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Gerri Baum: ‘wondering where this road would lead’

Gerri Baum (right) talks with her companion, Sister Barbara Sheehan during her October 2010 orientation.

Gerri Baum is a Providence Candidate-Associate from Cary, Ill. Sister Barbara Sheehan, who resides and ministers in Chicago, has been Gerri’s companion during her year of orientation. Gerri will make her first commitment as a Providence Associate on Nov. 12, 2011, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

1.) Share with us a little about yourself and your family.

My husband’s name is Richard (Dick) Baum, an MAPT graduate [Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College] and a Minister of Providence. We were both born and raised in Chicago although we lived in New York State (three times), California (once for six months) and Houston (twice).We moved back to Illinois in 1984. We are now retired.

Our children are Joe and Mary (and, yes, we once belonged to a parish named Holy Family). Joe is married to Lisa. Their daughter Amanda is currently a graduate student at Marquette University. Mary is married to Doug Beavers. They have a new puppy and three cats.

We downsized to a townhouse in Cary, Ill., (the Rockford Diocese) four years ago. We also have a small apartment in Chicago.

From the 1960s to the time we moved to Cary, we have been involved in renewal communities and parish activities reflecting the values of Vatican II. Those years brought amazing opportunities for both being Church and doing Church. They also included being “The Deacon’s Wife” for 28 years. Currently I am an active member of NETWORK and Pax Christi, supporting their efforts in social justice and peace initiatives.

I also support, wholeheartedly, the Women’s Ordination Conference and Chicago Women-Church. I have also participated in Call to Action and The American Catholic Council.

Since we moved to Cary, we have attended liturgy at Resurrection Church, a Vatican II Personal Parish in Woodstock, Ill. (In a diocese where the bishop assigns most parishes a territory with geographical boundaries, Resurrection is non-territorial, serving the spiritual needs of people who share a specific spirituality, rather than a specific locale.) We have also attended St. Clement’s in Lincoln Park. Eventually, we would like to be part of an Intentional Community and are currently seeking to join or help form one.

I graduated from Blessed Agnes (now Saint Agnes) of Bohemia grammar school in 1956, Providence High School in 1960, Marquette’s School of Journalism in 1964 and the Adler School of Professional Psychology in 1994.

With retirement, and an apartment in Chicago, I am able to take advantage of all the city has to offer in art, music, theatre and sightseeing. Praise God, I am often accompanied on these adventures with friends from high school. Other hobbies include reading and gardening.

2.) What is your connection with the Sisters of Providence?

My connection with the Sisters of Providence began in 1956. In addition to lessons learned in the classroom, Sister Mary Rosalie [Moore], art teacher, introduced me to the Art Institute (class field trip) and Sister Regina Cecile [Ryan], Music Department, introduced me to Orchestra Hall and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (student concert series).

In my third year, I became aware of how much I enjoyed writing in Sister Cordelia’s [Moran] journalism class. It was the beginning of what would become a rewarding career in advertising, marketing and public relations. Sister Cordelia was not only my mentor; she has remained a dear friend.

My connection with the larger community became limited to Providence Alumnae Association activities until Dick entered the MAPT program in 1992. I was able to join him at the Woods for parts of the program and so became friends with faculty and staff. We occasionally attend Minister of Providence events. It was at the June 2010 Assembly that Providence Associate Rae Huffman mentioned Providence Associates. I asked her about it and became interested in joining.

3.) Did you know Sister Barbara before she was named as your companion? What wisdom have you gleaned from Sister Barbara?

Sister Barbara and I met for the first time soon after she agreed to be my companion. Sister Barbara, whose qualities of sensitivity and responsiveness make her an ideal companion, has an amazing facility for listening. In addition, her insights and experience brought much to the formation process.

4.) How often have you and Sister Barbara met during your year of orientation? What do you do during your time together?

We met prior to the orientation weekend and drove down to the Woods together for the orientation. We covered five of the units in person and two over the phone during the winter months. We also met once after we finished the units. That would make it 10 times we met over the past 11 months. We usually met for lunch in a restaurant near Sister Barbara’s office, which precluded the opportunity for prayer other than grace. Our time together was discussion of the units’ material and sharing experiences.

5.) What has challenged you in the Spiritual Integration Units? What has surprised you about the units?

My overall reaction was overwhelming surprise. Six out of seven of my comments on the assessment reflection for each unit are, basically, “We’re on the same page.” The lessons of the units have been a part of my adult spiritual development. I don’t think it is coincidental, I think it’s a work of the Holy Spirit. The units, however, also provided opportunities to reflect further on my life and spiritual path.

6.) What have you enjoyed about this year of orientation?

I enjoy meeting people more than anything so I’ve enjoyed just that, meeting Sisters Diane [Mason, Providence Associates director] and Barbara and everyone else along the way.

7.) Finish this thought: During my orientation …

During my orientation, I wondered where this road would lead, what could I contribute, how would I be transformed.

8.) Finish this thought: Providence is …

Providence is my lived experience of God’s love for and in me resulting in intentional acts of caring and concern for the human community, especially the wounded.

9.) How do you plan on being in relationship with the Congregation and other Providence Associates?

My plan to be in relationship with the sisters and associates of Providence will include prayer, participation in those gatherings I can get to and continuation of my current efforts in social justice. I look forward to any expansion affiliation with the sisters and associates of Providence may bring.

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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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