Ruth Palnick receives Mother Joseph Award

October 22, 2019


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Ruth Palnick, a volunteer at Women’s Hearth in Spokane, Wash., has been chosen by the Sisters of Providence to receive the 2009 Mother Joseph Award. A missionary for the last two decades, Ruth has brought warmth, a listening ear and companionship to the women at the downtown drop-in center.  She also has been a comforting presence to dying people on their final journey as she serves as a volunteer chaplain for Hospice of Spokane.

The Mother Joseph Award is given annually to a person who “exemplifies the values and courage of Mother Joseph,” the first provincial superior of the Sisters of Providence in the West. It was presented at a reception in November 2009, at the Women’s Hearth in Spokane.

Women’s Hearth is one of the projects of Transitions, an intercommunity ministry in Spokane that is sponsored by four congregations of women religious.  One of the staff members there, Mary Rathert, OP, nominated Palnick for the Mother Joseph Award.  The nomination read, in part, as follows:

“Ruth’s compassionate presence to everyone and her total dedication of her life to mission exemplify the values of Mother Joseph and the Sisters of Providence.

“Ruth is a full-time volunteer at Women’s Hearth, facilitating a knitting and crocheting circle with the women who ‘drop in’ there from the streets of Spokane, looking for some warmth and belonging. With her kindness and her listening, she helps the women move to a strong sense of self and often find courage to take giant steps toward change in their lives. When Ruth isn’t working with the knitting circle, she can be found playing the piano, leading a singing group, or quietly listening and sometimes praying with an individual woman.”


Through Missions Door, formerly know as Missions in America, Palnick has been a full-time volunteer for the past 20 years, including in Honduras, where she lived in a brothel-filled red-light district and volunteered at an AIDS clinic.

In 2007, Palnick was chosen as Hospice of Spokane’s Volunteer Chaplain of the Year. She herself lives with Parkinson’s disease and diabetes, and she helps the dying to celebrate life with song, prayer and laughter.

“Ruth truly exemplifies the values of Mother Joseph,” Rathert wrote. “Her entire life is about spreading the flame of compassion, courage, and loving service to those in need. And she does all this with a smile always on her face, no matter what kind of pain she may be experiencing.”