PENDLETON - The spartan office of St. Anthony Hospital's newest nun is unbelievably tidy. The only item out of place is a "Guidepost" magazine atop her desk.

"I'm never here," explained Sister Marie Monica Borden.

Instead of being in her office, Sister Borden roams hospital halls, ducking into patient rooms and stopping by waiting areas where she spends time handing out doses of encouragement, laughter, and prayer.

The nun said she just wants to soothe anxiety and ease burdens wherever she can.

"I'm not here to proselytize," she said. "I'm just here to take care of needs."

If a someone wants her to pray, however, she will cheerfully oblige.

This is the second time the sister has moved to Pendleton. In the early 1950s, she arrived in the city to attend St. Joseph's Academy, a Catholic school that closed in 1975. She had convinced her father, a Yakima Valley cattle rancher, to let her leave home to study in Pendleton.

It was at St. Joseph's that the spiritual spark within Borden kindled into a flame. The teenage girl found role models in the Franciscan nuns who taught at the school and eventually decided to follow their path.

"I can't tell you how much they inspired me," she said. "You knew they were in tune with God - they were kind and gracious."

In spite of the inspiration, Sister Borden didn't go directly into ministry. After graduating from St. Joseph's in 1952, she attended Seattle University, then got a job with the Hanford Project, which is located on some of the ranch property where she was raised.

Finally, in 1957, she decided to follow her heart and become a Franciscan nun. After 50 years, she said she hasn't regretted her decision.

"Not for a moment," she said. "It's been tough at times, but not for a moment have I regretted or doubted."

In the five decades that passed since she entered the religious community of the Sisters of St. Francis, she worked as both teacher and counselor. She spent 25 years in education and four years as a therapist at St. Joseph's Counseling Center in Spokane.

She also spent 20 years directing novices, as they explored their spirituality in the United States and three Caribbean countries, as they began their career as nuns.

For the past three years, Sister Borden has served on St. Anthony's Board of Directors.

Though she works as a volunteer, Sister Borden doesn't pay rent on her hospital-owned apartment, and earns living expenses. She's also welcome in the hospital cafeteria.

She said she is overjoyed to find herself back in Pendleton.

"I can hardly wait until Round-Up," she said.

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