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Sisters of Providence mark legacy with picnic for homeless

Earl Spangle, who has spent all of his 79 years in Spokane, sat atop a rock wall and enjoyed every cold lick of his sherbet cone Thursday.

“Just wonderful,” he said. “These folks gave us something nice today.”

Those folks – the Sisters of Providence – have been doing good things in Spokane for 125 years.

The nuns are celebrating their legacy this year with public art projects, special Catholic masses, and in the heat of a July day, by feeding burgers, hot dogs and potato salad to more than 400 people who are homeless or down on their luck.

“This lunch is the kind of thing that helps put people in touch with the heritage of the Sisters of Providence,” said Sister Rosalie Locati, the director of mission at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

The nuns wore their full habits during the picnic, which was funded the old-fashioned way – by going on a modern-day “begging tour.”

Not one organization turned them down, and the radiologists at Inland Imaging offered to underwrite the cost of the entire picnic.

The religious order fed the homeless from their soup kitchen when they first established a hospital in Spokane’s earliest days.

When Sacred Heart opened at its current location in 1910, it continued to feed the hungry – about 60 to 100 every day.

In 1915 the hospital provided 41,046 free meals.

As the soup lines diminished, the hospital began funding regional charities.

Sister Rosalie said there are about 40 nuns in Spokane who belong to the Sisters of Providence – many of them retired.

She said the religious order is honoring the 430 nuns who have served at Sacred Heart in the past 125 years with a memorial wall that will be displayed inside the front entrance of the hospital later this year.

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