Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:1-6)
Today’s Gospel contains words of “irony”– when someone says the opposite of what they really think. Do you think people in the synagogue are admiring Jesus when they say, “Where did he get all this?” Or are they envious and speaking sarcastically? It seems what they really mean is “Who does he think he is???” They think they know all about Jesus because they grew up in the same hometown and they know who his parents and relatives are. They can’t see anything in Jesus except what they are so sure they know.
The surprising result is that Jesus is unable to perform “mighty deeds” there. He doesn’t refuse to heal; he is unable. Why? Doesn’t Jesus have the power to do anything he wants? The last line of today’s reading gives the clue: Jesus is surprised that they don’t believe in him. It seems that faith is necessary for Jesus to heal. Maybe those sick people are so desperate to get well that they believe in him even though everyone else refuses to believe.
I talk with Jesus about this reading. Jesus, help me to believe in you. Please lead me beyond what I think I know. Help me to be glad for the gifts others have and not to be envious of them. Increase my faith so you can work your “mighty deeds” in my life and in our world.]]>
Haiku by Sister Ellen Cunningham
What will Providence do next?
May I be present
Haiku by Sister Jan Craven
has brought You closer to us
God of Unity
Creative reflection by Providence Associate Jane Fischer
Growing, dying, evolving,
breathing, finding, living,
telling, praying, feeling,
caring, thanking, listening,
loving, exploring, creating.
Prayer by Sister Jan Craven
O Processive and Loving Energy, praising you for creating in us the desire to lift our heads from the pillows of sleep, our bodies from the couches of dispossessed tiredness, renewing our fatigued yet unfolding hearts with your love song; thanking you for luring us into conscious star-gazing.
Haiku by Sister Margaret Quinlan
Providence loves all,
Even the farthest bright star
Shining in the night.
“Are those violets, mama?” my son asked looking at the beautiful, violet colored blossoms in our neighbor’s garden. This was our family’s first spring in the US and violets are quite alien to us, having just moved from our home in India. Our interest in violets was roused by our weekend journey to Saint Mary-of- the-Woods, Indiana.
It’s been an exciting year in a new country, with a lot of uncertainties and apprehensions, and now we have our fourth child on the way and a lot of unfamiliar ground still to maneuver. The only constancy during these trying times is our faith in God. Our family needed a break, a short one just to recharge our spiritual and emotional batteries. That’s when we decided to travel from Chicago to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for an overnight pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Providence.
From the very beginning of our visit, we were wrapped in love by the Sisters of Providence. Everywhere we turned, there were genuine smiles, a goodness and vitality that exuded forth. So what batteries power the Sisters of Providence with such liveliness? I wondered.
We arrived just in time to attend Mass. The Church of the Immaculate Conception was awe-inspiring and the singing, glorious. I closed my eyes and wondered if the angelic choirs were joining in with the sisters. After Mass we made our first of several visits to the Shrine of Our Lady of Providence. Then Divine Providence stepped in and revealed a thread of the tapestry of God’s plan for us. Our pilgrimage to Our Lady of Providence Shrine coincided with the May 14th, death anniversary of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Coincidence? No Way!
We didn’t know. Sister Peggy Lynch enlightened us on the story of the foundress and the founding of the Sisters of Providence . A video, dioramas, a tour of her shrine and a replica of the first log cabin unfolded a picture of a very committed and profoundly faith-driven saint. The story had parallels to Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, the saint who fought the good fight and braved the odds with a blind faith in Providence back in India. When we revered Mother Theodore’s relics and prayed at her tomb, we pleaded for a piece of that bold trust in Providence so characteristic of her life and the life of Our Lady of Providence.
We were also introduced to the white violet, a flower cherished by Mother Theodore and one that still flourishes on these holy grounds. The cheeky wit behind a ‘white’ violet reminds us of Mother’s humor in the most trying situations.
Mother Theodore’s trust resonates in the Biblical analogy of the lilies, when the Voice of Divine Providence bids us to “Look at the lilies in the field, how they grow”. Perhaps a white violet was among the wild flowers when Jesus pointed them out as an example of trust in Providence. Mother Theodore is that flower par excellence. “Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never yet failed us.” she still says to us.
We came away with an assurance in our hearts that our trust in God and Our Lady of Providence were not displaced. Our faith has been fortified and when doubt assails me, my inner eyes draw up the log cabin and the faith of one woman in Indiana.
