Sister Lenora Donovan was the youngest of seven children. Her family moved from Nebraska to Yakima, Wash., in 1941 when she was 9 years old. There she met the Sisters of Providence and was enrolled in St. Joseph grade school. The family moved out of the state of Washington for several years and then returned to Yakima. Lenora graduated from St. Joseph Academy in 1952.
The family moved to Portland, where Lenora worked and went to school to become an LPN at Multnomah County Hospital. Eventually, with some doubt she went to Seattle to enter the Sisters of Providence. She remembers saying to the novice director, Sister Julian, “This is not working for me.” Sister Julian’s response would be “go to the chapel right now and ask God to keep you here.” Sister Lenora made first profession in 1956.
Registered nurse, chaplain, and opponent of death penalty
Sister Lenora was assigned to Mount St. Vincent Home for the Aged for several years. Eventually, she became a registered nurse, serving first in Port Townsend and then in Portland, Ore., at St. Vincent Hospital.
She earned certification as a chaplain and served in that capacity at the parish in Medford, Ore. In 1990, she was assigned to Providence ElderPlace in Portland. In its early history, arrangements were made for the elderly to stay in their own homes, and Sister Lenora would visit them regularly to assess their ongoing health needs. She appreciated that arrangement as it allowed them independence, which they valued.
Her next assignment was volunteer service with St. Vincent de Paul Society in Portland, where she prepared food that would be taken to homes of the needy by others. In 2011 she and Sister Rita Ferschweiler were the last sisters to move out of the convent at Providence Hall in Portland. Today, living in Seattle, Sister Lenora is a member of the religious community’s committee to abolish the death penalty. She also works part time with the St. Vincent de4 Paul Society.
Sister Lenora reflects with much gratitude for her life … to have been baptized as an infant and raised by faith-filled parents who mentored her for life; deeply influenced by our faith, which means so much. Of her three sisters and three brothers, two sisters still are living. “They have been wonderful mentors,” she said. “I learned lessons from them and even in difficult times, as I look back, I realize how blessed and grateful to God … and to everybody else, especially the sisters … who have truly graced my life.”
“Sisters of Providence are meant to serve the poor. That is our legacy,” she said. “It is a great consolation to see our younger sisters so devoted to that legacy,” she added.
“Provident God, we thank you for all.”