Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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West Seattle low-income senior housing honors Inland Northwest Providence Sister
the Inland Register
(From the Sept. 14, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
Sisters of Providence gathered in the High Point neighborhood of West Seattle earlier this year to join in a blessing ceremony for Providence Elizabeth House, a new 73-unit building that houses low-income seniors.
The structure opened Feb. 1.
Elizabeth House takes its name from two Elizabeths: the late Providence Sister Louise Gleason (right), whose Religious name at first profession of vows was Sister Elizabeth of Jesus, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, patroness of the Religious community.
St. Elizabeth, who only lived to the age of 24, was a patron of infirm and aged women, said Sister Susanne Hartung, Washington/Montana regional director of mission and ethics for Providence Health & Services. Sister Louise modeled her own life of ministry life on the example of St. Elizabeth.
Sister Louise was dedicated to compassionate care for the poor. She was born in 1919 and raised on a farm near Freewater, in Eastern Oregon. During her ministry as a Sister of Providence, she served as a Provincial Superior, teacher, and principal.
After graduating from St. Vincent Academy in 1937, Louise entered the Sisters of Providence at age 18. She professed first vows in 1940, taking Sister Elizabeth of Jesus as her name in religion, keeping it until the 1960s, when Sisters made the change back to using their family names.
She also served her community as Vocations Director, and ministered as a pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Parish, Tacoma. Her final years were spent in service to the elderly as superior of St. Joseph Residence, Seattle. She died in 1999.
Her father, Robert, was a former city treasurer for Walla Walla, and her mother, Catherine “Kitty” Gleason, was the organist for St. Patrick Church there for more than 60 years.
Sister Louise was quoted as saying, “My own simple definition of mission is to make Christ present in the world as I go about doing good.”
In 2001, the Provincial Council decided to name Providence Elizabeth House in her honor.
“It was Sister Louise’s understanding of what it means to live into one’s senior years with a focus on continued growth, particularly growth in the Spirit, and her compassion for those dealing with the losses that come with increasing age and frailty, that inspired the Provincial Council to name Elizabeth House after Sister Louise, using her Religious name, Elizabeth,” said Providence Sister Barbara Schamber, who was provincial superior when the decision was made.
A statue of St. Elizabeth and a picture of Sister Louise grace the building at 3201 S.W. Graham. Many family members were in attendance for the blessing ceremony, including her sister, Irene Gleason of Walla Walla.
In the photo at right, Providence Sister Susan Hartung (left) presents a picture of Sister Louis Gleason to Therese Jensen, manager of Providence Elizabeth House. (IR photo from the Sisters of Providence)
According to Robert Hellrigel, chief executive of Providence Senior and Community Services, Elizabeth House is the 12th home in the Providence housing ministry, the ninth in the state of Washington, and the fourth in Seattle, a collaboration between Providence Health & Services, the Seattle Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the Hope VI redevelopment of the High Point neighborhood.
Providence Elizabeth House serves low-income seniors, 62 years and older, who earn less than $27,250 a year if single or $31,150 a year for couples. They are required to spend 30 percent of their income on housing, with the government picking up the rest of the cost.
The building’s residents have come from the four corners of the globe, including China, Mexico, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, South America, Somalia, Ethiopia, Laos, Seattle homeless shelters, the former High Point development, and a backwoods cabin that lacked heat and running water.
The facility holds teas open to the Vietnamese community each week on Monday, and is working on holding similar teas for the Cambodian community on Thursdays. Students from the Seattle University nursing program have participated with residents in health screenings, yoga and martial arts exercise classes.