Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



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


Sisters of the Holy Names celebrate 150 years in the Pacific Northwest – 121 of those in Spokane

the Inland Register

(From the Oct. 22, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Music education has long been part of the legacy of the Sisters of the Holy Names in the Spokane Diocese. The Sisters celebrate 150 years of ministry in the Northwest this year, and 121 years in Spokane. (IR photo courtesy of the Sisters of the Holy Names)

History class is in session at St. John Vianney School in Spokane, and the fourth-grade students are paying attention to two visitors. Holy Names Sisters Kathleen Hepner and Rosalie Anderson – both volunteers for the classroom history outreach project sponsored by the Holy Names Heritage Center at Marylhurst, Oregon – are using photos and other props to show how in 12 Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary sailed from Montreal to the Pacific Northwest 150 years ago to begin their first ministries beyond Canada. By October 21, 1959, the Sisters had landed in Portland, Oregon. By 1888, they were teaching in Spokane. And after 121 years in the Inland Empire, their presence here remains strong.

The fourth-graders use maps to track the 7,000 mile voyage from Quebec to the Columbia River. They learn that the Sisters, strapped for money, had to choose between buying blankets or a piano. They chose the piano.

Eleven of the 12 Sisters were seasick. Few of them spoke much English. But they all thanked God for their safe arrival. In their journal, they wrote: “The future we place in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary – our anxieties, our griefs – we are the weak instruments chosen to make these Holy Names known and loved.”

By the time of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the Sisters were making the Holy Names known and loved around the world. In the Pacific Northwest, they owned and staffed two colleges and nine high schools, and students from more than 50 elementary parochial schools received instruction from Holy Names Sisters. In summer, they instructed rural children in the faith by teaching religion classes during summer vacations. In addition to the “three R’s,” the Sisters’ classroom instruction included music, visual arts, and even interior design: for them, the arts were instruments of transformation. Even the elementary schools boasted choruses and orchestras.

That legacy of faith, vision and courage is kept alive today by the 100 Sisters and lay Associates who live in or around the Diocese of Spokane, where they strive to meet the needs of the times:

• The arts remain important: At the Holy Names Music Center, Sisters teach piano and strings. Sister Paula Mary Turnbull, resident artist at the Convent of the Holy Names, was honored this fall as the Individual Artist of the Year during the City of Spokane Arts Awards.
• Some Sisters offer spiritual direction and direct retreats, some enjoy informal teaching of English as a second language with students at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, and some tutor in schools or in a psychiatric program. Some visit nursing homes, and several minister in the Holy Names Care Center. Many provide volunteer support for justice-related programs.
• The Sabbath Space program in Spokane provides resources for retreats and hosts an on-line lending library. The Woman’s Hearth drop-in center in downtown Spokane is one of four programs of Transitions, whose mission is to foster the personal growth and wholeness of women and children in need. In Coeur e’Alene, Idaho, Sisters at Wisdom Works offer seminars, workshops and other services that help people or groups who want to progress in their desire for spiritual integration.
• Holy Names Sisters work among the closely knit parish families of St. Joseph Parish in the West Central Neighborhood and St. Aloysius Parish. Sisters also have leadership roles in programs at Gonzaga University and at Our Place Community Ministries.

When the history lesson is over, the fourth-graders mail thank-you notes to the visitors. Last year, a St. John Vianney student named Katie penned this note on red construction paper: “Thanks to you, I learned that we are part of that story.”

On Oct. 6, the Holy Names Sisters and their lay Associates were the ones saying “thank you” to their friends. At a gathering at the Convent of the Holy Names in Spokane, the Sisters presented four awards to persons in Spokane who exemplify the embodiment of the Holy Names spirit today:

The Marie-Rose Award was presented to Virginia Asan, who began her teaching career in the footsteps of Blessed Marie-Rose at Holy Names College in Spokane, and by assisting with the Academy sports program before moving to Eastern Washington University. “Like Marie-Rose,” the citation said, “you were an educator in our faith through your belief that God has given each of us this one life to lead, and it is worthy of all our effort.” Some 60 years later, she still teaches fitness classes; residents of the Spokane convent are among her students.

The Eulalie Award went to Holy Names Sister Betty McLellan, Spokane: As an educator who taught countless children, Sister Betty exemplifies how God speaks to “a heart silent and listening,” the audience was told. She was praised for her deep spirituality that nourishes the faith of others: “[F]rom this deep life of prayer, you excelled as both a foundress and principal in our schools.… You continue to share the Good News to numerous Associates, introducing them to Blessed Marie-Rose and nourishing the charism already deep within their hearts.”

The Jésu-Marie Award was presented to Jessie Rosauer and Shari Rosauer Kain. The mother and daughter were honored for being “models of commitment to God, to service, and to family.” During the awards presentation, they were thanked for living, “like Mary, with loving fidelity to your God, to your family and to those in need. As women of deep faith and through your leadership, exemplifying generosity, creativity and practicality, you have been and are a blessing to Church, educational and civic communities.”

Jessie Rosauer’s collaboration with Holy Names Sisters spans many years, including serving on the first Foundation Board.

Shari Rosauer Kain was honored for championing the rights of children with special needs. During the presentation, she was told that “Your service on the board of ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens), Parent Group Advocacy and the state Board for Development Disabilities Issues demonstrates your resilient, persevering spirit in the pursuit of justice and inclusion.”

The Holy Names Award was presented to pianist Margaret Saunders Ott. “[G]enerations of students, colleagues, and audience members … will attest not only to your phenomenal technique, but to your ability to evoke more color from a piano then can a full symphony orchestra,” the audience was told during the presentation. As a humanitarian, she was cited for performing “hidden acts of kindness” for those in need, and for helping her students to progress beyond their expectations.

The Sisters of the Holy Names honored several individuals Oct. 6 for their service to the Sisters’ mission. From left are Holy Names Sister Betty McLellan (Eulalie Award), Margaret Saunders Ott (Holy Names Award), Virginia Asan (Marie-Rose Award), and Jessie Rosauer and Shari Rosauer Kain (Jesu-Marie Award). (IR photo courtesy of the Sisters of the Holy Names)


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