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Receiving God’s unconditional love

Jenny Nowalk (right) poses for a photo with Sister Jeanne Knoerle.

Providence Associate Jenny Nowalk of Culver, Ind., spent the week of July 12, 2010, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Sister Rebecca “Becky” Keller, Volunteer Services coordinator, helped Jenny arrange a place to volunteer. Jenny also spent time reading, reflecting, praying and sharing with the Sisters of Providence. Jenny’s observations about the week appear below.

Letter Circular Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, July 2, 1854

“It is with a heart full of joy that I call you once more to your dear home to have the happiness of making your retreat, a favor so much desired by all of you, and so loved by every one.” (From “Mother Theodore Guerin, Journals and Letters”, page 380.)

Dear Providence Associates:

From July 12-July16 I stayed at that “dear home” in Owens Hall at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. I had contacted Sister Rebecca Keller months before, asking for an opportunity to volunteer. Over several months we developed a plan allowing me to work in health care for three days and allowing two days for reflection and prayer. Here is a reflection I share with you, my fellow associates:

I went to the Woods unsure of what I had gotten myself into. Five days seemed like a big commitment. My family encouraged me to go and spend time at the Woods. Thank God for that favor. Judy Meyer, one of our associates and Rae Huffman another associate also encouraged me. Judy kept telling me, “just spend time with the sisters.” I was anxious to do this. My work as a school speech therapist had been particularly challenging this past school year. I needed a new perspective regarding my work in the schools. So off I went, with laptop, and IPOD (just in case) in the overnight bags.

What I brought home with me can be summed up in two words: unconditional love. Over and over again I witnessed unconditional love. Our Lord Jesus teaches and longs for us to experience and share His unconditional love with others. The sisters in Owens were so welcoming and warm, sharing their home and all it contained: coffee in the morning, books to read, periodicals, snacks anytime, but most of all and most wonderful, their acceptance and concern. They wanted to hear my story: how did you come to know about us? They really wanted to hear my story. And I was given a chance to hear some of their stories. When it was my turn to talk, they never rushed me. They never doubted my story of how I came to know Ssaint Mother Theodore Guerin.

The sisters in health care were examples of the same kind of love for others. Even sisters in the most fragile of health voiced concern and love for others. Not once did they put themselves first.

There are so many intangibles I took away from my experience, I cannot explain or articulate all of them. If I remain open to receive God’s unconditional love, I will know the gift of volunteering with the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Thank you, Mother Theodore Guerin, for never giving up and for calling me to yourself.

Jenny Nowalk

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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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