Inez Arkell was born in Minneapolis, lived in Saskatchewan and then moved to western Montana, which she considers her true home. Sister Inez recalled that her uncle in Missoula was shocked when his sister and her four children appeared unexpectedly at the door after they moved to town. Inez’s father had found work helping Ursuline sisters and priests on farms. He used lumber reclaimed from torn-down buildings on the priests’ land to build a little home for his family. “Dad was master of all; there was nothing my dad couldn’t do.”
Inez found her path to religious life in high school. She became good friends with a girl named Clarella Fink at Sacred Heart Academy in Missoula who felt similarly called.
Inez was hired as a nurse’s aide at St. Ignatius and assigned to care for elderly Sister Victor Nibbler. “I took good care of her,” Sister Inez recalled. “Sister Victor told me someday I would be a sister, too.”
Not only did Inez decide to commit to religious life with the Sisters of Providence, so did Clarella. After graduation, Inez and Clarella said goodbye to their families and boarded the train together to travel to the novitiate in Seattle, where they were met by Clarella’s aunt, who stayed with them until they entered the door. In 1950, Inez made her final vows as a Sister of Providence.
Inez aspired to be a nurse, like her sister Dolores. Her first assignment was working in the sisters’ dining room while she took nursing classes at the College (now University) of Great Falls, Mont. From 1948 to 1965 she took care of boarding school girls in Sprague, Wash., and Missoula, Mont., and then she finally was allowed to become a nurse.
Sister Inez became a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in 1966 and served at hospitals in Fort Benton and Great Falls. Later she transitioned into pastoral care and eventually trained to become a chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. From 1977 to 1996 she was chaplain at Columbus Hospital in Great Falls.
Sister Inez’s other ministries in Great Falls included working at Benefis Health Care, at St. Luke’s Parish with the Legion of Mary as spiritual director, at the former Angel Room at St. Vincent DePaul, and with Providence Associates.
Sister Inez officially retired in 1996, but continued to volunteer. She moved to St. Joseph Residence, Seattle, in 2013. Still a Montana girl at heart, she loves to share stories about her childhood there and is a master at Montana trivia.