Sister Rosalie Locati, 68, has been part of the Sisters of Providence religious community for 49 years.
In employee orientations, Locati – director of mission and values for Providence Sacred Heart and Providence Holy Family hospitals – tells newcomers the story of Mother Joseph of Vancouver, Wash., who designed and built hospitals throughout the Pacific Northwest.
In 1886, Mother Joseph and other pioneer sisters ventured to Spokane to build Sacred Heart, the town’s first hospital.
Throughout 2011, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center will celebrate this 125-year milestone. Friday at 1 p.m., at Riverfront Park, the 1986 sculpture honoring the pioneer sisters will be blessed and rededicated.
Q. Where was the first hospital?
A. The site of the first hospital is where this statue is, right on the river. It was a fairly small facility in light of what our hospital is today. Mother Joseph designed it on a cloth napkin. It sufficed for about three years until they had to add on. The first patient was admitted in January 1887.
Q. What would surprise people about Mother Joseph?
A. She was a woman ahead of her time. In the business world, she could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any man. She worked with physicians and community leaders, all of them men. She didn’t take no for an answer.
She was a woman of fairly good stature. She had a fiery personality. She was not, I would imagine, always an easy person to work with, because she had such passion and a persistent need to serve the poor. It was in her very fiber.
Q. Why is it important to celebrate 125 years?
A. As a congregation of sisters, we mark jubilee years as significant. It’s an opportunity to give thanks to God for providing the opportunities to serve and providing the resources to do that serving.
Q. How would Mother Joseph react to the current situation – competing hospitals, health care reform?
A. She faced the same realities – lack of resources, lack of personnel, the growing needs of the people. Her response now would be: “What needs to be done? How are we going to accomplish it? And how are we going to partner to get it done?”
Q. Of the celebrations planned for this 125th this year, the one you seem most excited about is the July barbecue for the homeless. Talk about that event.
A. In the beginning, we gathered the shelterless, those who had great need, and we were able to provide some food, some housing, some health care. So the picnic in the park is representative of where our roots are. Today, the poor and vulnerable are still with us. We cannot forget that.
Q. Will Sacred Heart last another 125 years?
A. I trust we will. Will we be doing it the same way? No. Will it have any resemblance to what we see today? No.
When Mother Joseph died in 1902, there were about 30 or so ministries she had helped establish. She never would have dreamed it would have been this extensive, complex and competitive.
But she would know that if we listen to the poor, if we collaborate with one another for the greater good of the community, Providence will always provide.
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