Our boys enjoyed feeding the alpacas and horses, the impromptu bonfire at the lake where we prayed the rosary with Sister Joni Luna, and the ‘yogurt’ ice-creams at the lunch hall. Everywhere nature spoke to our hearts about the Providence of God. Our four-year-old, Gabriel, was all for staying and making this our new home. We were all of the same mind. Like Mount Tabor, the Shrine of Our Lady of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was a place of transfiguration for our souls after which we had to descend back to the valleys of everyday life. But it’s just a three hour journey when we need to recharge again! We’ll be coming again, Mother Theodore and dear Sisters…]]>
“We want to create a courageous space – a willingness to risk that we will be uncomfortable. We don’t want to harm, but this will be uncomfortable.”
Those words were spoken by Jessica Vazquez Torres during her opening comments at the 2015 Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Anti-Racism Team Retreat.
Torres – along with Lori Adams – represented Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training – and facilitated the retreat, which took place on Saturday, June 13.
Approximately 30 individuals attended the retreat, including several people who are not members of the sisters’ Anti-Racism Team.
Torres and Adams focused on helping the committee better organize itself, while also discussing racism.
During the retreat, we discussed the definition of racism – which Torres and Adams explained as:
— Race prejudice + misuse of power by systems and institutions = RACISM —
A large amount of concentration was spent on the misuse of power by institutions.
Torres and Adams displayed “The Power Matrix,” which identified individual, institutional and cultural misuse of power on three levels.
The participants also split into groups for several projects.
The first group project included the question, “How would you characterize the current reality of racism in the United States?”
The groups discussed the issue and then were asked to create living art by standing or sitting in a fixed shape to explain their answers.
Another group project asked all attendees to talk about racial bias against several different cultures and offer historical and current examples of how it still exists.
Following the retreat, Sister Editha Ben – who is a member of the Anti-Racism Team – said the event was a strong reminder for her.
“As a sister/person of color, how do I grow in my awareness, in recognizing/identifying structures and policies around me that impede respect for multicultural diversity,” Sister Editha said.
Sister Barbara Sheehan also attended the retreat, and said she learned quite a bit.
“I was opened up to the reality that giving access to others does not dismantle racism,” Sister Barbara said. “Deep power analysis and control within a system followed by organized action for systemic change is the path to dismantling racism.
“I found the entire day valuable for me, personally and as a Sister of Providence, in the transformative work of becoming an anti-racist Congregation and dismantling racism.”
Sister Mary Beth Klingel agreed.
“We have a great deal of systemic work to do when it comes to eliminating racism in the United States,” Sister Mary Beth said. “Every institution, including the Sisters of Providence, has the task of addressing and eliminating racism within its organization. It is hard work and never-ending. There are tools to help us do this together.
“The workshop was powerful and informative in so many ways. I am grateful for the work Crossroads has done over many years to address and eliminate racism.”
Terre Haute resident Jeanne Rewa also attended the retreat, and said she was grateful the sisters welcomed her.
“I have participated in many different types of anti-racism and anti-oppression trainings over the years, and there’s always something to learn,” Jeanne said. “This training challenged us to look beyond interpersonal aspects of racism and offered thought-provoking ideas and tools for addressing institutional racism. I left the training with some new insights and ideas for work in the institutions I am a part of, to move us toward a more just and equal society.”
Benjamin Kite, also from Terre Haute, was at the retreat as well. He said the focus of the retreat was fascinating.
“The training focused on systemic racism, which I find to be a more empowering approach to such a large-scale problem – although I know the interpersonal aspects are important, too,” Benjamin said. “I enjoyed working with the group very much and was very pleased at how focused everyone was on gleaning knowledge and making progress.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Sisters of Providence Anti-Racism Committee, you are encouraged to contact Sister Mary Beth Klingel at email@example.com or Sister Patty Fillenwarth at firstname.lastname@example.org.]]>
Tuesday morning I sat in a food service worker’s dining room as she spoke with a woman from a collection agency. No, she did not have the money to pay the medical bill, especially since her work hours were cut over the summer months. The conversation was hard to hear with fans humming in the background, working to ward off the heat. The A.C. was broken again. By 10 a.m., the temperature in the dining room had already reached 85 degrees. As my friend continued the difficult phone conversation, I thought about the conversations she and I have had about her visits to the food pantry, selling things she owns for income, and the health struggles that have brought her to the brink of unemployment the past few years. She politely explained to the woman on the phone that she would do her best to make an arrangement as soon as she found more work. Minutes later, we were out the door on our way to East Chicago to stand with food service workers in another part of the state — at Ameristar Casino.
