Associate Arlene Sullivan



Tell us about your growing up years and family.

I was born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, in 1938. My father left Minnesota for Canada to play hockey so my two brothers, Bob, and Jim, and I were born there. We had dual citizenship! When I was four, we moved to Havre, Montana, where my dad became a brakeman on the Great Northern Railroad and my mom stayed home to raise what were now five Thole children. We attended St. Jude grade school and Havre Central. How lucky for us because the Sisters of Saint Francis were our teachers! They were very spirited and liked by all. To this day, we have such positive memories of the Franciscan teachers we had in Havre. I am grateful that I grew up in a small town where often we felt like one big family!

Please share a favorite story about your early community service.

I was Principal of St. Brendan School in Bothell from 1988 -2006. Ironically, the St. Brendan School was originally staffed by the Sisters of Saint Francis. Again, our paths crossed! I felt it was my ministry to keep the spirit of the sisters, who had left by then, alive and remembered. I invited the sisters back for celebrations and reminded the students, staff, and parents how much we owed to these “pioneer” women who started St. Brendan. By then I was an Associate so the communication with the sisters was easy and so appreciated. The Franciscan spirit continued to be alive and well, at least while I was there!

Why did you decide to become an Associate?

Since being taught by Franciscans in grade school and high school, I have always moved by how joyful and at peace with their vocations they seemed. I especially related to Sister Monica Asman who loved sports, as I was a cheerleader and my brothers played basketball for our Catholic school. How fun to have the sisters at the games and cheering loudly! Sister Monica encouraged me to consider whether God was calling me to be a Franciscan Sister. I said yes to religious life for 9 years and then later became an associate to continue to be part of the Magdalen, Clare, and Francis Family. I am the coordinator for the Northwest associates. We have such great gatherings as we share food, prayer, and stories!

How do you share your Franciscan values and spirituality now?

I now live in Mill Creek, Washington, with my husband Mike. We both volunteer in many ways to make a positive difference in the lives of those we encounter, whether it be the neighbors, committees, dinner groups, or you name it. I feel blessed to share the Franciscan values of joy, peace, and compassion as I facilitate bereavement groups for Evergreen Hospice and meet every week with beautiful elderly people in retirement homes. It’s a privilege to journey with the wonderful folks God puts in my life!

What would you like us to know about being a Franciscan?

Again, it is an honor and privilege to be part of the Franciscan family and I share this view with others very often!

Please share a favorite quote or verse.

“Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” Attributed to St. Francis
“He who has a WHY to live can bear with almost any HOW!” Victor Frankel—Man’s Search for Meaning
The Peace Prayer
“The most successful people I have met are those who like what they do AND THEY LIKE IT IN FRONT OF OTHERS!” Mr. Fred
Rogers (Share the Joy)

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

We are ONE!!

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