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Assistance convent sisters received
during recent fire is reminder of goodness

Every once in a while, the idealist in me is tempted to doubt the wisdom of believing that the men and women in our world can and will join together for the common good.  The contents of the evening news are not encouraging.  Partisan politics, civil wars, criminal behaviors all demonstrate a lack of ability or will to envision a world where being a community of peace and justice is more important than my own personal agenda. 

Then something, perhaps a microcosm of a world community, occurs and hope is strengthened.  That recently happened to us at the Convent of the Holy Names.

After lunch Monday, Aug. 13, one man who works at the Convent of the Holy Names, 2911 Ft. Wright Dr., smelled smoke.  He and the maintenance director went into the woods, but saw nothing.  By 2:30 p.m., the convent parking lot was filled with fire engines and accompanying units.  An unknown angel saw smoke from across the river and called in the fire. 

Things moved quickly.  Our job was to follow directions.  As the fire continued around our property toward Government Way, it was feared that if the fire couldn’t be contained, our way off the property would be blocked, so we were asked to evacuate. 

The sisters gathered in the dining room.  When told a city bus would take them somewhere, most scurried to their rooms for what they thought necessary for the evening.  The commander still thought we would be back by bedtime.  Ambulances began transporting the 17 sisters from the care center.  There were two sisters and a caregiver in each vehicle. 

The five Providence Sisters and two caregivers at Mount St. Joseph’s graciously welcomed 18 Sisters of the Holy Names and their caregivers.  We always knew we were sisters to and with the Providence Sisters, and Monday evening that was much in evidence.  Our kitchen staff sent food for our sisters, and they joined the Providence sisters for supper.  It would take pages to acknowledge all the help in transporting the sisters and equipment.

Meanwhile—there are many “meanwhiles” to the story—Holy Names Sisters Celine Steinberger and Laura Michels welcomed the 19 ambulatory sisters at Mission House for the evening. 

The commander was still uncertain if we would be coming home that night.  When it was final that we would not return Monday night, I, as the convent’s leader, began working on the bed situation.  Several friends had called offering assistance and two sisters with friends at the Red Lion and Gonzaga began calling. 

We secured 10 rooms as a gift from the Red Lion on Division.  Four sisters stayed at Mission House.  Even though the sisters were unprepared for an overnight stay, we agreed a room at the Red Lion was like camping at a high level.  By morning, everyone could return to the convent. 

For the return, the supervisor at AMR - America Medical Response called in extra help, and everyone was home for lunch. 

Our hearts are full of gratitude for all the people who filled this event with so many heart-pieces.  We are safe, well cared for and energized by having shared an incredible experience of being held in the hollow of God’s hands, and in each other’s. 

We have never felt so safe or so proud of our Spokane community. Fireman, policemen, ambulance teams, the Spokane Transit, volunteers from Geiger, the Providence Sisters at Mount St. Joseph, the managers at the Red Lion, and our own wonderful Partners in Ministry all worked together for our common good. 

A month after “the fire” we had a barbeque at the Convent of the Holy Names for the firefighters, and 55 of them came. 

It has been such a joy to celebrate the life we now know that we share. We realize our lives are connected with the life of our Spokane community.  

Mary Ann Farley, SNJM
Fig Tree Board Moderator