Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Sr. Rita Ferschweiler reads scripture at anniversary Mass while archbishop and priests listen.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Sr. Rita Ferschweiler reads scripture at anniversary Mass while archbishop and priests listen.
Patients too weak to leave their rooms gazed down from hospital windows during an outdoor Mass last week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Providence Portland Medical Center.

Archbishop John Vlazny, just back from a pilgrimage that included the healing shrine at Lourdes, said the Northeast Portland institution is another place where the sick are treated with respect, affection and brightness.

"This is also holy ground," the archbishop said, standing in a courtyard with hospital buildings soaring up on every side. "Many people come here for healing — physical, certainly — but also emotional and spiritual."

Those in health care ministry mirror the healing work of Jesus, the archbishop said.
"Many hands, many generations, many hearts have had a part in bringing us here this evening," said Theron Park, CEO of the medical center. Among those thanked were the Sisters of Providence and Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Portland and the liaison between the local church and Providence.

Sisters of Providence have always lived on the site since the hospital began in 1941. The last two — Sisters Rita Ferschweiler and Lenora Donovan — will depart this fall for Seattle, where the Sisters have a motherhouse. The two women received a standing ovation after the Mass.

Sister Rita has a long history in Portland-area healthcare, having been CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center when it made a move to its current Barnes Road location. For years, she has been a key part of pastoral care at Providence Portland, visiting with patients and delighting staff with her kind disposition.

Sister Rita's colleagues nominated her to be included in a memorial of local women leaders. The Walk of the Heroines is located at Portland State University and includes the likes of Mother Joseph, leader of the Sisters of Providence in the Northwest.  

"Thank you for all the ways you have shown us the way," Sister Karin told Sister Rita during the announcement.

"She built St. Vincent's almost single-handedly," says Barb Fritz, a nurse at St. Charles Parish in Portland. "I have great admiration for her."

To thank Archbishop Vlazny for his years of support, Providence will dedicate a chapel window in his honor. The window, which dates from the founding, bears the coat of arms of Archbishop Edward Howard, who in the 1930s had asked the Sisters to open a hospital on Portland's east side.