Sisters of Providence receive honorary degree

Sister Shirley Smith accepts congratulations from Seattle U president Phyllis Campbell
Sister Shirley Smith (center) is congratulated by Phyllis Campbell, chair of the Seattle University board of trustees, after receiving the honorary degree from SU President Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.

On June 15, a beautiful sunny morning in Seattle, the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province, were presented with an honorary degree at Seattle University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony. Shirley Smith, SP, accepted the honor on behalf of the Sisters of Providence, and Provincial Superior/Leadership Team Coordinator Margaret Botch, SP, addressed the gathering.

Seattle University President Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., made the presentation with the following words:

Seattle University wishes to honor the Sisters of Providence of Mother Joseph Province for their compassionate service and commitment to social justice.

Sisters recognized for serving unmet needs

“Yours is an order which was founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1843 by Mother Emilie Gamelin. Your province is named for Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart who, long with four other Sisters of Providence, set sail from Montreal and arrived on the shores of Fort Vancouver in 1856.

“Here in the Northwest, the sisters encountered a wide array of need and human suffering – a population vulnerable to illness, children without parents, and limited, if any, educational opportunities.

Sr. Shirley Smith accepts award
Sister Shirley Smith accepted the honor on behalf of the Sisters of Providence.

The five sisters got right to work caring for those in need. They opened their small home to orphans and the elderly, and thus began a ministry that has since grown to include hospitals, schools and a variety of other services in most states throughout the West and beyond.Your order has been tremendously generous to Seattle. In 1878, you opened the city’s first hospital, and in 1907 you launched the Providence Hospital School of Nursing. The school would later help form the Department of Nursing Education at Seattle University in 1935, the forerunner of what we call today our College of Nursing. In 2005, the college returned to its roots by opening the Clinical Performance Laboratory in the historic Providence Hospital building.

Ministry is still urgently needed

The laboratory is at once a state-of-the-art enhancement of our nursing curriculum and a symbolic reminder of this university’s longstanding connection with and admiration for the Sisters of Providence.

Today, your province is made up of 168 professed sisters and more than 250 Providence Associates in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, California and El Salvador. Your ministry is as urgently needed today as it was back in 1856 when Mother Joseph first arrived in the Northwest, and

Sister Margaret Botch speaks
Provincial Superior/Leadership Team Coordinator Margaret Botch, SP, addressed the audience at the SU undergraduate commencement ceremony. Read her address. (pdf)


you remain committed as ever to the people of this region. One of your ministries, Providence Health & Services, employs nearly 50,000 employees and is headquartered in Seattle. You also serve women and children in need at Providence Hospitality House and Sojourner Place.

Sister Smith, as sure as we are proud to call you an alumna of Seattle University, we marvel at the Sisters of Providence for continually and creatively living out the Gospels and bringing healing and justice to those who need it most. Therefore, it is my sincere privilege to confer upon the Sisters of Providence of Mother Joseph Province the degree of doctor of humane letters, honoris causa.

From General Superior Kathryn “Kitsy” Rutan, SP, in Montreal:

The members of the General Leadership Team join you in a prayer of gratitude for all the Sisters of Providence, past and present, who gave expression to the Providence Mission in the Seattle area through their commitment to healthcare in the Northwest and in particular for their contribution to Nursing Education and Nursing Ministry. Congratulations to the Sisters of Providence and Seattle University  for their collaboration and shared history!