More than 60 people gathered May 1 at Providence Academy (PAV) in Vancouver, Wash., for a news conference to announce a $16 million campaign by the Fort Vancouver National Trust to purchase and restore the landmark built by Mother Joseph in 1873 and its seven-acre grounds. The enthusiasm and excitement was evident from the throng of members of the trust’s board and advisory board, and some PAV alumnae.
Mother Joseph and four sister companions arrived at Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory, from Montreal, Quebec, in 1856. They built Providence Academy, their first foundation in the West, and Mother Joseph’s handiwork is evident in some of the building’s furnishings. Lowell Hidden, founder of Hidden Brick Company, supplied bricks to Mother Joseph and the Sisters of Providence for the original construction.
Sister Susanne Hartung, chief mission integration officer for Providence Health & Services, called it “an exciting day for the Sisters of Providence and for Providence Health & Services.” For the past decade, Sister Susanne has led pilgrimages to Providence Academy, “a sacred place,” bringing some 2,000 people to walk its halls.
The trust, founded in 1998, always has had Providence Academy as a priority to add to its holdings, said Ed Lynch, co-chair of the capital campaign, who announced his own campaign gift of $2 million. The school closed in 1966. Today it is used as an office building with 56 tenants. That usage will continue.
“As the third and final owner of the Academy, the trust will continue the stewardship of the property and keep alive the story and history of Mother Joseph,” said Elson Strahan, CEO and president of the trust. Asked “why now?” by a reporter, Strahan replied, “It is the right time to do the right thing.”