Susan “Sue” Weber: achieving an inner wholeness
1.) Share a little about yourself.
I live in Bluffton, S.C. (about 25 miles from Savannah, Georgia and 10 miles from Hilton Head Island). Prior to moving here we lived in Indianapolis for 35 years. My husband, Greg, and I have three grown daughters and one “perfect” grandson, Andrew (almost 3 years old). I am coordinator of the Evaluation Project for the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment which brings me back to Indiana on a regular basis. My special interests include reading, playing the piano, golf (I’m trying) and cooking. I have a BA from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a MS in education from Indiana University, Bloomington. I have worked in church ministry for over 25 years as a facilitator, strategic planner, governance trainer (boards) and market researcher.
2.) What is your connection to the Sisters of Providence?
My connection to the SPs began in 1976 when I enrolled in the WED program at SMWC. I had less than a year to complete for my bachelor’s degree. My advisor was Sister Rita Ann Roethele. At about the same time I was looking for a job (to pay for my SMWC tuition) and I responded to an ad in The Criterion for an administrative position at the Office of Catholic Education, Archdiocese of Indianapolis. As Providence would have it, I was hired by Sister Judy Shanahan (RIP), a Sister of Providence and director of Educational Planning and Development. My “grand plan” at the time was to work at this job until I graduated from SMWC. However, both of these women served as mentors and inspirations to me. They also changed my life course. I never thought about church ministry until I met Sister Judy who took seriously not only her work in Catholic education, but the spirit and promise of the documents and decrees of the Second Vatican Council, especially those that involved the laity. As our relationship and friendship grew she introduced me to other SPs who challenged my thinking and demonstrated what it meant to do “works of love, mercy and justice.” I couldn’t get enough of these remarkable women and what they did. I also learned about the challenges, complexities and beauty of religious life.
3.) Why did you want to become a Providence Associate?
Becoming a Providence Associate was and is a natural and logical way to formalize my already deep relationship with the Congregation. It is a way to explore the mystery of this relationship and the interconnectedness with so many women and men who want to honor Divine Providence through works of love, mercy and justice. More importantly, it is a way to contribute and be an active participant in the life and mission of the Congregation. Walking alongside the SPs is one of the great joys in my life.
4.) Did you and your companion, Sister Carole Kimes, live in the Indianapolis area when you were going through the Spiritual Integration Units? What was the most challenging part of the Spiritual Integration Units? What did you enjoy most about the Spiritual Integration Units?
Yes, I still lived in Indianapolis at the time and Sister Carole and I met on a regular basis. She is a remarkable women and she taught me so much about the mystery of Providence. I learned so much from Carole about the history and life of the Congregation. The most challenging aspect for me was there never seemed enough time to explore the topics at great length. There is so much to learn and reflect upon as it relates to Providence Spirituality and the Sisters of Providence. The units were so well done that they encourage deep reflection, animated conversation and new thinking. Sister Carole was wonderful about telling stories about the Congregation and our prayer time was powerful and meaningful. She continues to be a great friend and companion. I almost wish there was a “part II” to the Spiritual Integration Units for all of us.
4.) Since you now live in South Carolina, how do you stay connected with other Providence Associates and Sisters of Providence?
First, I faithfully recite daily the Prayer of Reunion and the Litany of Non-Violence. I serve on the Mission Advisory Board (MAB) and have the opportunity from time to time to serve as a facilitator for the MAB meetings and other SP meetings. I maintain my connection with the Providence Associates and SPs through my own daily prayers, the Web site and letters, notes and phone calls to SPs and PAs. Sister Carole and I still try to stay connected through e-mail and visits in Indianapolis when possible.
Many times I will wear my pin down here in South Carolina and when the question is asked about the pin by someone I have the great opportunity to tell the story of the SPs. It is amazing to see how a simple pin can connect you with so many people.
5.) How do you see Providence at work in your life?
Providence was at work in my life long before I realized it! When I met Sisters Rita and Judy almost within a month of each other I realized later this was no accident. God was calling me to new directions and these two women along with many other SPs who I encountered thereafter provided the light to see my way. I believe our Provident God brings people together for a variety of reasons most of it mysterious. The interconnectedness of our lives, our ministries and our joys and struggles in daily life serve to not only deepen our faith but to galvanize our commitment to work collectively to make our world one of hope and great possibility.
I try to find the mission of honoring Divine Providence in almost everything I do. Since moving to South Carolina and encountering a new community and new culture I am drawn even more so to the notion of “breaking boundaries” and in the South that includes breaking some old traditions and ways of thinking. Virtually everything (except the traffic) is slow down here. I sometimes feel that some folks did not receive the “memo” on equal rights and opportunities for all of God’s people. I am struck by how simple acts of hospitality and kindness to others can be a way to affect change and be life changing. Moreover, the SPs have demonstrated to me how to “speak your mind” in a way that invites and not divides people. People often ask why we moved to the South. The weather is great, the golf frustrating but the experience of encountering new people has been Providential. I continue to learn about the meaning of Providence from my southern experience.
6.) How have you spiritually grown as a Providence Associate?
My spiritual life will always be a work in progress. However, since becoming a Providence Associate I take direction and inspiration from Saint Mother Theodore Guerin through her writings. I am amazed at how her thoughts and writings are still so fresh and relevant to today’s world. When I was a PA candidate, Sister Carole introduced me to new forms of prayer and reflection that I continue to use. I remain awestruck by saying the Prayer of Reunion everyday and the fact that others are saying it with me throughout the country and even the world. That is powerful.
7.) What is/are your commitment/s?
After going through my candidacy I decided to subdivide my covenant according to the mission of the Sisters of Providence (i.e., works of love, mercy and justice). This was my way of standing alongside the SPs as a Providence Associate. This is an abbreviated version (I had a two page covenant in the beginning which Sister Carole and I had to edit down!).
Works of Love
- Unite in prayer with others.
- Deepen my spiritual life.
- Participate in community celebrations.
- Support the mission of the Sisters of Providence through a financial contribution annually.
Works of Mercy
- Serve on the Mission Advisory Board.
- Be available to facilitate groups/meetings of the Sisters of Providence as requested.
- Publicly promote the mission of the Sisters of Providence.
Works of Justice
- Actively support SP ministries.
- Work to break boundaries.
- Listen to the mystery of Providence in my life.
8.) Anything else you’d like to share?
I don’t know what kind of person I would be today if I had not encountered the Sisters of Providence. I think outward-wise I would be fine. However, my journey with this remarkable Congregation has helped me achieve an inner wholeness (spiritually, emotionally and intellectually) that I cannot even describe. I know Saint Mother Theodore smiles down at the Congregation and the communities it serves. Many people question today why the SPs do not focus their mission solely on education — as teachers or educational administrators. In fact, they do continue to serve in this capacity at the college, Providence Cristo Rey High School [Indianapolis] and Guerin College Preparatory High School [River Grove, Ill.] to name a few. However, they read the signs of the times and recognized that teaching is a transferable gift from God. They work for love, mercy and justice by teaching others about new ways of thinking and acting (mostly justice issues) that bring about a world filled with hope and possibility. It is a beautiful thing to witness. Their teaching shows how a loving Provident God is in our midst. I know I learned that important lesson.
The growth in the Providence Associates relationship is evidence that the SP mission is relevant and meaningful to so many others. It makes my heart sing to see this relationship grow. The potential of the Providence Associates is just beginning to emerge and needs to be explored. Indeed, it is an honor and privilege to be a Providence Associate.