Jenny Nowalk: getting closer to Mother Theodore
1.) Share with us a little about yourself.
I live in Culver, Ind. I have been married for 32 years this June. My husband, Bob, and I have five children and two sons-in-law and one grand puppy, a Golden Retriever, like our own dog. Our married daughters and our sons-in-law live in Rochester, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. Our son is at Purdue University and our twin daughters are 12 years old.
I am a born and bred Hoosier. We attend St. Mary’s of Lake Parish in Culver. A Special Education Cooperative employs me as a school speech and hearing therapist. My hobbies are reading, knitting with a knitting wheel, walking outside, and I am starting to play piano after many years absent from it, and I am getting interested in music again.
2.) Why did you want to become a Providence Associate?
I wanted to become an associate because I wanted to be closer to Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and closer to the sisters and other associates. I wanted to be able to spend time with all of them! When I first visited the shrine I felt I could just sit there forever!
3.) Share with us about your year of candidacy. Ellen and Wolfgang Schmidt (Granger, Ind., and Brewster, Mass.) were your first companions. What was it like to go through the Spiritual Integration Units with them?
At first I was disappointed that Wolf and Ellen travel and that I couldn’t visit them as often as I would have liked. Now, I am so grateful for the other people who have filled in for them when they were gone, Rita Tatum (Osceola, Ind.) and Cynthia MacWhorter (South Bend, Ind.). It’s been wonderful to have a South Bend “group” walk with me. I look forward to the time when we can meet together. Ellen and Wolf are a perfect fit for me. Wolf and my husband, Bob, have so much in common as photographers! Rita and Cynthia are always there for me. They each shared unique perspectives on what it means to be a Providence Associate. Cynthia and Bob are both art teachers, so once we do start meeting, he will be able to participate. I think this was a special gift to me as Bob and I share a commitment to living as Catholic Christians.
I couldn’t get over all of the “coincidences” of this little group. Rita brings such a sense of humor. Now I don’t know what I would do without her and her eyes wide-open way of living!
I rode with Cynthia to the orientation retreat in August of 2008, and we had a wonderful time sharing about how we came to be in that space at that time. We were both surprised at some un-expected connections. Ellen and Wolf helped me through several units. Then I worked the remaining units with Rita. All of it was wonderful and enriching. There was no going back.
4.) Are there any insights you gained from the Spiritual Integration Units that you would like to share?
I don’t think I will ever get enough of the Spiritual Integration Units. There is so much there. Every time I read over the units I see something new or I am reminded of an insight that is just what I need today. I am encouraged by my own reflections, by my desire to live as a Providence Associate!
5.) How do you stay connected with other associates?
E-mail! Cell phones! I hope in the future that there are regular, regional meetings with Providence Associates. I am looking forward to the meeting in June (First Providence Associate Gathering/Meeting at SMW on June 27 and 28, 2010).
6.) What was the Rite of Commitment in November 2009 like for you?
The Rite of Commitment was very joyful and again Providence came to my aid. Sister Jeanne Knoerle was there to present me to the Congregation. This was a special gift as Sister Jeanne has met with my husband and me and she is a companion or mentor to us. Again, my husband was not left out of the loop and this was vital to my journey. To be with others in my associate group at the Woods was really special, too. It was wonderful to share our joy and our commitment to each other and to the sisters. It’s humbling to have the sisters open their home and lives to us.
Since then I have a special friendship with one of the Providence Associates in Indianapolis. We help each other.
7.) What are your commitments?
My commitments are:
- to pray daily the Reunion Prayer;
- to make a conscious effort to respond to conflict and anxieties at work and at home with a hopeful attitude and trust in Providence;
- to visit the Woods for time with my spouse, prayer partners or for solitude; and
- to stay connected with other associates and with the sisters.
Ironically, the first part of the second commitment has proved to be a real challenge since November. There are so many conflicts and people have so much anxiety at work. Fear of litigation in special education and losing funding for schools is on the minds of many people. I am so grateful I have Saint Mother Theodore, the sisters and associates to be with me in this.
8.) Anything else you’d like to share?
I like to think that Saint Mother Theodore was walking by me at a time in my life when I was searching for a way back home. She put out her left hand as she walked by and said, “You’re coming with me.” My life has not been the same since that day. I discovered her through reading the Litany of Non-Violence, and my life just isn’t the same. I have a spiritual home now.