Spokane Housing Advocate Receives Award for Service to Women, Families in Need

Edie Rice-Sauer, executive director for mission and services at Transitions, has been honored by the Sisters of Providence as the 2022 recipient of the Mother Joseph Award.

The Mother Joseph Award is given annually to a person who exemplifies the values and courage of Mother Joseph, the first provincial leader of the Sisters of Providence in the western U.S. 

In their nomination for the award, Sisters Annette Seubert and Judith Desmarais.  compared Rice-Sauer to Mother Joseph.  They described both women as being builders, energized by their faith and God’s providential care for those in need. 

“She has great respect for Board and staff members, works closely with them, heeds their input and knows when to make hard decisions for the good of all,” said Sr. Annette at the awards ceremony.  “She is a person who leads by careful preparation, discussion, and decision. 

Members of the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province, Leadership Team with 2022 honoree. (L to r) Sr. Margarita Hernandez, Sr. Jacqueline Fernandes, Edie Rice-Sauer, Redhawk Rice-Sauer and Sr. Barbara Schamber, Provincial Leader.

“Edie is a strong and compassionate woman, just like Mother Joseph, who has met some daunting challenges,” said Sr. Annette.

Transitions has six programs in the Spokane area that support women and children in need (see below).  The latest represents a step into more permanent housing compared to the transitional housing programs for which the organization is known.  Home Yard Cottages consists of 24 small houses with support services, communal meeting areas and other features on two acres of land. 

“We really stepped out in faith when we began the Home Yard Cottages,” said Rice-Sauer.  “The $6 million cottages are permanent housing for women and children which is a new focus for us. 

“We worked with former clients to find out what they would want in each unit,” explained Rice-Sauer.  “That was important because that brought out features that didn’t occur to us at first.  For example, some of the cottages have three bedrooms and the great need for an in-unit washers and dryers for larger families came from our clients.”

When introducing affordable housing with services into a neighborhood, it is also necessary to address the concerns of the surrounding community and the city authorities before continuing.  Rice-Sauer met repeatedly with the local neighbors before construction to make sure they understood how the cottages would work.  Sr. Annette cited that consensus building skill in her remarks:

“Edie is not only a builder of facilities,” said Sr. Annette, “but she also builds the relationship needed to accomplish difficult takes in a diverse community.”

Rice-Sauer, who is a graduate of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School and an ordained minister of the Disciples of Christ, has felt a calling to enter ministry since the seventh grade, although she did not know exactly what type of ministry.  Before moving to Spokane in 1996, she was the Associate Executive of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, focusing on domestic violence and housing. Her husband, Redhawk Rice-Sauer, is also an ordained ministry and is now retired.

“I know that I am privileged and have had opportunities my entire life,” she said.  “My faith demanded of me that I give something back.  I found that I had a particular gift for housing ministry.”

She’s also learned over the years that working in ministry requires building consensus.

“You must build partnerships,” she said in accepting the award.  “You cannot do it alone.  And you must hold yourself and the others you work with accountable to make a difference.”

Transitions works to end poverty and homelessness for women and children in Spokane through six programs: Women’s Hearth, Transitional Living Center, EduCare, Miryam’s House, New Leaf Kitchen & Café, and Home Yard Cottages.  (See Transition’s website for details – https://help4women.org.) The non-profit is led by two boards.  One is comprised of community volunteers. The other consists of one representative from each of the four Catholic Sister’s sponsoring congregations. (St. Francis of Philadelphia, Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Sisters of Providence and Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.)