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Sisters of Providence respond to Feb. 9 Oprah Winfrey Show about life of today’s nuns

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., have issued a response to the Oprah Winfrey television program broadcast on Feb. 9, featuring the Dominican Sisters of Mary of Ann Arbor, Mich. The story focused on today’s women who choose to have a life in a religious congregation. The letter has been sent to the Oprah Winfrey staff. The statement follows:

Feb. 12, 2010

Thank you for introducing your viewers to the topic of women religious, who have chosen to offer their life in service to God and God’s people. It is long overdue.

Many of those who have commented about your show have brought forth specific things about sisters who receive Medicare and social security (most likely they worked in ministries that paid wages), makeup, living conditions, fond memories of their relationships with former teachers and mentors, and other topics. Others have commented about “today’s nun.”

We would like to respond to two specific points. Many of today’s nuns are in apostolic congregations, meaning that they minister among the people, bringing God’s message to them, teaching them and offering spiritual guidance to them, among many other ministry opportunities. True, many of them are wage earners as well, and these wages are called stipends that help support the Congregation, its ministries and programs and the retired and ill members.

We believe many comments about your show perpetuated the traditional stereotype of sisters, by emphasizing the cloistered or semi-cloistered congregations. Many sisters from numerous congregations across the United States are very different.

Secondly, Oprah alluded to the fact that her staff had been searching for quite some time for a congregation to visit that would welcome her staff inside the walls. Apparently, they didn’t search very hard. Starting in 2005 and continue with a full-court press in 2006 and afterward, the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, virtually begged to have Oprah’s show feature the canonization of their foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and the religious congregation that she founded.

Saint Mother Theodore was canonized as the eighth saint from the United States during a ceremony Oct. 15 at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI presiding. This brought worldwide attention to the Sisters of Providence, but not from the Oprah Winfrey Show. CNN came here twice for on on-site story, and NBC, ABC, CBS and the BBC also did stories, as well as the Washington Post, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune, among many others. Foreign media also were well represented.

This was a rare story to be told. With all the people who have walked on United States soil in 234 years, only eight have been chosen for this honor, the highest the Catholic Church can bestow. The Sisters of Providence have ministered in the Chicago area since 1886, and also in Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Florida and many other states, as well as Taiwan. They still have a presence in all of these places.

There is much more to the story about sisters who do God’s work among God’s people. We offered to host a reporting crew here. We offered to go to Chicago or anywhere else that would be convenient for taping. We offered to provide Oprah with a weekend retreat with privacy that would make the CIA proud. No one ever responded.

Please know that our invitation still stands. What you would find with the Sisters of Providence would be quite different than the story shared about the Dominican Sisters of Mary. Their message was wonderful, but there is so much more to share. Some of the things you might find interesting about the Sisters of Providence are a biomass energy system, a herd of more than 60 alpacas, organic gardens, an anti-racism training team, the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin (visited by people from all 50 states and more than 50 foreign nations), the oldest liberal arts college for women in the United States, an active peace and justice ministry, sisters who are involved in prison ministry including Death Row visitation at a federal penitentiary, a day care/pre-school, a free clinic for those who cannot afford medical care and 1,200 acres of beautiful grounds, 300 of which are certified natural forests. Please visit our Web site for more detailed information: www.SistersofProvidence.org.

Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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A short and simple reflection on each Sunday’s Gospel reading written by a Sister of Providence or Providence Associate.

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