Boarding the bus in Indianapolis with members of Unite HERE Local 23, union organizers and other volunteers, I greeted old friends and made new ones. Among the 40 of us, there was a palpable sense of what the day would mean — how the struggles of food service workers in central Indiana parallel those of the Ameristar workers. As I glanced at familiar faces, I recounted their stories — the stories of workers who made a living providing food for others, yet struggled to put food on their own tables; workers who had experienced some form of homelessness; workers who could not afford needed surgeries; workers who have been told time and again by management that they do not have a voice, that despite years of work and dedication, they are easily replaceable.
On the trip north, we watched the documentary “At the River I Stand,” which describes the historical underpinnings of the Memphis sanitation worker strike in 1968. We heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s words…
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.”
In a way, Ameristar workers had seen the mountaintop. In the 1990’s, casinos were introduced to northwest Indiana as an antidote to the economic depression left behind in the wake of steel mill closings. Communities were hesitant to welcome casino developers, but eventually agreed that they would allow the casinos to be built if they brought in good jobs that support families. As a result, northwest Indiana casino workers, many of whom come from long time steel worker families, have sustained stable union jobs with benefits. Since the union contract ran out in 2012, Pinnacle, the company that recently purchased the casino, has been working to undermine employee benefits. The changes they enacted in May dramatically increase what employees pay out of pocket for health care costs and push some employees and their families below the poverty line. Ameristar is currently the only northwest Indiana casino refusing to uphold union health care benefits, but if they are successful, a domino effect is likely in the region.
The weight of these impending changes did not distract our group from keeping our eyes on the mountaintop. Once our bus arrived in East Chicago, we gathered with workers and organizers from St. Louis, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tunica, Mississippi, and southern Indiana. Amid a sea of red Unite HERE shirts, we greeted one another, shared food and conversation, and exchanged union pins. The sense of solidarity and energy around a common goal grew as we prepared for the boycott demonstration.
Once back on the bus, we had a slight delay and were one of the last to arrive at the demonstration. This meant that when we turned the corner at the front gate of the casino, we got a bird’s eye view of the protest underway — hundreds of people chanting together and waving signs that read, “No Contract, No Peace” and “Union Pride.” A large banner reading “TURN AROUND — Casino Under Boycott” stood at the street corner, where cars were making their way to the casino parking garages. We took up our signs and noisemakers to join the rally, and were met not only by Unite HERE members, but also United Steel Workers who wanted to support the cause. It’s hard to describe the rush that came with each car that slowed to see what we were about, decided to turn around, and began honking and waving in support of the boycott. As there was a shift change at the casino, I spotted a number of food service workers in uniform on their way in to work. Their grateful grins, honks, and fist pumps alone made the long drive to East Chicago well worth it. They would spend their evening at work with the knowledge that they do not walk alone in this fight.
On the bus ride home, I reflected on the day and the energy I had received from it. I overheard that one of the demonstrators had been working double shifts and hadn’t slept in nearly two days, but still decided to make the trip to support the Ameristar workers. I marveled at the resilience of the human spirit and the strength that comes with unity. I sat filled with renewed hope and gratitude for this opportunity to join many smaller voices into one big voice that could not be ignored. I had caught a glimpse of the mountaintop, and there would be no turning back.
Pledge to support the Ameristar workers by joining the boycott here!
Alexa Suelzer was born on June 19, 1918, to Joseph and Sophie Klueppel Suelzer, in Fort Wayne. She was the ninth child and the youngest in the family. Her parents and her siblings (Joe, Leo, Marie, Bob, Monsignor Tony, Sister Mary Josephine, Father Curt and Sister David) all preceded her in death. She lived the longest of any of them. However, she said recently when she was about to celebrate her birthday just two weeks ago that “97 is enough,” said Sister Nancy Reynolds in her commentary for Sister Alexa Suelzer, who died Friday, June 26. She was 97 years and had been a Sister of Providence for 77 years.
By the time Alexa was 8 years old, both her parents had died within a year of one another. The four youngest children (Marcella, Curt, Teresa and Alexa) were then raised by their older siblings with Leo taking the upper hand. According to Alexa, the four youngest were constantly getting into trouble. But their oldest sister, Marie, told Leo to stop being so hard on them. As they got older, one by one, those four younger ones entered either the Sisters of Providence or the seminary.
Alexa entered the Congregation on Feb. 14, 1938, after she had gone to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for two years. She was received into the novitiate on Aug. 15, 1940, and pronounced her final vows on Aug. 15, 1946.
