Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Franciscan Sister returns to ministry in Spokane; ‘it’s great to be back’
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the July 3, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Left: Franciscan Sister Bernadette Brazil (IR photo)
Last April, Sister Bernadette Brazil (“Sister Bernie” to friends and co-workers) announced that she would be leaving a position where, for 14 years, she had worked with the residents of a low-income trailer park near Portland, Ore., as well as other low-income people in the area. Actually, the position was leaving her rather than the other way around. The land the trailer park was built on was sold, so all the residents were being relocated to various places. So much for Sister Bernie’s job.
Still, after 14 years of day-in, day-out caring for others, there was no chance that she could leave without a little fanfare, at least. “Dozens of friends, clients and colleagues gathered to bid Sister Bernadette farewell,” reported the Catholic Sentinel, Oregon’s Catholic newspaper. “She’s done so many positive things,” said Pat Kirk, a member of Christ the King Parish in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie.
When she realized that she would need to find a new job, one of the first places Sister Bernie thought of was Spokane. As a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, she had worked at St. Joseph Children’s Home in Spokane from 1969-1980, not long before it closed in 1981. After that, she began working at St. Anne Infant Home – now St. Anne Children and Family Center – a Catholic Charities agency, where she cared for newborn babies and disabled children.
When St. Joseph Children’s Home closed, St. Joseph Family Center rose up on the same site to take its place. When Sister Bernie heard that there was an opening at the Family Center, it felt like she would be going home again.
Speaking with more than a little of the soft Irish brogue of her native Ireland, Sister Bernie explained that since she arrived back at St. Joseph, her job description has been in a state of “becoming.” Officially, her title is Associate Coordinator of Hospitality. It’s beginning to look, however, like she may become more of a Public Relations person with a particular responsibility for increasing awareness in the wider regional community of the Family Center under its new nickname, “the Franciscan Place.”
Sharon Ecklund is Hospitality Coordinator for St. Joseph Family Center. “We provide all the services for retreats and meetings,” she said, with two houses (Clare House, Canticle House) that are rented out for retreats. Ecklund said Sister Berrnie will be “the one to get out and let the community know that we’re here, especially in terms of our new image as ‘the Franciscan Place.’”
The Family Center continues to offer counseling, spiritual direction, workshops, and other services, in addition to retreats. Marketing the Center will be Sister Bernie’s primary focus, through community relations, presentations, and making connections within the larger community.
“I really like Spokane,” Sister Bernie said. “My heart drew me back because of my past history here, and what’s really interesting is that people are resurfacing from my past. I ran into a young woman just the other day who was adopted from St. Anne Infant Home. That was really exciting, and she was delighted. Also, there’s a man who’s 43 years old. I raised him from three or four years old. He did not want to leave St. Joseph when it was closed, but he’s a wonderful young man, and I am just so proud of him. I’ve also talked by phone with one of my former co-workers here, and I’ve heard from a retired policeman who used to bring children here. He would bring us children in the middle of the night.
“It’s great to be back in Spokane,” she said.