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Kathy Newport: truly called

Kathy Newport (seated) and her companion Sister Marsha Speth participate in the blessing ceremony during orientation in October 2007.

Kathy Newport is a Providence Candidate-Associate who resides in Beech Grove, Ind. Her companion is Sister Marsha Speth.

1.) Tell us about yourself.

I am the youngest of nine children born to Michael and Marcella Newport who are both deceased. Since all my brothers and sisters are married with children, and most with grandchildren, I have numerous nieces and nephews along with a variety of choices for vacation venues. I love children and teach fifth grade at Christ the King Catholic School in Indianapolis, where I’ve been teaching since I left the community in 1992.

I’m very fond of animals, especially dogs, and I have two of them: Rosie and Duke, with whom I am able to spend a great deal of time in the summer. I LOVE SUMMER: relaxing in the sun, leisure time with family and friends, trying new recipes, cooking out, working on projects inside, outside, and all around my house, long walks, movies, music, and just talking to friendly people who are out and about. I’m also a member of Good Shepherd Parish on the south side of Indianapolis and am active in the choir.

2.) What is your connection to the Congregation?

Because my parents were both born and raised in St. Mary’s Village, I, along with my brothers and sisters, was destined to be associated with the Sisters of Providence. One of my father’s oldest sisters, Sister Esther, who is now deceased, was also a Sister of Providence. All of us have spent time on the grounds since we were infants, and all of us have continued our visits throughout the years.

Each of us attended grade schools in either Indianapolis or Terre Haute that were all staffed by the Sisters of Providence, and all of us attended Schulte High School in Terre Haute — also staffed by the Sisters of Providence. I went on to attend Saint Mary-of-the Woods College, then began my teaching career at Nativity Catholic School in Indianapolis, which too, was staffed by the Sisters of Providence. After four years of teaching at Nativity, I decided to enter the Congregation and remained a member for eight years. At that point, I knew that God was not calling me to continue to be a vowed member of the Congregation.

3.) Why do you want to become a Providence Associate?

At the time I officially left the Congregation (following the struggle), it was not a sad occasion, for I knew that it didn’t mean the end of my relationship with the Sisters of Providence. There was no doubt they would always remain a part of me, and I of them. Though visits to the Woods have become less frequent, my love for the sisters and for their mission has never waned. I have been able to keep abreast of Congregational advancements through written publications in addition to personal contacts with various sisters, and that has been very satisfying.

However, when I received the written information about the Providence Associate program in the mail, I was so elated with the prospect of becoming an associate that I immediately announced it to the first two individuals I saw walking by my house. I invited them in for a cold drink and shared my news. Fortunately, I knew one of them. She happens to be a Benedictine sister, so she understood my excitement. I recall showing her the letter and saying to her, “This allows me to do everything I want to do with the Sisters of Providence without having to be a vowed member! It’s exactly what I want. Now I know what it really feels like to be truly called!”

I love the idea of praying with the sisters and being present at the Woods to celebrate special occasions with them. Those are the two aspects I have missed most about being a Sister of Providence, and with the institution of the associate program, I am now afforded the privilege and the opportunity to do both; and it’s official! It’s also a bonus to be in contact with many others who share the same desire to be connected with the Sisters of Providence as I do. I feel very blessed to be receiving the best of both worlds.

4.) Who have been some of your role models on your spiritual journey?

I have had so many role models on my spiritual journey. Some have come and gone, some have come back, and some have remained consistent, but all have made a significant impact and an indelible mark. My mother, no doubt, has been the most constant, and even in death, she continues to model for me what it means to live a life of love and service to God — a selfless, accepting, prayerful, compassionate woman who took great joy in seeing others’ joy.

And if I had to name one Sister of Providence who most closely mirrors this image for me, it would have to be Sister Mary Ann Lechner. She knew my family when I was a toddler, and I had the privilege of living with her during my last two years as a Sister of Providence. During those years, I saw in her a selfless, accepting, prayerful, compassionate woman who took great joy in seeing others’ joy, and that has been consistent over the many years that I have remained in touch with her.

5.) Did you know Sister Marsha Speth before she became your companion?

Sister Marsha and I have a history that I am most proud to share. We met through another Sister of Providence back in the early ’80s when I was a beginning teacher, and before I entered the community. Sister Marsha was the pastoral associate at St. Agnes in Nashville, and was looking for another soul to teach a week of summer Bible School. I was available and interested and did so for two summers. I stayed with her in her little cellar at St. Agnes for those two weeks, and tremendously enjoyed working with her and spending time together during our free hours. It was so easy to be with her and to talk to her.

Later, after I’d entered the Congregation, and as a temporary professed sister, Sister Marsha was my contact person. We met monthly and established a very nice bond. It was always easy for me to be very honest with her, and as a result, a mutually trusting relationship began to form. After I’d left community, we were out of touch for several years, until I received information about the Providence Associate program. After speaking with Sister Mary Alice [Zander, director of Providence Associates], and realizing I needed to have a mentor, Sister Marsha was the first person who entered my mind. I contacted her, she agreed, here we are, and it’s been a marvelous reunion.

6.) What’s it like going through the Spiritual Integration Units with Sister Marsha?

Going through the Spiritual Integration Units with Sister Marsha has been energizing and insightful. We seem to have picked up right where we left off several years ago. When we meet, Sister Marsha and I always spend a good bit of time just catching up on life, then, before we launch into our unit, one or the other of us begins with a short prayer.

Once upon a time, several years ago, I remember hearing one of the sisters say that life is a prayer. Though I didn’t completely understand what she meant, that phrase has always stayed with me. I think that now I’m beginning to see how it applies to my own life. When Sister Marsha and I begin discussing our unit, it’s always a sure bet that whatever it is we talked about when catching up on life, will come up again and again when we begin to focus specifically on our topic. Our time together is a prayer in which the presence of God is consistently revealed; and always at the heart of our discussion, is the way we live our lives. Following the spiritual exercise, we’ll often continue that discussion while taking a nice long walk, and then we round out our time together with a meal. I look forward to our time together, and I’m always energized by what we share.

7.) What do you hope to gain from this experience?

From this experience, I hope to continue to gain greater insight into the practice of prayer, in addition to understanding my own life as a prayer — a life lived in a manner that is consistent with the mission of the Sisters of Providence. My desire to deepen my own spirituality is ever-present, and the opportunity to do so with the Sisters of Providence is an honor and a privilege.

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Connie McCammon

Connie McCammon worked in the communications office for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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