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Lenore Renier: no ‘gesture of heroism’ needed

Sister Margaret Kelly (left) has been a source of inspiration to Lenore Renier.

1.) Share a little about yourself.

Life began in Chicago and our family has stayed with our roots, not moving much farther than a few miles from our birthplace. My childhood years were in St. Andrew Parish where I first became acquainted with the Sisters of Providence in grades one through eight, then on to Providence High School, to DePaul University for one year, then off to the novitiate at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

After about two years there I felt the call to family life, left, married and had nine children. For three years I taught fifth grade back at St. Andrew. Later, I was a full-time Mom and part-time legal secretary for my husband who had a private law practice. We were married for 34 years when he died, suddenly. In between, when we had seven kids, I returned to DePaul and earned a master’s degree.

Mixed with all of this, we were faced with the challenge of caring for three of our children who were afflicted with incurable metachromatic leukodystrophy, a disease that slowly deteriorates the central nervous system. They died at ages 2-1/2, 5 and 12 after trying various experimental treatments for help. During these difficult years the sisters were a tremendous source of prayer and support.

Life needs to go on even after it seems devastated, and it has. I am now the grandmother of 22 (16 of them under the age of 10). That keeps me busy on the family scene either with some event or crisis.

Both my husband and I served as Ministers of Care and Eucharistic Ministers at St. Edward Church beginning in 1980. I continue that ministry now at St. Tarcissus Parish in Chicago.

2.) How did your connection with the Sisters of Providence develop as you raised your children?

Back in the early 1980s when we were struggling with bone marrow transplants and seemingly endless trips to UCLA for medical help for Tommy, one of my neighbors asked if I’d like to join her at what was then called an “Associates” meeting at St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge, Ill. She told me that most of the women who attended had some relationship with the Sisters of Providence. This was a Providence moment when I was re-connected with the SPs, met Sister Margaret Kelly, and was graciously accepted by the membership.

We are now called Chicago Providence Women, 25 strong, five of whom have become Providence Associates. We meet nine times a year — seven times for prayer and a program focused on social issues (often the speaker is an SP) and two times as a social gathering. Here we are brought to a heightened awareness of social issues and those of the Church. We are also strengthened in prayer and concern for each other. The group supports the work of the Sisters of Providence by contributing time, talent and treasure to Providence Family Services at Maternity BVM in Chicago.

3.) What impact has your companion, Sister Margaret Kelly, made on your life?

Sister Margaret is untiring in her dedication to the group. Most of our inspiration comes from her wisdom. Her encouragement and low key recommendations kept me on track during my candidacy. Sister Margaret is truly a woman of faith.

4.) What was the greatest challenge during your candidacy?

My biggest challenge during candidacy was feeling that I really don’t do enough to be considered a Providence Associate. How was I going to effect “a positive change in the world?” Did I really do anything in the areas of mercy and justice? I guess Mother Theodore taught us that we do that step by step, day by day, not in some outstanding gesture of heroism.

5.) What commitment(s) did you make? How do you live it (them) out?

I have committed to be connected to the sisters through the Prayer of Reunion which I have done, not necessarily with the exact words of the prayer, but intentionally, each day as I put on the Providence Associate pin which for me is an important reminder of who I am to be today.

I have also committed to effect a positive change in some person(s) each day. I try to accomplish this by lightening the load for someone, usually by helping with a step in the day which could be the other person’s stumbling block. It’s amazing how a little thing that we do for someone else can make a big difference to them. In my own family I’m known as “grandma would’ja.” My Ministry of Care also helps fulfill this commitment. I continue to be a part of the Providence Associates Advisory Board. None of this is spectacular but it is done with love, mercy and justice. The giftedness that I share is done with intention and in the name of Providence.

6.) What is the best part of being a Providence Associate?

Being a Providence Associate gives me connectedness to the whole spirit of Providence and increases the awareness of His presence and purpose in my life. Through my life experiences I am able to share in compassionate and loving ministry to others.

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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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