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Sisters of the Holy Names: 125 years

Sun., Sept. 22, 2013, midnight

The buildings in which the Holy Names sisters have lived out their ministries have come and gone, as this sampling from history shows.

Summer 1888 » Three sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary arrive in Spokane to teach in Spokane’s first Catholic grade school on Main Street in downtown Spokane. On Aug. 4, 1889, the Great Fire of Spokane roars within feet of the school. The school is spared in a last-minute wind change deemed “a miracle.”

Summer 1891 » The Academy of the Holy Names, pictured at right, opens near Gonzaga University. The school at various points teaches girls of all ages and boys up to grade five, and offers boarding to daughters of rural Catholic families. Eventually Holy Names Academy evolves into one of two Catholic all-girls schools in Spokane, graduating thousands of young women before closing in 1975.

Early 1960s » Holy Names College – the first four-year women’s college in the region, established in 1938 across the street from the Academy – moves when the sisters acquire Fort George Wright, a former military base along the Spokane River. The college grows in popularity, renowned for its art and music education. In 1963, it changes its name to Fort Wright College of the Holy Names. During the 1960s, the sisters also teach in more than a half-dozen parochial schools in Spokane.

1968 » The Holy Names Convent is completed on 57 forested acres along the Spokane River. The convent’s design wins several prestigious architecture awards for its “contemplative quality.” In ensuing years, the sisters open their midcentury modern convent to the greater Spokane community for Mass, prayer, meetings and retreats.

1990 » The sisters, who graduated their last class at Fort Wright College in 1982, sell the 72-acre campus to Mukogawa Women’s University, commencing a still vital relationship with the Japanese community. The sisters retain the Holy Names Music Center, where music classes are still taught today.

2013 » Letters are sent to Holy Names alumni, family and friends explaining that, starting in November, the sisters will move from the convent to Harbor Crest, though the convent will still house administration offices and be open for community gatherings. “Because our expertise and experience has been focused on the mission of education, we are looking to others with the needed expertise to manage the long-term care of our elder sisters,” the letter says. “Please know that we need your prayer and financial support as much as ever as we live into this new venture.”


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