She obtained a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1940, and went on to get a master’s degree in English from Marquette in 1956. She obtained a Doctorate in Theology from the Catholic University of America in 1962. She had actually earned an STD, which is a Doctorate in Sacred Theology, which is a Pontifical Degree, but women were not allowed to obtain Pontifical Degrees in 1962. She was to be awarded a Ph.D. That did not bother Alexa as much as it would other people. When there was a Vincentian canonist as President of Catholic University, I asked Alexa if I could write to him and ask that she be awarded the STD, which was the degree she actually earned. She did not hesitate to tell me I could do that. The answer was in the negative. However, one of the professors she had, Rev. Charles Curran, told me that Alexa was far and above the brightest student he has ever taught.
Alexa taught in high schools from 1940 until 1958 with one year out to study in Rome. Above all, Alexa was a born teacher. Everyone who entered the Congregation between 1960 to our present day canonical novice, Sister Joni Luna, probably had Alexa for class. She loved teaching, especially teaching scripture. Once she had her theology degree, she began teaching at the higher education level. She taught at Catholic University, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Duquesne and St. Michael’s in Vermont.
Alexa was elected to General leadership as General Councilor/Vicar in 1972. When her term in office was completed, she served as Vicar for Religious/Director of Ecumenism in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with Archbishop John R. Quinn. When Archbishop Quinn was selected by Pope John Paul II to study religious life in the United States in 1986, he picked Alexa to be on what became known as the Quinn Commission.
Alexa was interested in everything, not because of what the topic was necessarily, but because she gave every person her full and undivided attention. She could carry on a conversation about a new book, some aspect of theology, the latest political events in the country or any topic one could bring forth. She was genuinely interested. Sister Paula Damiano stated that often, she would walk over to see Alexa with questions about something she was writing or when preparing to give a retreat to be absolutely certain she wasn’t going to say anything that was not correct. She said Alexa was always incredibly patient and always offered sage advice.
Alexa was faithful beyond words to writing notes to our sisters who are in health care. One of our CAN’s in Lourdes, who has worked with us for 30 years, used to see notes in sisters’ rooms with Sister Alexa on them. She was so eager to meet Sister Alexa because she was writing to everyone on the floor. When I was in Alexa’s room the day after she died, I found an envelope all sealed with Sister Marie Alexis’ name on it. I delivered that note to Marie Alexis, and, as you can imagine, it is very precious to her. Also, one of the Jubilarians showed me the card Alexa had written to her for her Jubilee. I am quite sure she wrote to each Jubilarian. She was so thoughtful and so aware of doing the kind thing that meant so much to the person receiving her notes or cards. Sister Ann Margaret recalls the times that the sisters living at Immaculata had the gift of going to spend time at a beach house. Alexa’s thoughtfulness led her to deliver breakfast in bed to Ann Margaret and the other sisters there.
Alexa was a great sounding board for all of us. I think that probably every one of us has a memory of a very “sacred” or “special” time spent with Alexa. She valued each person she encountered and treated all with love and respect. Throughout her time in the Congregation, Alexa was called upon often to write something about topics important to all of us: The theology of the Eucharist and other topics. Archives have many of her writings.
The recent canonical novices who had class with Alexa were in awe of her knowledge and teaching methods. They were always happy to go to that class. Joni Luna is sad because she does not get to finish her class with Alexa. Dina Bato stopped me in the hall one day as she was returning from her class with Alexa. She said to me with amazement, “Nancy, do you know what a great teacher Alexa is?” It was great to see each canonical novice have a one-on-one class with Alexa and be amazed at the gift that Alexa was. Sister Marilyn Herber spoke of Alexa’s teaching her Spanish at St. Agnes. She had a quiz paper returned to her upon which Sister Alexa had put an “A.” However, the A was crossed off and a B+ put beside it with the comment, “next time, use pen.” Sister Marilyn didn’t argue, she just used pen the next time.
Sister Marian recently attended the Alumnae Reunion weekend at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Members of the Golden Jubilee class (the class of 1965) visited with Alexa in her room and later told Sister Marian how much they appreciated Alexa’s teaching them how to read sacred scripture. Sister Marian was astounded that these women could give all the details of Alexa’s class 50 years later.
One day, Alexa was at the door of her residence. There was a student there who asked for another sister. Alexa sat the girl in the parlor and rang the sister’s gong. She learned later that when the sister asked the girl who answered the door, her response was, “the one who walks like Abraham Lincoln.”
Permit me, please, a couple of personal stories.
When my name was brought forth for possible election to the council prior to the 2001 General Chapter, I was discerning whether to leave my name in the mix or not. I was still living in California and when I was home for a pre-chapter meeting, I decided to see if Alexa would be open to helping me discern. I asked her if she had some time for me to do some discerning with her. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, I will talk with you, but I am not going to vote for you.” Sometime later, when we were living together, she told me that in spite of what she said that day, she did vote for me.
