From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Diocese’s Business Affairs head dies after long illness

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the Jan. 18, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

Providence Sister Bernadette Botch, former provincial of her Religious community, recipient of a papal honor, and Bishop’s Secretary for Diocesan Business Affairs, died Dec. 22 after many years’ struggle with cancer. She was 64 years old and had been a Providence Sister for 45 years.

The vigil service was held at Mt. St. Joseph, Spokane, on Dec. 27. The funeral Mass was celebrated by Bishop Skylstad at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes the next morning. Burial was at Holy Cross Cemetery.

She was born June 26, 1936, in Great Falls, Mont. She entered the Providence community the January after her high school graduation and professed her final vows in 1961.

She held degrees from the College of Great Falls and Marquette University, teaching credentials for Washington and Montana, and principal’s certification in Montana.

She taught and administered several schools, including, in the Diocese of Spokane, St. Joseph Academy, Sprague, and Central Catholic School in Walla Walla.

Her vast ministerial background was not limited to teaching and education, however. She served on the boards of several Providence institutions in the west, including Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane; the College of Great Falls, Columbus Hospital, and St. Thomas Child and Family Center, Great Falls, Mont.; St. Mary Medical Center, Walla Walla; St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula; St. Joseph Care Center, Spokane; Providence Services; and the Sisters of Providence Reserve Trust Fund.

After serving six years as provincial of the St. Ignatius Province, she accepted the position as Bishop’s Secretary for Diocesan Business Affairs, a member of the curia of the diocese and one of the diocesan administrative divisions. Her eye ranged from the offset press shop in the basement of the Catholic Pastoral Center to cooperative Catholic investment trusts, staff birthday cards to advent wreaths, group prayer before work in her office to building luncheons.

At one such luncheon, at Christmas 1999, Bishop Skylstad presented her with the papal honor Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, “For the Church and the Pontiff,” in honor of her tremendous contributions to the betterment of the Church in Eastern Washington, the West, and the community’s common good.

Bishop Skylstad wrote in July of that year, asking Pope John Paul II to bestow the honor on her, citing reasons for his request.

Among the things the bishop cited: “(S)he has made an extraordinary contribution to the work of the Church in this diocese. With wisdom and great sensitivity, she has put in place an effective and efficient Fiscal Services Office, has staffed the Diocesan Finance Council, and recently has led the efforts to establish a unified investment trust for all the entities of the diocese. Her work has always been marked with a great spirit of collaboration and a unique sense of doing what is right and just.”

In announcing her death, Msgr. John Steiner, vicar general of the diocese, wrote that “she honored us by her love and her service. She was mother confessor for many of the staff at the Catholic Pastoral Center. Her care was beyond the demands of the work of the Church and always for the personal, spiritual meaning of the journey for each person she dealt with.”

Msgr. Steiner also said recently that she “knew how to care for people in a way that brought the best out of them. People liked working with her for the sake of the Church. That is a tremendous gift. She used good tools — process, order, accountability, structure, and don’t forget good food — to do that. But most of all she was a tremendous leader by her example and commitment.

“She was the best confessor that I have ever had,” he said. “Her smile, her humor and her deep faith, which she was not afraid to share, made challenging moments of life easier to accept. I have missed her presence in the office and in my life very much over the last two months” of her illness, and since her death.

She had a deep, abiding sense of the absurd which grew from her sense of perspective, of the larger picture of church and of life. It enabled her to project to everyone who would listen a sense that, in the end, all would be well. And now it is.

(Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of Spokane, 1325 W. First, Suite 200, Spokane, WA 99201.)

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