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Touring the Past with Sister Maureen

Providence Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, WA celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2014.

Sister Maureen Healy is the last Dominican Sister - and nurse - still working at Providence Holy Family Hospital. Recently, she took me on a tour of the former convent where the Sisters lived when they ran Holy Family Hospital in its early days. The hospital, dedicated August 29, 1964, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The entrance to the three-story former convent is in the hospital’s basement, down the hall from the Take 5 cafeteria. The sign at the entrance now says: “Pastoral Care.”

The former convent has been remodeled several times. The hospital’s laundry is now the mailroom; current chaplain offices once served as visitors’ rooms for out-of-town families of patients who had no place to stay.

The large conference room, complete with brick fireplace (now used to train providers on Epic)  was where Sister Maureen ate breakfast, lunch and dinner – in silence with her fellow sisters. She remembered how great the homemade bread tasted. Their coffee was made from refrigerated “coffee syrup” that became a hot beverage when boiling water was added.

“It was something they brought here from Germany,” Sister Maureen said.

How did it taste? “I didn’t drink coffee.”

A spacious conference room on the second floor was the Sisters’ rec room. It features a mid-century-modern design fireplace. That style of architecture – popular in the 1950s and 1960s – is the rage now, and not just because of the series “Mad Men.” The sisters were allowed one hour a night in the rec room. They darned socks, chatted and listened to music.

"A record player console was the gift the doctors gave us our first Christmas," Sister Maureen remembered. "It was a big deal, like getting a large-screen TV now."

Sister Maureen shows us the 3-foot-tall statue of St. Joseph, carved from Black Forest wood more than 50 years ago, is still in excellent shape.With a special key, we made our way to the locked third floor, used now for storage of old computers and construction items. The Sisters’ communal bathroom, and their  bedrooms, look pretty much the way they did 50 years ago, including the original linoleum on the floor.

In one room, amid clutter, we found a 3-foot-tall statue of St. Joseph – the stepfather of Jesus, a saint who has become famous in modern times for helping with the sales of homes.

The statue, carved from Black Forest wood more than 50 years ago, is in excellent shape. Sister Maureen and I lifted St. Joseph from the floor and carted him back to modern time. He'll be used in reflections throughout the 50th anniversary year and then find a permanent home on one of the units at Holy Family.

"He's irreplaceable," Sister Maureen said.

Just like the 50 year history of Providence Holy Family Hospital.

—Becky Nappi, director of Mission Integration