Providence delegation carries gift to aid restoration to sisters in Chile

The delegation gathers with a group outside the Chilean provincial house, where Providence COO Mike Butler presented a check for $250,000 to help with the restoration of the Santiago campus.

Sisters of Providence in Chile still were dealing with the impact of the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami when a raging fire hit their Santiago campus on January 24, 2011. The blaze destroyed a home for aged women, as well as the historic Sisters of Providence church and Bernarda Morin Province’s museum. Assistance for restoration has come from several sources, including from Mother Joseph Province.


Video: The delegation views the destruction.

by Sister Susanne Hartung

A delegation of Providence Health & Services leaders and their families embarked on a solidarity and formation trip to Chile on June 22.

In my role as chief mission integration officer, I accompanied Mike Butler, chief operating officer, his wife Patti, daughter Sarah, and son Joey, along with Mark Gargett, chief operating officer for Enterprise Information Services, his wife Pam and 4-year-old son Joshua, and Michael Hunn, chief executive of PH&S in California.

Sr. Silvia Teresa, Provincial Superior, Sr. Susanne and Sr. Marta

Sister Marta Alvear, of Bernarda Morin Province, a good friend of Sister Susanne’s for more than 22 years, organized the itinerary.

It was clear that every ministry in Chile had taken great care to provide a most rewarding experience for the group. 

Our first visit, which was very emotional, was to the provincial house. As we witnessed the destruction wrought by the fire and toured what was left of the building, we felt a great sense of loss for all the sisters in Chile.

With gratitude to the people of Providence, Mike Butler presented a check for $250,000 to help with restoration of the chapel to Provincial Superior Silvia Teresa Araya, SP, at our lunch with the sisters. The sisters cried with gratitude at the generosity and solidarity of Providence.

The days that followed took us to Valparaiso, where we relived the history of Mother Bernard Morin and her arrival in Chile in 1853. We toured the sisters’ first ministry in Chile, the orphanage La Providencia, where we witnessed the

at the Valparaiso orphanage

In Valparaiso, the delegation visited the orphanage La Providencia, the sisters’ first ministry in Chile.

love the sisters and the staff have for the children. Patti and Sarah Butler would have loved to adopt them all.

One wing of the orphanage was completely leveled by the earthquake and is being rebuilt for the infants. We assured the sisters that support would come from Providence Health & Services.

Our next stop was Providencia High School in Linares, five hours south of Santiago. Mark Gargett and Gail Larson, former chief executive of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, had met the school’s administrator, Sister Bibiana, five years ago when traveling with me. On that trip, Mark and Gail had provided musical instruments for the school.

During this visit, we were treated to a magnificent program that included performances by the school choir and 30-member girls’ orchestra, as well as native dance by 6-year-olds. The orchestra played “The Star Spangled Banner,” classical pieces and the “Providence Hymn.” The high school also organized a party to celebrate Joshua’s fourth birthday! In addition, we enjoyed a beautiful five-course lunch with the sisters and toured more earthquake damage, including one wing of the school that was destroyed. Before we left, we promised the sisters and staff support to help rebuild.

The last school we visited was in Llolleo, a very small city on the coast. The community there also suffered greatly from the earthquake and threats of the tsunami, as well as from the many aftershocks that followed. Sister Cecelia Diaz led us on a tour of the classes in session, where we were warmly greeted by the 800-plus students and faculty.

We felt like rock stars as we entered the auditorium to the roar of the students. Then, for a taste of the Chilean culture, we enjoyed a dance performance by students of all ages. It was, however, the 40 kindergarteners who stole the show as they danced to the music from the movie “Sister Act” wearing Sisters of Providence habits. They brought the house down!

The delegation presents the sisters at the provincial house with a painting by Synthia Saint James.
Copies of this piece of original art by Synthia Saint James were auctioned off to raise funds to contribute toward the restoration. For more information about the artist and the painting, click here (pdf).

Following the performance, we had a beautifully prepared lunch. We left with full hearts, knowing what a superior education these students are receiving. Again, we pledged our support to the school.

We presented the Synthia Saint James artwork commissioned for the Sisters of Providence to the sisters at the provincial house. Copies of the artwork were auctioned to help raise funds to contribute toward the restoration.  The Chilean sisters were grateful for the beautiful rendition of the three foundresses and the depiction of the ministries of the Sisters of Providence around the world.

We invited all the sisters to a farewell dinner which Mike Butler hosted at a restaurant in Santiago.

It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the sisters. We were sad to leave but we had grateful hearts for such an unforgettable experience. Not only is the Sisters of Providence an international community, but Providence Health & Services now is integrated into these Chilean ministries.

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