Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Sixteen years later, Sister Theodora Feulner retires again
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Feb. 8, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Sister Theodora Feulner retired this year after 16 years of ministry at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. (IR photo)
After 16 years of second-career ministry at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sister Theodora Feulner, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, is retiring.
Sister Theodora is a Spokane native who graduated from Marycliff High School in 1938, but when she entered Religious life she ended up back in Wisconsin. Following her years of training as a member of her Religious community, she taught in Catholic grade schools in Wisconsin. Later, she attended St. Francis School of Nursing, then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Nursing Education from Marquette University.
Next, she received a master’s degree in Nursing Administration from Boston University. “I worked in our hospitals,” Sister Theodora recalls – “St. Francis in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where I worked for 30 years before I came back to Spokane in 1979. When I first came back I worked for nine years out at the Holy Names Health Care Center, at their Provincial House.”
While she worked for the Holy Names Sisters, she cared for her first grade and eighth grade teachers, both of whom taught her at Sacred Heart School (later incorporated into Cataldo School). “I always said that my first grade teacher was probably the one who influenced my vocation the most,” she said, “and she was as sweet when she died as when I had her in the first grade. That was Sister Patricia Maureen, and a lot of people still remember her. She was a doll.”
Sister Theodora retired from nursing in 1991. About two years earlier, she said, Msgr. James Ribble, then rector of the Cathedral, asked her to “start a program for visiting shut-ins, and people who are ill, and so forth. I wasn’t ready to give up my nursing yet, but two years later, in 1991, I agreed to do that.”
Sister Theodora took charge of parish ministries for visiting the sick and taking Communion to people unable to leave their homes and in nursing facilities. She then organized these ministries and instituted training programs so that today these ministries run like a well-oiled machine, but with deeply human and prayerful qualities.
“When I came, we had about 60-some people to visit,” Sister Theodora said. “So I went to visit each one before the Eucharistic ministers took over. I always go with them the first time, then the Eucharistic minister takes over. I like to interview the sick or home-bound person so I can assign a Eucharistic minister who will be a good match. I want to make sure that they’ll get along okay. I have some Eucharistic ministers who have been doing this for about 10 years. We also have updates and refresher workshops a couple of times a year.”
Calling her work “part-time, about 30 hours a week.” Sister Theodora admits that sometimes her “part-time” position becomes more like full-time-plus. “Beginning last July I went to four days a week. I have to admit that my age is getting to me,” she said with a chuckle.
Describing her typical workday at the cathedral parish, Sister Theodora said that most days she visits “three or four people a day on some days. I’ll then not see these people for two or three months, but the Eucharistic minister takes over, and then I’ll call them and see how it’s going.”
Sister Theodora calls her ministry on behalf of the Cathedral parish “very rewarding, because I think our older people have all this lovely experience and wisdom, and sanctity. They’re still interested in being vibrant yet in life. That’s a real edification to most of us. They give you much more than you ever give them.”
As to the future, Sister Theodora is not without plans. “I want to do a few things that I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I have some friends in Spokane that I don’t see very often. My own classmates from Marycliff still meet once a month. One of my classmates and I went to eight years at Sacred Heart and four years at Marycliff, and she’s now out at Orchard Crest (Retirement Community), and I like to visit some of those people who are my own personal friends, that I don’t get to visit because I’m visiting the parishioners.”
Continuing as a Eucharistic minister at the Cathedral is also on Sister Theodora’s agenda, plus she says that she “loves sports, I love to watch the basketball games. I played basketball and volleyball in high school. I watch Gonzaga basketball on TV. I love to watch the pros play basketball, too. I love to watch a hockey game once in a while,” she says with a mischievous grin. “I never knew anything about hockey before I did the residency program for my master’s degree, in Boston. They taught me a little bit about hockey. I like to watch that once in a while.”
Sister Theodora’s parting remarks, however, return to her years of ministry at the Cathedral.
“I have enjoyed so much being in parish ministry, and my background in nursing has helped me with this,” she said. “The people at the Cathedral have been more than gracious and loving to me, and Father Steve (Dublinski) has been most accepting. It’s been a wonderful second career and ministry. I have to say this: There’s nothing like the bedside of a patient.”