Northwest nun re-elected to leadership of Sisters of Providence

October 11, 2007


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Sister Kathryn Rutan, a Sister of Providence from the Pacific Northwest, has been chosen to serve a second five-year term as general superior of the Sisters of Providence international religious community, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. The congregation was founded in that city by Mother Emilie Tavernier Gamelin in 1843 and today numbers more than 800 sisters in the United States, Canada, Chile, the Philippines, Egypt, Cameroon, Haiti, Argentina and El Salvador.

Sister Rutan was selected in July in a process of discernment at the congregation’s General Chapter in Montreal. Her new term will begin in October, which also will mark the end of the second term of another Pacific Northwest native on the General Council, Sister Judith Desmarais. Originally from Moxee, Wash., Sister Desmarais was a member of the Leadership Team of the former Sacred Heart Province and served as acting provincial superior.

She ministered with deaf and hard of hearing people for the Seattle and Portland archdioceses. Sister Desmarais will return to Seattle for a period of sabbatical before returning to ministry.

?Sister Rutan, affectionately known as “Kitsy,” was a member of Mother Joseph Province before she became general superior in 2002. The province maintains headquarters in Seattle and Spokane, Wash., and has sponsored ministries that include Providence Health & Services, serving Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Montana.

Sister Rutan was born in a working-class family with six children in Great Falls, Mont., where she attended Catholic elementary and secondary schools. She entered the Sisters of Providence as a postulant in 1954 in Seattle, professing first vows in 1956 at Mount St. Vincent. She professed final vows at Mount St. Joseph in Spokane in 1961.

She received a bachelor’s degree in education from the College (now University) of Great Falls in 1961 and a master’s degree in comparative government from Georgetown University in 1968. Her ministries have included 15 years teaching at the elementary, secondary and college levels, 13 years in provincial administration and leadership, and four years as superior of Mount St. Joseph in Spokane.

She was a community organizer with Opportunities, Inc., in Great Falls, Mont., from 1970 to 1973 and 1978 to 1980 and served as interim administrator at Providence Centre in Edmonton for six months in 1993.

Sister Rutan also spent three and a half years working with the campesino families in the Providence Mission at La Papalota, El Salvador, and volunteered to be an international observer with Pax Christi to deter violence and terrorism when ousted President Bertrand Aristede returned to Haiti in 1973.

Her role as general superior has been a broadening experience of embracing the three languages spoken by the international congregation — English, Spanish and French — as well as the many cultures of the sisters throughout the world.

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