The very first Freshmen class (1929-30) in front of Marycliff Hall/Contributed photo

Franciscan Sisters Celebrate 100 Years in Spokane

By Gabry Tyson

For the past 100 years the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) have made strides in Spokane ministries.

In July, St. Augustine Parish will host a celebratory mass and reception in honor of FSPA’s 100-year presence in the area.

Maycliff Hall/Contributed Photo
Marycliff Hall/Contributed Photo

Graduates from Marycliff High School, which was opened and staffed by members of FSPA in 1929, are planning an all-schools reunion in conjunction with the centennial celebration.

Sister Betty Bradley, who came to Marycliff in 1954 as an FSPA aspirant, said it was the positive influence of the sisters that made her want to join the FSPA community.

“The years were wonderful. The teachers were very good to us and they met our needs wherever they were,” she said.

Bradley said one of the things she really appreciated throughout her schooling was the ability to get to know the sisters on a personal level.

“Our sisters were at six schools, and we used to walk to all the different schools and places the sisters worked and eat with them. That was wonderful,” she said.

Sister Kathryn Roberg didn’t attend Marycliff but was inspired to join the sisterhood through the interactions she had with the sisters.

“One thing that really caught me, I think I was a junior, I asked a sister if I could help her in the summer with Bible School, and I really loved the way she was relating to the kids and [she was] just a really beautiful person and I wanted to be like that,” Roberg said.

Many sisters have come together to make sure the day is filled with memories for the guests and alumnae.

Roberg put together a book filled with memories and pictures she collected from other sisters both from Spokane or those who worked in the area, and Bradley, a full-time professional artist, is painting pictures of Marycliff for the celebration.

Audrey Nickel, a ’79 graduate, said the small class sizes, the beauty of the campus and the critical thinking surrounding faith made her time spent at Marycliff the perfect high school experience.

“It was a faith building experience, drawn more towards liturgical expression,” she said. “While it was Catholic school, [they] encouraged exploration and discussion of issues dealing with faith and faith in the world.”

When asked to recall her favorite memories she thought back to the time spent bonding with her debate team at tournaments, but it was when she auditioned and made the Cecelians, Marycliff’s concert choir that took the cake.

Along with being reunited with her old choir friends, Nickel looks forward to honoring the work FSPA has done in the community, especially with regards to education.

“A lot of what they instilled through education as far as values really impacted the community, raising citizens that are compassionate and motivated to do good in the world,” Nickel said.

Bradley hopes the celebration will be a time to acknowledge the work the sisters have done in the area as well as recall memories with old friends.

“I just think our community has done a tremendous amount of work in Spokane and [this] is a time to come together to celebrate and recall memories.”

FSPA first came to Spokane in 1915 to staff St. Xavier and St. Augustine schools as well as St. John’s Academy in Colfax. Among education, the sisters established new ministries and “continue to minister as counselors, religious educators, spiritual directors and parish and youth ministries,” according to the timeline on their website.

Along with Sisters Bradley and Roberg, there are currently three other sisters from the ministry left in the area: Sisters Sharon Bongiorno, Joanna McGoldrick and Patricia Gordan.

The mass will be held Friday, July 24 at 7 p.m. at St. Augustine’s Parish with a reception to follow.

The all-schools reunion is scheduled for Saturday, July 25 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Marycliff Event Center, according to Spokane7.com.

About Gabry Tyson

Gabry Tyson is currently a student at the University of Missouri pursuing three degrees in journalism, international studies and religious studies. The Pennsylvania native hopes to one-day work for a non-profit with an international focus, preferably aimed at combating human trafficking. She has a keen interest on human rights issues and enjoys blogging, baking and traveling. Tyson plans to travel the world but until then, she interns for SpokaneFAVS.

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