Mother Joseph and the Sisters of Providence
In 1856, Sister of Providence Mother Joseph, accompanied by four young pioneering sisters, arrived at Fort Vancouver, Washington. Mother Joseph proceeded to open her first Catholic school in 1858 in makeshift cabins. An accomplished architect and carpenter, she supervised the building of Providence Academy seventeen years later. The Sisters operated Providence Academy, the sole Catholic school in this area.
Our Lady of Lourdes/St. James Catholic School opened in April 1956 with nearly 450 students–many from the soon to close Providence Academy–and staffed with eight Sisters of Providence and four lay teachers. Since it first opened its doors, Lourdes’ goal has been to emulate the charism of Mother Joseph (compassionate love and creative, prophetic solidarity with the poor) by providing a quality, value-based education to all students in the community. This is done in an educational environment that respects the individual gifts and talents of each student and nourishes minds and spirits.
In 1958, Our Lady of Lourdes Church and Parish was established at the site. For many years, the school was known as Our Lady of Lourdes-St. James School. It is now known as Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.
Sister Mary Leona
Most all of the Sisters had left the school by the mid-seventies. Sister Mary Leona Miller, who was loved by both students and parents, taught first grade until she retired in 1991. She lived in Hazel Dell and remained in the parish for many years before she really retired to a home in Seattle. The Sister Mary Leona ~ Father Dillon Fund, which provides tuition assistance for students, honors this beloved teacher and the first Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish.