Editor’s note: Sister Marie Kevin died May 19, 2014, at age 89.
Years of service: 63 years
Recently I read, “Those who come to religious life seem to have been born with a particular charism alive within them. In time, they find a Congregation that embodies that same spirit…” I think that is what happened to me when I “found” the Sisters of Providence at Holy Trinity School in New Albany, Ind. The charism, or gift of the Spirit, that was so alive in my elementary school teachers, seemed to match something in me.
I entered high school in Louisville, Ky., just across the Ohio River from my hometown. There I met another congregation of sisters for whom I have great love and respect. Surprisingly, it was one of those sisters who said to me in the middle of a busy mission bazaar, “Did anyone ever tell you that you might have a vocation to become a sister?” I answered simply, “No. Sister.” That was the end of the conversation.
I began to think about this seriously and to discuss it with a priest in my parish. One day he said to me, “I want you to begin thinking about what community you might like to join.”
Almost immediately I said, “I think I want to be a Sister of Providence.” He responded, “Thanks be to God!” That was his way of expressing relief that I was not just jumping on the vocation bandwagon because of the Sister’s question. The fact that I was choosing a community different from hers was further verification.
So what was that charism that I found in the Sisters of Providence? Let me tell you about a seemingly insignificant event in my eighth-grade life. It was Valentine’s Day. Against all rules, some of the boys left the school grounds at noon to buy candy for their girl friends. When the afternoon session began there was much hub-bub and chattering. I thought, “Sister isn’t going to like this!” When she appeared on the scene, she assessed the situation and then said simply, “Isn’t love grand?”
Somehow by osmosis, and not even realizing it at the time, the charism of the Sisters of Providence revealed itself to me. Sister had responded with love, mercy, and justice. There was warmth and humor in her response. That simple schoolgirl event left a lasting mark on me and I wanted to belong to a community that had such a spirit.
The night before I entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Providence, my five older sisters decided we should all dress in formals and have our picture taken. The next day I moved from formal wear to a postulant’s black uniform, and from having five older sisters to having hundreds of them. For the next two and one-half years I was introduced to the religious life with other young women who also were discerning their call. All of us were on a journey of faith, trusting, that in time, we would discover if this was God’s call to us.
Along the journey we supported each other with love and friendship. After professing vows, we moved on to live in community with other Sisters of Providence. We lived and worked and prayed together, reinforcing in each other that special charism and mission to which we were called. Community life has a transforming power if we are open to growth and change. Together we can become more.
I am now of an age that I can say that I am a “50/50,” Pre-Second Vatican Council / Post-Second Vatican Council religious sister. Both halves have been rich and rewarding. Prior to the Second Vatican Council were my years of elementary and secondary education. Post Second — Vatican Council ministries have led me to the work of renewal in our Congregation and in 45 other congregations.
This latter work involved enabling sisters to engage in new skills of dialogue and shared decision-making in order to engage effectively in shaping our future together. We were called by the Second Vatican Council to examine our way of life in light of two major criteria: first, the charism of the founding person (in our case, Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin) and, secondly, to be keenly aware of the signs of the times. Because the world and the Church had changed, religious life also needed to change. Renewal and adaptation were key concepts in this effort. We needed to renew our founding spirit and to adapt to the changing conditions of the times.
Decades have passed since I made my leap of faith and said “yes” to God. Many opportunities for being a sign of God’s providential love, mercy, and justice have presented themselves to me in various ministries and in daily living. Over the years I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and principal in several different cities in Indiana. Later I served as associate director of formation at Saint Meinrad College Seminary where young men from many dioceses across the country were preparing for the priesthood. I have found that each time I was called to a new ministry I was entering a broader arena of the Catholic Church and world. The circles of engagement were concentric and interacting.
After four years in seminary work, I was asked to open an office to develop pastoral councils in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. This was an effort to enable the laity to take their rightful place in the decision-making process in the Church, another call of the Second Vatican Council.
Now for the last nine years, I have been given the honor of promoting the Cause for the canonization of our foundress, Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin. In a real sense, this takes me to the largest of the concentric circles of my ministries, that of the Universal Church and world. After all, the whole purpose of the canonization process is to single out persons whose lives have exemplified heroic Christian virtue, and in this way to remind the rest of us of the “Universal call to holiness.” I like to think of my current assignment as the “cherry-on top” of a wonderful life.
It was Mother Theodore who first embodied the charism of this Congregation. It was her charism, which brought this Congregation to birth. It is our living of that charism, in all aspects of human and world need, that will carry us into the future with energy and integrity. It is my hope that many young women of today who are prayerfully and seriously discerning God’s will for them, will join us on our journey of Providence.
Favoritesmovie: The Trapp Family Singers
dessert: strawberry shortcake
time of day: early evening
course in school: Calculus
least favorite course in school: Calculus
If I weren’t an SP: I’d be in the wrong place