History Road Trip

Last year at this time I was preparing to return to the US from my 3 month ministry experience in England. You see, one of the great things about being part of our Congregation at this time of history is that you get to visit the whole Congregation during your Novitiate! Which in our case means the UK, East Coast and Pacific Northwest. The idea is that during your 2nd year of novitiate - your ministry year - you have two extended ministry experiences, each in the region which is not your own. For me that meant 3 months in London and 3 months in Jersey City.

This year, our 2nd year novice is spending her experiences in Seattle and Nottingham, as she hails from New Jersey. Her time in Seattle is coming to a close, but I managed to squeeze in a little history road trip with her last Friday to Bellingham, WA.

You see, in 1890 two pioneer Sisters - Teresa Moran and Stanislaus Tighe - found their way from New Jersey to what is now Bellingham, WA to found a hospital and presence of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in the Northwest. They began by raising construction funds through the sale of annual hospital "tickets" for $10 in the logging and mining camps and town. Teresa Moran explained this exercise in her letters to the Mother General ...
[We] have been collecting the camps. You already know what that means from what Mother Ig [Ignatius Casserly] has told you when we visited them in Wisconsin. Instead of snow, here we have mud to contend with. The rainy season has commenced leaving the roads in an awful condition, so that it is impossible to travel on foot through the woods. Thank God we got home safe anyway in spite of all we heard of wild animals etc. Everyone was very kind to us. [We] stopped nowhere overnight but where there was a lady. At one place while we waited for the train a kind man made us a fire in an old deserted cabin on the ground floor. We sat & raked the fire, talked of the absent ones and what you would say if you saw us at a distance.
In four months, they had enough money to begin, and in January, 1891 the first St. Joseph Hospital was opened. Within a year, as other Sisters joined them, they opened a school and began a novitiate in Bellingham. This is a picture of one of the earlier incarnations of St. Joseph Hospital. St. Joseph Hospital is still up and running, in a more modern form, as part of the Peace Health Hospital System. The only hospital in Whatcom County, it is a 253-bed, two-campus medical center and Level III Trauma Center.

I often find myself thinking back to those early Sisters, traipsing off to the wild west, 3,000 miles away from their religious community. Talk about a pioneer spirit! When I think of them, the image that comes to mind is often of a mural that hangs in the Cancer Center at St. Joseph's Hospital.

It's a bit hard to make out in the photograph, but the tapestry includes not only the Sisters of Peace, but symbols of the Northwest as well. Trees, rain drops, etc... If Teresa Moran had had her say, I'm sure there would be mud as well!

It's always nice to go on these little history road trips, to be reminded of the rich heritage I am a part of. I also firmly believe that Teresa, Stanislaus and all our Sisters are journeying with us into the future, and that my friends is a very nice feeling!

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