Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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From Argentina to the Inland Northwest, Sister Virginia Paul has been ‘on a mission’
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Sept. 8, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)
Providence Sister Virginia Paul (right) recently retired after many years of ministry in such diverse areas as Argentina and Walla Walla. (IR photo from the Sisters of Providence)
At the age of 80, Sister Virginia Paul, a Sister of Providence since 1944, recently retired after many years of service in Walla Walla, and even more years prior to that in various ministries in the U.S. and South America.
Sister Virginia was born in Seattle and spent her childhood in Lincoln County, Washington, between Davenport, Wilbur and Sprague. She attended public elementary schools before enrolling for high school at St. Joseph Academy in Sprague. The school was staffed by the Sisters of Providence, then called the Sisters of Charity of Providence.
While in high school, the young woman became a Catholic, and after graduation she entered the Sisters of Providence and completed her novitiate at Mount St. Vincent, Seattle. She took the name Sister Monica Mary, later returning to the use of her family name.
Sister Virgina became a registered nurse in 1952 at Columbus Hospital in Great Falls, Mont., and in 1958 she earned a bachelor of science degree at the College (now University) of Great Falls. She worked in Montana hospitals sponsored by the Sisters of Providence for some 17 years.
In 1962, Sister Virginia Paul joined five other Sisters to help provide health care in the Patagonia area of Argentina, where she remained for about 14 years. When she returned to the U.S. in1976, she joined volunteer ministry to the Mexican Migrant Farm Worker population of Southeastern Washington.
“My core motivation,” Sister Virginia wrote in an autobiographical essay, “rests in issues of social justice and peace. I see myself living out my gospel values as a liaison between society in general and the poor, the marginalized and the rejected. I believe the love of God becomes known and appreciated through our giving of ourselves in the service of others.
“I am a great lover of nature,” Sister Virginia continued; “to me, nature’s beauty is the beauty and bounty of our loving, provident God.”
During her years in Walla Walla, Sister Virginia undertook various forms of service. Since 2000, she was a volunteer with Walla Walla’s St. Vincent DePaul Store. For a few years, she also served as the Sister Representative on the Board of the St. Vincent DePaul Society.
When she arrived in Walla Walla in 1979, Sister Virginia worked in the Home Health program of St. Mary Medical Center, and she was also a volunteer at the Walla Walla Community Health Clinic. Across the border, in nearby Milton-Freewater, Ore., she helped Hispanics register for immigration amnesty, and she served on a committee to support Central American refugees and people who gave them aid.
At other times, she gave many hours to working with migrant people who came to Walla Walla to harvest crops. She taught English in the migrant labor camp, and worked in a rural health clinic which served those with very low incomes.
At the time, Sister Virginia told the Catholic Cornerstone, then the newspaper for the Diocese of Baker, Ore., “I do this because I see welfare benefits dwindling. And I want to make sure that these people will have some means of getting care.” She continued, “Our presence here says something. We know we are a redeemed people. That makes us a people of joy and peace. We should be imbued with a spirit of what the Gospel is all about and then bring it to the people.... I am a Sister of Providence, called to be a servant of the poor. We are on a mission.”
Several small parties were given, in Walla Walla, to honor Sister Virginia upon her retirement and move to Seattle. On Aug. 17 the staff and volunteers of Walla Walla’s St. Vincent DePaul Store, and in particular the women with whom Sister Virginia worked sewing quilts, held a going-away party for her and gave her a beautiful hand-made quilt in the bright colors she especially likes.