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Love, mercy, justice – In the footsteps of our foundress

This article is reprinted from the fall 2006 issue of HOPE.

As we prepare to celebrate the canonization of Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin Oct.15, the Sisters of Providence prayerfully ponder what it means today to walk faithfully in her footsteps. The world, our nation, the forest we have come to call “The Woods” are so very different than they were when she arrived in the wilds of Indiana in 1840 to begin her mission. Yet, in spite of these differences, the daughters of Mother Theodore remain committed through our vowed lives to make visible in our times the gift God gave to the world through the person of our Foundress. But what does the gift (or charism) given to Mother Theodore look like today? How do we keep it alive? Is it recognizable even in these changing times?

Recently, the Sisters of Providence published “Love, Mercy and Justice: A Book of Practices of the Sisters of Providence.” The book grew out of an idea developed in “Practicing Our Faith,” a volume edited by Dorothy Bass. In her book, Bass defines Christian practices as “things Christian people do together over time to address fundamental human needs in response to and in light of God’s presence in the world.”

If we accept this definition, we see that, even though we often do practices by ourselves, they have in fact a social quality. We do them in order to praise God, to help others, to make God’s presence and love known and available in the world.

Also we do not do a practice once and that’s it. A real Christian practice is something we do over and over, for years and years — and in the process we are shaped into being who we are.

“Love, Mercy and Justice: A Book of Practices of the Sisters of Providence” is comprised of 15 essays, each written by a different Sister of Providence out of her own understanding and experience as well as from prayerful reflection and exploration of how others approach and understand Christian practices. The practices included in the book are: Prayer, Hospitality, Honoring the Eucharist, Sabbath Keeping, Honoring the Body, Feasting and Fasting, Discernment, Responding to Life with Humor, Reconciliation, Homemaking and Community Shaping, Singing Our Lives, Honoring the Dead, Honoring Mary, Valuing Education and Valuing the Arts. The essays were written to show that while the externals of a practice may have changed over the years because of differing historical circumstances, the faith value embodied in each practice has always remained the same.

The “Book of Practices” was written with three audiences in mind:

1.) Life-long members of the Congregation so that, even as we embrace our past, we may be encouraged to open ourselves to the possibility of recognizing the face of God in new ways and thus
continue to be faithful to the path marked out for us.
2.) New members so that in better understanding what has brought us to this time in history, they may be inspired to join us in fidelity to the continuing search for appropriate ways to respond to
the face of God being revealed to us.
3.) Those women and men who have chosen to participate in any way in the life and mission of the Congregation so that they may come to a deeper understanding of the Providence journey that has brought us and them into the present and be moved to join us in fidelity to these practices. Through them we strive together to honor Divine Providence and to make it more visible in our world through our joint acts of love, mercy and justice.

To learn more about the practices that have shaped the lives of the Sisters of Providence, pick up your copy of the recently published “Love, Mercy, Justice: A Book of Practices of the Sisters of Providence.” Copies are available either at The Gift Shop at Providence Center or online. For additional information, call The Gift Shop at 812-535-2947 or email giftshop@spsmw.org.

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Sister Bernice Kuper

Sister Bernice Kuper was an experienced spiritual director. Her ministry had been broadened by her education which included a master's degree in education from Notre Dame and post-graduate work in counseling, the Art of Spiritual Direction, Clinical Pastoral Education in a hospital setting and parish ministry. Sister Bernice passed away in November 2013. Read Sister Bernice’s Obituary here.

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