Sister Susan Paweski
Years in the Congregation: 7 years
I announced to my family that I wanted to be a Sister of Providence after my second day in first grade. The year was 1956. August 14, 2005, I professed Perpetual Vows as a Sister of Providence before our Congregation and many of my family and friends, some of whom remember when I traipsed around in a close approximation to the pre-Second Vatican Council habit. No one was more amazed by the turn of events than I.
My Perpetual Vows came after a challenging and wonderful seven-year Initial Formation program. I see these past years as a witness to Providence because there is no way I could even have imagined a couple of decades ago that I would be standing in the sanctuary.
I attended St. Francis Borgia School and Guerin High School, both ministered by the Sisters of Providence. I attended a few months at the Aspirancy at our motherhouse in 1963. I did not want to stay at that point because I was conflicted about the vow of obedience and my sense of personal responsibility. The energy of the cultural revolution was beckoning and I wanted to be a part of that. I enrolled at Mother Guerin High School. I have to mention that I did not want to go to Guerin. However, my father was adamant. He insisted I was going to Guerin and that I would enroll in the college prep program. That was that … and that was Providence!
During the 1960s and 1970s, I worked for women’s rights. I met women of courage and deep conviction who introduced me to the richness of feminist spirituality. I studied in Europe for a year and then tried to begin an import export company in Mozambique. (One does not begin a company in one of the most economically depressed countries in Africa during a civil war!) I returned to the United States and worked for an insurance company.
Though I was the supervisor of the underwriting department, I could not envision staying one more minute than I had to, so I enrolled in Mundelein College’s new Weekend College program. I leapt at the chance of earning bachelor’s degree in English/Communications while working. I was hungry to learn, and the adult learning model was more than I could have expected. The conversations, the care and interest of the faculty and staff were challenging. It changed my life.
Many years later, I found myself as the Director of Admissions for the Weekend College, working again with the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I realized how Providence was working to keep me open to possibilities in life. The friendships I forged then have continued to flourish and support me.
My personal life has also borne the marks of Providence. I married and was widowed after four years. My husband shared his spirituality with me, including meditation. I witnessed his deep compassion for others. He said I was supposed to be involved with something greater than myself and that I would need to follow where I was being lead. I believed Ray, I just didn’t know where I was being lead.
As Providence would have it, Ray and I met while I was teaching at St. Angela School, which was staffed by the Sisters of Providence. My sister colleagues also became my support through Ray’s illness and journey home to God. I continued to teach and found great joy in that. Yet, I knew something was missing. “On paper,” I should have been blissfully happy, but I wasn’t. I was not unhappy, just not joyful. I was restless. That, too, was Providence.
My weekly planner was full. There was always a play to attend, an art exhibit, a Cubs game to enjoy. (Yes, Cubs fans enjoy the Cubs no matter how they play.) I had, and still have, solid friendships. I dated but I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, let myself seriously consider marrying. Definitely Providence!
My spiritual path had lead toward the Unitarian Universalist Church. I was planning to become a UU minister. The UU Association had reservations about my studying for my master’s degree in divinity at Loyola for obvious reasons that turned out to be realized. Not to worry, I told them confidently, the Catholic Church is no longer of interest to me.
While attending classes, I found myself in conversations with the nuns in my classes. There was a sense of joy and harmony that I found so magnetic. I didn’t know what it was but I knew I wanted that same sense of purpose that each sister had. The more I studied theology and spirituality, the more I resonated with the strong women of the church who spoke their truth in the face of clericalism, sexism and all the other “isms” that make life intolerable for so many people. How could this be? Providence was working at every turn.
Eventually, I spoke with a sister who encouraged me to follow my instincts and the outcome was a call to Sister Paula Damiano, who was then the vocation director for the Sisters of Providence. When I met her, I knew that was it. She was so open and present to me. I had hoped I would not respond so well. I was 48 years old and quite comfortable materially but not spiritually. I knew, in my heart of hearts, I was being called, yanked, and cajoled to religious life.
Many women are searching for the elusive “something” that will satisfy their deepest longing. I found it as a Sister of Providence. Now I awaken every day and smile. I am thriving in a life of prayer, collaboration and service with other women who love and support one another.
Of course, we are individuals and have our own interests, likes and dislikes. Yet, I have no hesitation to call on any sister for help. We are here for each other. Our vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, which I translate as sustainability, right relationship and mutuality, open the way to fully interact with our world. My focus is the God-quest not the Me-quest. It is about the Other and living in, with and through God and Creation in all its manifestations. Providence has been present in my life since the earliest days. I could say only YES to Providence that brought me here.
Favoritestv show: David Letterman
flower: African Violet
vacation spot: New York, Paris
hobby: knitting, crocheting
music: jazz, rock
film: “Rain Man”
actress: Jane Fonda
actor: Jeff Bridges
course in school: Theology
dessert: coffee ice cream
saint: Teresa of Avila
book: “One Hundred Years Of Solitude”
childhood activity: Dancing and playing school dressed as a nun.
my best friend says: I’m a dancer in the music of life.
zoo animal: lion