Sheila Donis: loved and taught by the sisters
Sheila Donis is a Providence Associate from Jasonville, Ind. She made her commitment as an associate in November 2009. She was companioned by Sister Catherine Livers, of whom Sheila says, “Her kindnesses to the poor coupled with her holiness has inspired me for over 40 years.”
1.) Share with us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Chicago on the West Side. I had eight siblings and lived above a tavern in a small apartment on Pulaski Road, a very busy street. My father worked on the railroad and my mother was always home. We went to St. Mel during the day and often played at the Off-the-Street-Club in the evening and Saturdays. (The club continues to be the oldest after-school program in the nation!)
I went to the Providence Aspirancy for high school, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for college, and then to Mundelein, Chicago State, and Oakland City University. After I left the convent, I worked in inner-city Chicago at St. Mel for nine years and continued my work as a teacher and director of religious education for a couple of years and as an administrator for 37 years. I retired as a public school superintendent in 2010. The central purpose of my work was to serve the poor in whatever way that I was able.
I have two wonderful children. My youngest, Theresa Kathleen, died with diabetes at 28. She stayed busy even from her sickbed with support work for Black American musicians and feeding the homeless with food from California fruit and vegetable markets. She told me that her death was going to be the next wonderful part of her life. Therefore, although I miss her terribly, I must have the happy glow of her in my heart.
My son, Christopher, is the most wonderful son a mother could have. Jesuit and Benedictine priests provided him with a great education.
2.) What is your connection to the Congregation?
It is difficult to think how life would have been for me if I had not been taught and loved by the Sisters of Providence. There were 31 sisters in our grade school. I know that they have been very good to me throughout all of the years of my life. When I was in second grade, Sister Carolyn Glynn was so wonderful that I wanted to grow up and be just like her! I never lost the desire to become a sister. My nine years of life at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was academically and spiritually a great support to my life. Several times a year many of my high school friends from the Aspirancy gather at my home in Jasonville, Ind., with laughter and memories of great times.
3.) Why did you want to become a Providence Associate?
My friends from high school invited me to take this new and fun journey with them. I wanted a clear avenue to “give back” a little of what I have been afforded from the sisters. None of what I have been able to do in my career would have been possible without them. Furthermore, my spiritual, family and social life has continually been refreshed by the sisters.
4.) What is/are your commitment(s)?
When I was a young sister, I always tried to do the extras for the older sisters — day trips to lakes on pontoon boats, feast day celebrations, and walks around the Woods. Nothing changes — I still have the desire to work with the senior sisters!
5.) What do you now know that you wish you would have known 25 years ago?
I wish I knew how to do more for the poor and disenfranchised.
6.) Finish this: Providence is …
… a source of hope and belief, a recognition of the power of Christ in our souls and in our lives. Providence is the knowledge that whenever and wherever, I am a child of God from whom I will always know peace and love.
7.) What are you currently reading? Is there a book/movie that has influenced your life?
I study the Gurdjieff work and I am presently reading “Inner Octaves” by Michel Conge and “Approaching Inner Work” by Biggs and Opie.
8.) What has given you the greatest pleasure in being a Providence Associate?
The fun times!
9.) Who are your spiritual heroes? Why?
My spiritual heroes are Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, Tony Dubois, Grace Sarosi, and Mr. Gurdjieff. They have lived in the world with souls of kindness and love inspirited by the Creator.