Sisters of Providence recognizes 2021 jubilarians

April 19, 2021

This summer Sisters of Providence will celebrate the anniversaries of members who have served in the Renton, Wash., based congregation for 50, 60, 70, 75 and 80 years, including Sisters Lang Tran, Patricia Eley, Joyce Green, Myrta Iturriaga, Mary Kaye Nealen, Marie-Claire, Mary K. Cummings, Inez Arkell and Cecilia Paganessi.

Because the sisters are continuing to observe health and safety precautions, they will mark their  milestones with a scaled-back Jubilee celebration and livestream liturgy July 24, 2021, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in West Seattle.

Brief bios follow.

Lang Tran, SP – 50 years

Born in Thanh Hoa, Vietnam, Sister Lang grew up in a politically volatile time. She began  preparing for religious life in high school, made final vows in 1978 and began teaching at a Catholic school. Soon after, under Communist rule, the sisters were forced to work in rice fields or factories if they wished to keep their vows. Sister Lang did both, but the hard labor took a toll on her health. Ultimately, she was able to move to the U.S. and transferred into the Sisters of Providence community. She studied English then began working with young and medically fragile children in Portland, Ore. Sister Lang’s ministry with infants at the Wee Care daycare was a highlight, and she was recognized with a service award in 2019. Now retired, Sister Lang is caring for her parents in Burbank, Calif.

Patricia Eley, SP – 60 years

Sister Pat was born at Providence Hospital, Seattle, where her parents met as teenage employees. She knew from first grade that she wanted to be a Sister of Providence and entered the community after graduating from Providence Academy in Vancouver, Wash. Though she started out studying nursing, she was sent to teach at St. Finbar School in Burbank, Calif., beginning a 31-year career teaching every grade from third through eighth. Her educational ministry included Holy Rosary School, Moxee, Wash.; Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Vancouver, Wash.; Our Lady of the Holy Rosary School, Sun Valley, Calif.; and Holy Family School, St. Paul School, and St. Bernadette School, Seattle. Between teaching assignments, she worked in the finance departments of the health system’s corporate offices and the religious community.

Joyce Green, SP – 60 years

A native of Missouri, Sister Joyce learned at an early age to navigate the world with impaired vision. She taught herself to type, learned Braille and developed a phenomenal memory that helped her get through school and graduate from St. Louis University. After eight years as a secretary, she entered the Sisters of Providence in Seattle. She worked as a medical records transcriptionist at St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, Calif., and St. Vincent’s Hospital in Portland, Ore. Sister Joyce then moved into social services at Providence Portland Medical Center (PPMC) with time out for a master’s in social work at St. Louis University. At PPMC she developed the mission integration program, an employee recognition program, and a medication assistance program for the poor. She has served on several advocacy boards for the blind.

Myrta Iturriaga, SP – 60 years

Sister Myrta was drawn to religious life as a young woman in Temuco, Chile. She was educated by Sisters of Providence then entered the religious community in 1961. Sister Myrta taught math, arts and religion in elementary and high school in Chile, and was principal of the Professional School in Ovalle, where she helped with the Christian formation of the students’ families. She came to Spokane, Wash., in 1988, when she was called to be a missionary to the Hispanic community in Connell, Wash. She became a U.S. citizen in 2002. For 20+ years, Sister Myrta worked for the Diocese of Spokane, as director of Hispanic ministry, as a translator, and in prison and detention ministry, for which she received a service award. Sister Myrta currently volunteers at Catholic Charities in Spokane, serving people experiencing homeless.

Mary Kaye Nealen, SP – 60 years

Born in Spokane, Sister Mary Kaye entered the novitiate in Seattle in 1960 and attended college at Providence Heights in Issaquah, Wash. She professed first vows in 1963. After nine years teaching junior high and high school, she asked to study theology and was permitted to carry out research in South America, primarily in Chile. Sister Mary Kaye also served in parish ministry in rural Montana, spiritual formation and education for permanent deacon applicants and their wives in the Diocese of Great Falls/Billings. In addition, she served on the General Council in Montreal, Quebec, for five years. Sister Mary Kaye ministered for more than 20 years at the University of Great Falls, serving as director of mission integration, associate professor of theology and ministry, provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Marie-Claire Soucy, SP – 60 years

Sister Marie-Claire is a nurse who has practiced for more than 40 years in a number of countries in South America, Africa and Haiti. Born in Lowell, Mass., she attended schools operated by the Grey Nuns of Ottawa and studied nursing at Sacred Heart Hospital in Montreal. She made temporary vows as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate in Quebec City before transferring to the Sisters of Providence in Montreal. She made final vows in 1968. When Pope John XXIII called for missionaries to go to Latin America, Sister Marie-Claire studied Spanish and went to Argentina to work as a nurse in a regional hospital. In 1975 she traveled to Cameroon, Africa, where she served as nursing director in a clinic in the bush where there was no doctor. In 1978 she went to Haiti, where she ministered as a nurse until retiring in Seattle.

Mary K. Cummings, SP – 70 years

Sister Mary K. grew up in Northport, Wash., near the Canadian border. She moved to Spokane when she was 10. After graduating from Marycliff High School, she was called to religious life while attending Holy Names College. She made first vows in 1952, then taught fifth through eighth grades for eight years in Missoula, Mont., Wallace and DeSmet, Idaho, and Great Falls, Mont., and later taught high school. Other ministries include finance at the College of Great Falls, treasurer of the former St. Ignatius Province, parish ministry in Hayward, Calif., and director of pastoral care and volunteers at a small rural hospital in Polson, Mont., while also serving as a part-time provincial council member. In addition, Sister Mary K. volunteered in the religious community’s library in Spokane before transitioning to retirement in Seattle.

Inez Arkell, SP – 75 years

Sister Inez lived in Saskatchewan, then moved to western Montana which she considers her true home. She found her path to religious life in high school while she worked as a nurse’s aide caring for an elderly Sister of Providence who suggested she would be a sister someday. She made final vows in 1950 and studied nursing at the College of Great Falls, Mont. Sister Inez took care of boarding school girls in Sqrague, Wash., and Missoula, Mont., then became an LPN in 1966, serving at hospitals in Fort Benton and Great Falls. Later she transitioned to pastoral care and became a chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., then at Columbus Hospital in Great Falls. Other ministries included spiritual director and liaison to Providence Associates before retiring in Seattle.

Cecilia Paganessi, SP – 80 years

Born in Centerville, Mont., Sister Cecilia moved to St. Thomas Home in Great Falls, Mont., at the age of seven with her four sisters after their mother’s death. She was educated by the Sisters of Providence, attended the College of Great Falls for a year, then entered the religious community at Mount St. Vincent, Seattle. Sister Cecilia made first profession in 1943 and began a 31-year teaching career at Catholic grade schools in Missoula, Glasgow and Great Falls, Mont., Kellogg and Wallace, Idaho, and Colfax and Walla Walla, Wash. Later she transitioned to accounting and served at College of Great Falls and in the provincial office in Spokane. Sister Cecilia also volunteered serving the poor in the Spokane community before returning to Walla Walla as a church and parish volunteer. She celebrated her 100th birthday in July 2020.

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Sisters of Providence are Catholic women religious who respond to the needs of people who are poor and vulnerable through education, parish ministry, health care, community service and support, housing, prison ministry, pastoral care, spiritual direction and foreign missions. Mother Joseph Province encompasses Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, California, El Salvador and the Philippines.


Anita Wilkins
Director of Communications
Sisters of Providence
Provincial Administration
O 425-525-3730