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‘Retired’ Holy Names sister continues ministries

Sister Ann Bosserman
Sr. Anne Bosserman provides hospitality at Harbor Crest.


Holy Names Sister Anne Bosserman exemplifies how retired Sisters of the Holy Names continue their commitment to religious life through ministries within their own community and to the wider community and world.

Although Holy Names Sisters, who have a history of being educators in this region, are aging and declining in numbers, they have chosen new partners in ministry by moving to a senior living community.

As one of the 40 sisters, who moved between November 2013 and June 2014 from the Convent of the Holy Names at 2911 W. Fort Wright Blvd., to the Harbor Crest at 3117 E. Chaser Lane, Sr. Anne moved in December 2013.

Arriving early at Harbor Crest, she has had a role in hospitality there of welcoming the sisters and visiting with them to hear their joys and concerns.

The convent was built in 1967 with 72 bedrooms.  It became costly to keep up with only 40 sisters, aged 76 to 93, living there before the move.  Two years ago, the Sisters of the former Washington Province—which is now part of the U.S.-Ontario Province—made the decision to move. 

The sisters have increasing need for quality, affordable health care as they age.  Costs of maintaining and operating the care center at the convent became prohibitive.  They found it would cost less for them to live at Harbor Crest than it cost to provide 24-hour care with 70 employees at the convent.

When Sr. Mary Ann Farley, SNJM, now community coordinator at Harbor Crest, came to the convent 17 years ago, there were 63 sisters.  Of them, 31 were in the care center.  Now there are 47 in the Spokane area, and 17 living independently in apartments or houses in the area.

Three sisters live in Harbor Crest’s memory care unit, two in independent living apartments and 24 scattered in apartments on three floors of the main building. 

As the sisters decided what to bring and how to decorate their new apartments, they became energized by the move, said Sr. Mary Ann, who joined the interview.

Sr. Anne continues to help sisters find a new sense of community.  They have grown closer by caring for each other as they adjust to their new home, said Sr. Mary Ann.

With apartments in various areas of the facility, the community has one apartment as a meeting place to enjoy each other’s company. They also meet for prayer each afternoon in the Harbor Crest Chapel.  The 12 Catholics, who already lived at Harbor Crest, appreciate that the sisters’ arrival gives them access to both daily and Sunday Mass.

Sr. Mary Ann sees Sr. Anne “as a leader who offers resources to people, helping them with their physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.”

Like many sisters, she exemplifies how simple gestures of compassion, a smile or kind word makes a difference for residents they meet in the hall, dining room and other areas.  The Sisters of the Holy Names have a new ministry among the residents, too.

“At Harbor Crest, the sisters have gradually come to know the residents,” said Sr. Anne.

Employing many skills she used in her work as a pastoral minister at St. Mary’s Catholic Parish in Spokane Valley, she welcomed the sisters as they settled into apartments and facilitated the residents welcoming the sisters, as well as the sisters welcoming each other.

“We are building community here,” Sr. Anne said.  “The sisters need to support each other.  When we go to the dining room, we can sit with anyone from the 100 apartments, but some gravitate to each other.”

A different sense of community is emerging at Harbor Crest, she said, because the sisters have to work at it, rather than taking it for granted as it was easy to do at the convent.

Sr. Anne is also available to the other residents.

One man’s grandson, who had two tours in Iraq, committed suicide.  She visited him and listened to his grief.

When the wife of another man died, she visited him, too.

“I listen to people tell their stories at meals,” said Sr. Anne, whose gift at remembering names from parish work continues at Harbor Crest.  “I try to address people by name.”

“We moved to make more of our resources available for ministry,” she said.

Sr. Anne also continues her involvements, including with Pax Christi, the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Our Place, Sr. Paula Turnbull’s sculpture ministry, the Holy Names Music Center and Vocare.

Her caring and advocacy follow in her mother’s footsteps.  Her mother started a Dress for Success program in Seattle, helped organize a boycott of The Bon Marche to challenge it to move to equality in its hiring practices and instilled in Sr. Anne a worldview shaped by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Dorothy Day.

“I became a world citizen and I’m passionate to read about people of different cultures,” Sr. Anne said.

Through her involvement in Pax Christi, Sr. Anne is helping arrange a presentation at Gonzaga on interfaith reconciliation in Iraq. 

The group is bringing Sarah Ahmed of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East to talk about efforts to bring reconciliation among Muslims and other faiths in Iraq.

Sr. Anne has belonged to Pax Christi for many years, participating in a local chapter that seeks to make a difference and change systems to a peace and justice focus. 

Over the years, the group has brought speakers, including some from the U.S. Institute of Peace.

In Pax Christi, she and 10 others work locally for equality, justice and humaneness in the world out of their desire to live out the Gospel of Jesus. 

Her pursuit of justice also has outlet through Sisters of the Holy Names social justice advocacy.

Since 1991, the Holy Names Sisters have been part of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (IPJC) with Dominican Sisters, Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, Oregon Province of Jesuits, Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Francis Philadelphia. 

Sr. Anne participated in two eight-week women’s justice circles, helping low-income women in 15 Northwest ministries to develop leadership skills. 

“I let people know wherever sisters are in ministry and I tell them about IPJC programs, such as its resources on climate change, human trafficking and clean water, which are commitments of the Holy Names Sisters,” she said.

As a volunteer one day a week for nearly six years at Our Place, an outreach ministry in West Central Spokane, Sr. Anne did computer work, then trained two others to do it, and now does filing and reception.

For three years, she has assisted Sr. Paula Turnbull by providing extra hands to hold tools while Sr. Paula shapes statues in her studio at the convent.

From her interest in music, Sr. Anne is on the Scholarship Committee for the Holy Names Music Center.  For many years, she was a pianist and music teacher.

Through Vocare, she helps young women “address their hunger for spirituality and guidance as they consider possible vocations in ministry,” she said.  “It’s about being present with young people.”

Each summer, Vocare invites about 35 girls, aged 13 to 18, to a four-day prayer retreat at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.  Along with the program on campus, sisters from several communities involve the girls in visiting ministries sisters in the area are doing. 

The sisters inform the young women about their Catholic heritage and take them to tour the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart Hospital, the Holy Names Music Center and the monument at Holy Cross Cemetery that honors the various women’s religious orders.

“We give them a sense of Catholicism that is bigger than what they have seen,” Sr. Anne said.

“Young women recognize their spirituality early and need a place to nourish it,” said Sr. Mary Ann.

The goal is to plant seeds early.  Most young women go to college, mature, live independently, manage their finances and maybe have a relationship before choosing to enter an order.  Even then it’s seven to 10 years before they make final vows, said Sr. Anne.

“When Catholic sisters taught in elementary and high schools, they had more opportunities to talk with students about life as a sister,” she said. 

Now most of the teachers in Catholic schools are lay people.

During high school, Sr. Anne’s interest in the world and peace was stirred while her family hosted an exchange student from Vienna.  She saved money and in 1955 took the Andrea Doria to Europe, where she spent three months touring Italy, Austria, France, Germany, Denmark, England and Scotland.

Ten days after she returned, she entered the convent.

Along with pastoral care and justice action ministries, Sr. Anne likes praying every day with the sisters and quiet time to talk with God.

“I put my relationship with the Lord first,” said Sr. Anne, who attends St. Anne’s Parish.

For information, call 995-8993.

Copyright © January 2015 - The Fig Tree