Right after her birthday, Alexa had what I will call a bad “spell” for want of a better word. Her blood pressure dropped very low and her oxygen level was low. Sister Joanne Golding sat with her during the night and by morning, she had come out of whatever it was and was back to her old self. She was, however, very tired and weak after that. So, she took it easy for the next couple of days until she got some strength back. I came home last Tuesday and saw her briefly Tuesday evening and then spent all day Wednesday with her. We had a great visit. She commented that it was a relaxed visit because I was not there for a meeting with a visit to her on the side. I was there just to visit her until we started our meetings on Sunday. When I left, she told me to sleep late the next morning and then come over to her room. Around 9 that morning (Thursday), she sort of slid off her bed when trying to get up and that constituted a fall. I did not get to her room until 10 a.m. She was in bed with oxygen and very weak. I walked over to the side of her bed and her first words to me were “goodbye.” I asked her if that meant she was going to die and she said yes. Then, a little later she exclaimed, “it is funny; it’s so funny.” I asked her what was funny and she responded, “The whole dying process.” Obviously, true to form, her mind was working and analyzing things even as she was dying.
When her death came approximately 12 hours later, it was very peaceful. She took maybe 15-20 “normal” breaths without a struggle and then simply stopped breathing any more. It was the most beautiful and peaceful death I have ever seen. The quote on the Blessed Mother Theodore calendar for June 26, the day she died, was “A good life is the best preparation for a good death.” I believe that was Alexa’s life and death – both were good.
The Sisters of Providence have lost one of our greatest wisdom figures. She will be missed, but she is happy now with her God she served so faithfully and with the whole Suelzer family she missed so much.
Funeral services for Sister Alexa took place Wednesday, July 1, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
The wake took place from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., with Mass of Christian Burial taking place at 4:30 p.m.
Contributions in memory of Sister Alexa may be made to the Sisters of Providence.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Alexa in the comment section below.]]>
Finesse, the founding female alpaca of the White Violet Farm Alpacas who has grown the herd over the past 17 years through her many offspring, died this week. This loss is significant not just because of Finesse’s connection with our beginnings, but also because of her unique character. Finesse was known by interns, volunteers and staff as an alpaca with a sweet disposition and the favorite of many.
Alpaca Manager Tracy Wilson writes,
“Our dear Finesse passed away [Monday] morning. At the age of (at least) 24, she is the foundation of White Violet’s herd.
Born in the Peruvian Altiplano, imported to the U.S. in 1992, by way of a farm in Iowa, she came to White Violet Farm in 1998 with a cria, Providence Thea, by her side and pregnant with soon to be male cria, Providence Rennes. Her first cria, Dom Lucilio, just barely a yearling then stayed back in Iowa, unknown to the world until the Spring Fling Auction 2004 where he was purchased for what was then the record worldwide alpaca purchase.
She was to produce Champions. It was Providence that brought her here to this sacred land. Finesse has been a rock solid part of this farm and a huge part of its history. Words cannot describe how dearly she will be missed. RIP our dear Finesse.”
We are grateful for Finesse’s fruitfulness on this earth and the legacy she has left us.
Comment below to share your own fond memory of Finesse.]]>
The Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), representing the leaders of the Catholic religious congregations in the United States welcome the Holy Father’s call to embrace our moral responsibility to care for one another by caring for all of God’s creation. Men and women religious have a long history of standing with those most in need; today that includes those who suffer the consequences of environmental degradation and the destruction of God’s creation.
“The Holy Father reminds us of our biblical call to live in right relationship and to cooperate with God’s design for our world. When we choose lives of simplicity, hope, and love we honor God’s presence in our world; we grow closer to God and we build the community for generations to come,” said Joan Marie Steadman, CSC, executive director of LCWR.
Executive director of CMSM, John Pavlik, OFM Cap., continued, “We wholeheartedly support Pope Francis’ encyclical on integral ecology and the urgent implications for addressing climate change. This is a matter of faith in the God of all Creation who calls us to love, respect, and walk humbly with all of creation.”
It is also a matter of the very essence of the call to religious life; the call to live a vowed life that is marked by simplicity, availability, and deep caring for God’s creation. Clearly the time to act is now.
Pope Francis is calling on all people of good will to change their hearts and transform their relationships with each other and with God’s creation.
We look forward to further reflecting on the Holy Father’s challenging words and to praying with the encyclical in the coming days.]]>