Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Providence Sisters to return to El Salvador for Romero beatification

by Jennifer Roseman, for the Inland Register

(From the May 21, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Images of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero and of Blessed Emilie Gamelin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence, are side by side in the logo for the Sisters’ Providence Scholarship Program. Three Sisters of Providence who follow in the footsteps of Blessed Emilie will return home to El Salvador this month for the beatification of the archbishop, one of their heroes.

Their native country and its people were racked by civil war from 1980 to 1992. The Sisters of Providence established a mission there in 1995 and for more than two decades have helped bring hope to young people through educational scholarships.

The beatification of Archbishop Romero will be held Saturday, May 23, in the Plaza of the Savior of the World, in San Salvador. For the three Providence Sisters who will travel there from Spokane, Portland, Ore., and San Antonio, Texas, it is an intensely personal occasion and celebration.

Sister Vilma Franco SP

Sister Vilma Franco, who lost her father and six brothers in the civil war, welcomes the honor for the man who kindled her passion for justice and for the poor. Sister Ana Dolores Orellana Gamero, of Portland, is thrilled that her father, a catechist for the archbishop, will be officially recognized as a martyr.

Sister Margarita Hernandez, one of the Sisters’ early scholarship recipients, currently is enrolled in the Catholic Leadership Program at Mexican American Catholic College (MACC) in San Antonio, Texas.

Sister Margarita Hernandez SP

“The strength of our three Sisters of Providence from El Salvador and their resolve to share the Good News of Jesus Christ comes from the depth of suffering with family and fellow citizens during the civil war,” said Providence Sister Judith Desmarais, Provincial Superior. “The influence of Archbishop Romero is profound and is an inspiration to their ministry with those who are poor and vulnerable. Their love of life and concern for the marginalized is evident in their daily lives. It is an honor to have them present for the beatification ceremony.”

Sister Vilma came to Spokane in 2006 from El Salvador, where she had been working as a catechist when she met the Sisters of Providence. Perhaps even more important than putting Archbishop Romero one step closer to sainthood is the hope and healing this moment represents. It is the kind of healing that helped Sister Vilma overcome her distrust and anger at the United States for its role in the civil war in El Salvador. She became a U.S. citizen last Jan. 6. Her ministry in Spokane is in early childhood education at St. Aloysius School.

Sister Ana Dolores Orellana Gamero SP

Sister Ana Dolores only learned the truth about her father’s death a year later. She had been told that José Estanislao Orellana Villalobos, known as Tanis to family and friends, had died of a heart attack a few months after Archbishop Romero’s death. At the time, she was living in Rome, Italy, with the congregation of Mothers of the Orphans. She transferred her vows to the Sisters of Providence in 2005.

Sister Ana was reunited with her mother, Transito, who had found sanctuary at St. Ann Church in Spokane, and with her sister, Luisa Westbrook, a Providence Associate in Yakima, Wash. Today, Sister Ana works with the homeless and with couples seeking reconciliation in Portland. Her father’s body has never been found.

The three Salvadoran sisters, who were featured in the National Catholic Reporter recently, also will share their stories of fear, hurt, loss and healing with other Sisters of Providence who serve in ministry in El Salvador: Sisters Marita Capili, Marilyn Charette, Marcia Gatica and Kathryn “Kitsy” Rutan. Together, they operate the scholarship program and provide formation activities for youth.

“The Sisters who minister in El Salvador are also enriched with the spirit of Archbishop Romero and our foundress, Blessed Emilie Gamelin,” Sister Judith said. “They know that the key to overcoming poverty is education and are working with and supporting young people who are focused on creating a better future for themselves and others.”

(Roseman is Director of Communications and Development for the St. Joseph Province of the Sisters of Providence.)

(IR photos courtesy of the Sisters of Providence)


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