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

Bernadette Place dedicated to meeting the needs of the vulnerable

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Oct. 4, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

The late morning sun shone brightly on the crowd of about 75 people gathered Sept. 19 in the tidy yard of Bernadette Place, Catholic Charities’ newest housing complex on “A” Street, in northwest Spokane. The group came to witness the dedication ceremony of the complex which houses 12 adults with special needs.

Charities’ officials, project officials, parents and friends listened as Bishop William Skylstad dedicated the housing units to the late Sister Bernadette Botch of the Sisters of Providence.

Sister Bernadette, Bishop’s Secretary for Diocesan Business Affairs, was a member of Catholic Charities’ Board of Directors. She died last December after a long struggle with cancer.

In his remarks Bishop Skylstad talked about Sister Bernadette’s role in the life of the diocese. She held her secretariat position for 13 years in addition to her work on several boards in Spokane and Montana, including Catholic Charities. That involvement reflected not only her grasp of business, but her “love for the vulnerable,” a love which extended throughout her life, said the bishop.

One example: Sister Bernadette was instrumental in getting a grant from her Province in 1993 to enable Catholic Charities to purchase the former Shriners’ Hospital and adjacent land. The hospital was remodeled into Guse Summit View Apartments, a complex for single parents. The adjacent land became the location of Bernadette Place.

The bishop said the names chosen for Catholic Charities’ housing units “are no accident.” Sister Bernadette was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. When the suggestion was made that the complex be named for her, the bishop said she was hesitant.

She was reminded of St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, whose story has inspired women throughout the world, and of the role the Sisters of Providence have had in Catholic Charities’ efforts in the Summit Blvd. area projects. She finally agreed.

Bernadette Place is situated on two parcels of land in the West Central neighborhood, near Guse Summit View Apartments and Ogden Hall. The neighborhood is settled and stable, a fact greatly appreciated by the complex’s director, Andee Carlsson. “We’re in a wonderful neighborhood. Some people have lived here 20 years.” Carlsson became director in November last year.

Two duplexes, each with two bedrooms, sit on the corner of “A” and Mallon. Two other single units with two bedrooms each are located further down on “A,” across the street to the northwest. One building at this location has an activity room and office in addition to a living unit. A porcelain portrait of Sister Bernadette, to be done by Spokane artist Ken Spiering, will hang in the activity room.

Bernadette Place is the latest chapter in a program called Partners for Community Living which was started in 1961 at St. Margaret Hall. In October 1992 the program changed, to give more intensive help to people in their homes and also to help them become part of their communities. The women who were in the program moved to apartments that year, but were in need of permanent housing, a need now met in part by Bernadette Place.

The 12 units are already full. Residents and their families attended the dedication. Several showed off their rooms to visitors after the ceremony.

Residents range in age from 22-59, but most are between the ages of 30-35. Carlsson said there is not enough housing in the area for people with developmental disabilities, and there is a waiting list.

Providence Sister Margaret Botch, Sister Bernadette’s sibling, shared some reflections about her sister during the dedication.

Sister Bernadette loved orderliness and beauty, which “is very evident in Bernadette Place,” said Sister Margaret.

What was also evident was that Sister Bernadette was “very much present in spirit.”

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