Your name and title:
Debbie Dillow, PA, assistant director of Providence Associates
Tell us about yourself, your family, etc.
I live in a small farming community west of Indianapolis with my husband, Bob, and our miniature schnauzer, Heidi. Our children, Kit and Heather, are grown. Kit has three children, Samantha, Lucas and Addison. Heather has one child, Hailey. Our farm is a small working farm that produces grain. It is quiet and serene on the farm and we enjoy viewing the wildlife that roams our land – possums, raccoons, deer, wild turkey and a few coyotes.
Tell three things about yourself that you want readers to know?
I trust deeply in Providence. If Saint Mother Theodore can travel halfway around the world trusting that God is her guide, then I should follow her lead. Being a Providence Associate has enriched my life and how I see the world. I am very grateful for the progressive thinking of the Sisters of Providence that has helped change how I look at the universe and my part in it.
I thoroughly enjoy my grandchildren. They give me life and it is such a joy to watch them grow and begin to make their impact on the world.
I love to travel and someday hope to spend time traveling in Europe again. I love the old architecture in Europe. I would love to go back and spend some time soaking in the culture, architecture and learning more about the people.
When and how did you come to be acquainted with the Sisters of Providence?
I did not know the Sisters of Providence as I grew up in the Lutheran church. As far as I knew a nun was a nun and they all belonged to the same group. When I joined the Catholic Church I did not realize the director of religious education (Sister Gertrude Therese Garvey, RIP) was a Sister of Providence nor did I realize that my son, Kit, was taught by Sister Mary Carlton, SP (RIP).
I was very active in my parish, but I felt there was something more that I was being called to do. I spoke with Marilyn Webb, a Providence Associate who was also in our parish. She was going through the year of formation as a candidate-associate. She shared the mission and charism of the Sisters of Providence with me. This really spoke to me and I thought this might be where I was called to be in my life.
I had never heard of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and decided to see if this is where my heart was calling me to be. I drove down to the Woods, came through those beautiful gates and felt Mother Theodore welcome another daughter home. What a beautiful feeling — so welcoming and comforting. I drove around the grounds, walked the labyrinth and attended Mass. I was so welcomed by everyone I met along the way that I knew I was “home.” As I drove home I felt such a peace. I called the director of the Providence Associates to ask the next steps. The rest is history.
Tell about your work experiences and schooling prior to working with the associates?
Where do I begin? I am a certified expanded duties dental assistant which I left in the early 1980s. I worked in reservations and training for US Airways for many years which I left in August of 2001.
I went back to college when my daughter graduated from high school. It was fun meeting up with her on campus. I decided to take computer programming courses and received my undergraduate degree from Indiana University School of Informatics in Media Arts and Science. While working on my undergraduate degree I also received a certificate in Applied Computer Science from Purdue University. I decided to continue on with my master’s degree also from IUs School of Informatics in Media Arts and Science.
These degrees lead to my employment with ANGEL Learning, an online learning management company that developed and sold software to colleges and universities in the United States. It was an exciting career and something I really enjoyed. I enjoyed problem solving the software so that it would do exactly what the customer needed.
When the company was sold to Blackboard, I knew it was time, again, to make a transition into another aspect of my life. This is where the Providence Associate relationship began and my subsequent introduction to and completion of the Masters of Pastoral Theology degree program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
I stepped away from the software industry and technology to work with the Providence Associate relationship in February 2012. This has been a very rewarding career/ministry change and I am truly blessed that I listened to Providence!
Tell about your history with the Providence Associates?
Well my journey has been interwoven in the other questions above. I began my journey to becoming a Providence Associate in the fall of 2007 with Sister Paula Modaff as my companion. We worked through the Spiritual Integration Notebook together, pulling the information from the unit into what was happening in every-day life.
I made my first commitment to the Sisters of Providence Nov. 8, 2008.
Why did you wish to further involve yourself with the Providence Associates as the assistant director?
I could see that Sister Diane Mason needed help after the death of then-director Sister Mary Alice Zander. As I was helping prepare the environment for the October 2011 orientation, I heard a voice say, “There is no reason an associate could not fill the open position.” Again, I was feeling that all-too-familiar tug in my heart that I should be doing more. When I spoke to Sister Diane about the fact that maybe an associate could fill the assistant director position, she was unsure this could happen. I encouraged her to mention it to Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, the general council liaison to the Providence Associates. The rest is history.
Why do you think the Providence Associate relationship is especially important in this time and place?
I feel that the Providence Associate relationship has been brought into existence at this moment in time to further the mission of the Sisters of Providence. The associate relationship has been Spirit-led from the beginning which allows our associate program to be as our Provident God wants not as we want.
I believe the Providence Associate journey helps to feed our spiritual hunger and guides women and men to a closer relationship with our Provident God, one another and the world.
At orientation we hear the stories of the women and men who have made the trip to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. We hear why they are drawn to the relationship with the Sisters of Providence. The year of formation is critical to the process. It calls the individual candidate to dig deeper into who they are as a person. Knowing who you are allows you to open up to the Spirit, allowing the Spirit to form you into the person you were meant to be spiritually.
What excites you about the Providence Associates?
I see a new community evolving within a community. I see the associates stepping forward in life and mission with the Sisters of Providence not only here on the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods but also in other locations. We, the Associates, are the face of the Sisters of Providence in our daily lives. We can take the mission of love, mercy and justice into areas of our lives and be the hands, feet and face of Providence to others, whatever our work or living situation. This is what is exciting — I see the mission of Christ spreading because the Associate relationship is growing and spreading.
What do you hope Sisters of Providence receive from Providence Associates?
I hope they receive peace in knowing that their mission continues through the associate relationship.
I want the sisters to understand that we, the associates, do not know what the future holds for us or the sisters but that we are in this journey together. Today, the women and men who have committed themselves to this journey are growing and will continue the mission for years to come.
What do you hope Providence Associates receive from this relationship with the Sisters of Providence?
My hope is that the Providence Associates receive a deeper understanding of and a greater relationship with our Provident God. My hope is that their love for the sisters and their mission will grow deeper in their heart and being. My hope is that the community of the Providence Associates and the Sisters of Providence continue to evolve into one community — the greater community of Christ in the world as we all seek to provide love, mercy and justice to all God’s people.
Complete the sentences:
I am passionate about … the Providence Associate relationship with the Sisters of Providence and other Associates.
My favorite hobbies are … knitting, quilting and spending quiet time with God.
Someday I hope to … travel to places that I have not seen — Africa, India, etc. where the need is great and I can help in some small way.