Sister Mary Ann: growing as women in Providence
Sister Mary Ann DeFazio is a companion to Kathleen Morris of Medford, Ore. Sister Mary Ann teaches theology at Guerin College Preparatory High School, River Grove, Ill.
1.) How did you become Kathleen Morris’s companion?
I volunteered to be a companion when the associates program began. As the second year was about to begin, Sister Mary Alice contacted me and asked me to be Kathleen’s companion. Sister Mary Alice and I have known each other for some time, and she said she thought Kathleen and I would be a good match. I think Kathleen and I, though we have very different backgrounds, are asking similar questions and are following similar paths to God.
2.) Since there is such a great physical distance between you, how do you go through the Spiritual Integration Units?
When we first met at the Woods for orientation last fall, we spent a great deal of time together. We came to the Woods before the program began so we could get to know one another and Kathleen could do as much as possible around the campus. Since then we have done the work with the units primarily on the phone. We schedule conversations so that we have the maximum amount of time available to talk — free weekend minutes on cell phones and phone cards are invaluable! We also e-mail each other quite frequently, usually a few times a week (depending on what’s going on in our lives). I must say that from the beginning Kathleen and I found that we are such a good match for each other, it’s been like meeting an old friend for the first time! We were comfortable with each other from the start. What a lovely gift that’s been.
3.) Why did you want to become a companion?
I have been a part of various renewal programs and prayer groups through my ministries and loved the opportunity to be with people as they asked questions of God and themselves. I believe that’s what being church really means: being companions on the journey. I was particularly excited by the community developing a “formal,” recognized program for women and men who have really been our associates — our brothers and sisters — for many years.
4.) How has serving as a companion affected you?
First of all, it is an honor to be in this relationship with Kathleen. I am always dazzled by her insights and how she lives out her faith. I truly enjoyed the experience of the orientation. It was marvelous to be with a diverse group of people, joined by our wonderfully different calls to be Providence in the world. Having these experiences empowers me, and most of all gives me hope. And this experience has allowed me to look at my own life’s journey with new eyes. It gives me a greater appreciation for the Providence moments in my history — and keeps me open to new ones!
5.) What is the most challenging part about being a companion?
Right now the most challenging part is dealing with the geography: the distance between Kathleen and me. We are always thinking of ways to be connected, and that is great — but I just wish we could get together in person. I’d love being able to share a meal with her, play with her dogs, and just sit together with our conversations.
6.) What do you hope that Kathleen gains from this year of candidacy?
I hope that Kathleen knows and feels her connection to all of us in the Providence community, both sisters and associates. I think that she has already experienced that in many new ways and that is wonderful. I hope that both of us grow as women of Providence: she has such a rich, wonderful spirituality — and I come with my own experiences and learning. We gain so much from each other. We get so excited about things when we’re talking on the phone that we often lose track of the time! I hope that enthusiasm just continues to grow for Kathleen — and for me, too.
7.) What is the best part of being a companion?
I love that I have been blessed with the presence of Kathleen in my life. She is truly a kindred spirit in so many ways. I love looking at the topics we have in our Spiritual Integration Units with her. These are things we’ve talked about in community for years — forever, really! — and it is so wonderful to look at them again with someone who brings a fresh outlook. I may have said this before, but our backgrounds couldn’t be more different, yet it is amazing to realize how similar we are in our spirituality. Kathleen is open to a wide variety of spiritualities and theologies, and I love sharing that with her. I suppose the short answer to this question is — just being on the journey!