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Feast Day 2010

Happy Feast! What a wonderful community gathered to celebrate the life of Saint Mother Theodore, our foundress and our model of humanness and holiness.

General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson gives the reflection at Feast Day 2010.

This is the fourth time I’ve preached on this feast day; and I have grown to love the richness and challenge of the Scriptures proclaimed.

This year, maybe because I’m shopping for a new one, I find myself intrigued with Jesus’ instruction to “provide [ourselves] with purses that do not grow old.”

(Before every male in church absents himself mentally at this mention of purses – remember Jesus was talking to his closest followers – many of whom, we are assured, were men.)

Jesus is seemingly clear that – we are to provide our own purses and they are to be purses that “do not grow old.”

As always though, Jesus’ clarity can be puzzling. What kind of purse will never grow old?

Schola performs with Saint Mother Theodore’s image keeping watch.
Then Jesus slips in another image – provide ourselves with a treasure that “does not fail”? This treasure can never be taken away by any thief – not by a person or by grief or betrayal or illness; not by a natural disaster or a recession…the list of “thieves” we meet in life goes on and on, doesn’t it? Nonetheless, our treasure, promises Jesus, will remain safe and secure.

So the question remains – where or what or who is our treasure purse?

To know that answer, Jesus tells us to examine our hearts. Our hearts reveal our treasure.

What reveals our hearts, our innermost selves? That would be our words, our actions, our thoughts, our intentions, our motivations, our spiritualities, our prayer lives – this list too goes on and on. It includes ‘what we do and what we fail to do.’

The purse that never grows old, the treasure that never fails is the relationship of our unique selves with Holy Mystery, with Providence, with the one Jesus calls Abba. This relationship then impels us to live lives worthy of “our calling.”

Easy to think – easy to say – darn hard to live consistently and wholeheartedly! That’s why the People of God look to those whose following of Jesus, whose participation in the providence of God encourages and inspires us.

Schola performs with Saint Mother Theodore’s image keeping watch.

Such a person is our own Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

Like any Sister of Providence, I could relate numerous stories that demonstrate how today’s reading from Sirach came alive in her life – how she behaved “in time of calamity;” how she did indeed “cleave to God” and how she was “tested in the fire.” I could tell you stories of how Providence did use her loving self – she who was neither powerful nor noble of birth – “to shame the strong,” as Paul writes in his letter to the people of Corinth.

Like any Sister of Providence, I could relate with love, enthusiasm and admiration, how Mother Theodore’s heart never ran out of love – for the loveable and unlovable alike. I could tell you a heartwarming story of how she wholeheartedly forgave one of her original five companions when that sister betrayed Mother Theodore to the bishop.

Sister Jody O’Neil carries the colorful flag of celebration in the processional. I could tell you how she worried about money, the safety of her students and sisters, the future of the congregation entrusted to her care. Then I’d have to tell you about her unwavering trust in the Providence of God.

I’d love to tell how Saint Mother Theodore gave every ounce of her energy, love and talent; gave the totality of her heart to bring this college, this campus, the Sisters of Providence, the congregation’s life and mission into being. She did this because she understood that Providence asked it of her; and she knew Providence could be trusted. Providence would not fail.

I could read selections from her Journals and Letters that I believe demonstrate how human and warm and funny she was – and how that humanity, warmth and humor helped her to encounter Providence in the people and places around her. Her heart knew Providence, rested in Providence, trusted in Providence, incarnated Providence. Her treasure was Providence alive.

Sister Jody O’Neil carries the colorful flag of celebration in the processional.

I’d love to tell the stories, read her words; but that’s your work to do – as you provide yourself with that “purse that does not grow old” and that “treasure that does not fail.” I know her to be a wonderful companion on life’s journey. I know and value her presence, the warmth of her heart and the depth of her trust in Providence. These have become part of my treasure, my purse.

If you desire such a treasure, watch the DVD of her life. Read the short biography A Woman for All Time. Read the compilation of her own words in the book Letters and Journals. Visit her statue outside of Church and feel the energy of her presence.

For the best way to celebrate her feast is renew our resolve to become saints of God. “What must we do to become saints? Nothing extraordinary – only that which we do everyday – only do it for the love of [God].”

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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