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Young woman’s letters help explain formation

Sister Mary Slattery

Sister Mary Slattery (RIP) probably never dreamed she would leave such an impression with her personal letters to a longtime friend. But her words were so eloquent and convincing that they were shared publicly in the pages of “The Bugle Call,” a publication that was sent to students from 1921 to 1958 who attended Sisters of Providence schools.

“The Bugle Call” often contained the good news that flowed from classrooms: scholarship recipients, successful programs, top students and teachers. Sister Mary’s reflections on her formation years were so powerful that her messages were deemed perfect for sharing.

Here are some random passages from the “Dear Jean” letters that reveal Sister Mary’s excitement and devotion:

“O, Jean, can you imagine how happy I am? I am going into another world.”

“I have big news for you. Imagine our joy when Sister told us we were to receive our black caps and religious names on St. Joseph’s Day.”

“The days of summer will go swiftly, one by one, and none will be more eagerly awaited than another because each is filled with its special work, prayer, joy and those splinters of the Cross that keep us so near to our Spouse.”

“This promise to live a holy life, one worthy of our vocation, is not a vow, like those we hope to make at the end of our novitiate, but it does give one a feeling of belonging to God and makes one determined to give Him the best kind of service possible to human nature, helped by His grace, of course.”

“It is as if God has given us a beautiful book with blank pages. We try each day to put in the lesson He would have us learn. We repeat often. But each day sees some new development as we learn a little better how to follow the directions of the Divine Teacher. The thrill of something new is ours each day.”

“For us who wear the religious habit, our vows are indeed nails binding us to the cross, but in a marvelously beautiful way. They bring us as close as we can come to Christ.”

The Bugle Call featured letters Sister Mary Slattery (RIP) mailed to a friend during her formation as a Sister of Providence.

Sister Mary Pat Cummings, a band member of Sister Mary’s, said “Jean” was a school-girl chum from Sister Mary’s adolescent years in Indianapolis.

Sister Rose Berchmans Patterson (RIP), who served as novice mistress at the time, recognized the value of Sister Mary’s messages and encouraged her to share them with others.

“Sister Mary could write very well, but we didn’t know at the time that she was doing this,” Sister Mary Pat said. “She was a deeply spiritual lady. Her letters formed an outlet for her spirituality. It was something she could share. She was a very unique and intelligent person.”

Sister Mary died Oct. 22, 2003, the Congregation’s Foundation Day. Her lasting gift to the Congregation is her letters that help explain the foundation of formation from a young woman’s perspective.

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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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