was a real stimulus. I had everything a young woman could want in the southern California lifestyle. God saw that it was very good, and so did I. He also said, “I have something else in mind for you.”

And then at Eastertime, a Jesuit priest at St. Finbar Parish asked me if I had thought about the future. He led me through Ignatian discernment and it became clear I was called to religious life. After it became very clear to me that being a sister was what I was called to do, I was happy as a lark. A call is a mystery; you can’t articulate it very well. Each person receives it in her own special way.

I really left all to give myself totally to God, not knowing what that would mean. The relationship to God in community was more important than the “work” I would do. I thought I would never work in a laboratory again, but by January of my postulant year I was donned in a white postulant habit and traveled each day from Issaquah to work in the laboratory at Providence Hospital Seattle.

Led by God to El Salvador

My ministry for many years was in the hospital as a medical technologist, in the admissions office, patient transport, and finally as a chaplain. I have served in Yakima, Everett and Portland, and studied scripture at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.

In 1994, when the community was discerning whether to accept a mission in El Salvador, God clearly said to me, “Follow me to the heart of the poor in El Salvador.” I talked with a provincial councilor who advised me to enter into the discernment process and to attend the Maryknoll mission preparation program. All this discernment process confirmed the call to this new mission. Five of us Sisters of Providence left for the mission in January of 1995. I spent almost five years in El Salvador.

On my return, the community allowed me to live with my mother, who had physical limitations and needed assistance. This was a very privileged 2½ years.

After my mother’s death, I was invited to the community at the 227 (East Boone) house in Spokane to form a group that could receive apostolic novices. Also, I began accompanying a sister transferring into the SP community and began as a team member of Mount St. Joseph. Working with our elderly sisters there also was a privilege.

A return to La Papalota

My next step was becoming a novitiate team member for three years with Sister Josie Ramac as director. When she became candidate director, I became the novitiate director for another three years. Again, it was a privilege to journey with those discerning their call to the Providence community. During this time the mission in El Salvador was changing. Sister Pauline Lemaire was there alone after Sister Fran Stacey returned to the states. I was excited to say yes to accompany Pauline in the mission for six months.

When I returned to the United States I learned that our apostolic novice was interested in doing her apostolic year in El Salvador. So I again returned to Angela Montano, El Salvador, in October 2012 and have been here ever since. I remained as a presence of the Sisters of Providence in El Salvador, knowing that the community needed to decide whether the mission would remain open or not. A new focus for the mission needed to be determined if we were to stay in El Salvador. That took quite a bit of time, but we now are refocused on the scholarship program and are relocated to La Papalota in the original house.

I have had many opportunities and much support from the community during these 50 years. I am most grateful for all of them. God has blessed me abundantly during these years, with all the ups and downs that life brings. His/her faithfulness is constant and full of love always. Providence of God, I thank you for all!