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Lori Strawn: from serendipity to Providence

Sister Rosemary Nudd (left) is the companion of Lori Strawn.

Lori Strawn is a Providence Candidate-Associate from Wichita, Kan. Her companion is Sister Rosemary Nudd, an associate professor of English at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC).

1.) Share with us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Southern California. I attended Catholic grade school (St. Joseph School, taught by Sisters of St. Francis) and high school (Rosary High School, taught by Sisters of St. Joseph). I have an older sister and a younger brother. I now reside in Wichita with my spouse of 23 years, Owen. We attend All Saints Catholic Church in Wichita; Owen is an aeronautic engineer, and I am a freelance writer, working from home.

2.) What is your connection to the Congregation?

My connection to the Congregation was forged in college; I attended SMWC on scholarship. While there, I could not help being affected by the charism of the Sisters of Providence. Two members of the Congregation who especially influenced me were Sister Barbara Doherty and Sister Rosemary Nudd.

3.) How did you get your gig, “Open Book,” on www.prayables.com? What do you enjoy most about this ministry?

I joined Prayables as a prayer writer, as part of my freelancing career. The founder of Prayables played around with establishing a show on Blog Talk Radio. I got roped in as a prayer reader. The shows didn’t make it, but I did well enough that I was asked to create my own show. I came up with “Open Book,” but told the powers-that-be that I wouldn’t do it without my friend Alice Sherfick Shelton, the best extemporaneous speaker I know. I thought Alice would be too busy, and I’d be off the hook, but instead, she agreed to it!

What I like best about this ministry is seeing literature in a new way, either through my own eyes or Alice’s — finding the spiritual nudges, lessons and questions hidden in a good book, especially one I am already very familiar with.

[NOTE: “Open Book” is live on Wednesdays.]

4.) Do you have a favorite book? If so, what is it? Do you have a favorite character in a book? Who is it? What’s the most difficult book you’ve read? Why?

My favorite book has not changed since I was in the fourth grade. It’s “The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)” by Ellen Raskin. Reading it was an epiphany for me: I saw what books and language were capable of — humor, mystery, serendipitous plot resolutions. I still laugh every time I think about Mavis Bensonhurst’s mother!

I don’t have a favorite character, or perhaps I have too many. One of them is certainly Mick Kelly from Carson McCuller’s “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.” The most difficult book I ever read was “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys. It’s “Jane Eyre” from the point of view of the crazy wife. It’s somewhat difficult to follow, as it is told by a madwoman. By the end, I sympathized with the main character so much that I wept through the whole last chapter. I shall never forgive Mr. Rochester!

5.) Why do you want to make a formal commitment with the Congregation?

Sister Rosemary once told me a story that ended, “Never get too far from the life of the mind.” A formal commitment with the Congregation encompasses (for me) the life of the mind plus the life of the spirit plus life in community — and such a community! How could I not be drawn to that? You might as well ask why I’d want to make a formal commitment to food, water and air.

6.) Finish this thought: I feel more balanced when I …

I feel more balanced when I eat right, when I pray from the heart and actually manage to capture in words what I want to express, and when I feel at peace spiritually.

7.) What do you now know that you wish you knew 20 years ago?

Don’t look for self-esteem and self-value in work … unless you are doing work you love, for the benefit of something or someone you love.

8.) Finish this thought: Providence is …

Providence is God’s leading hand, “fate” made divine, the journey we’re meant to take once we “let go and let God.”

9.) Since quite a distance separates you and Sister Rosemary Nudd how do you proceed through the Spiritual Integration Units? What has surprised you thus far in the units? What has challenged you the most?

We talk on the phone for hours about each unit. I can approach each one in any way I choose: by answering the questions for reflection or by tackling a particular concept that I have questions about … whatever. Sister Rosemary says we can take the units in any order, but so far, we are proceeding in proper order.

What has surprised me thus far in the units is that I keep finding answers to my questions. Just when I get bogged down on a particular issue, lo and behold, there’s a quotation or a definition or something else that speaks directly to me. Providence in action! What has challenged me the most is devoting uninterrupted time to each unit so that I feel I’ve given it my all.

10.) Anything else you’d like to share?

I used to say, “Serendipity happens.” I’ve now changed that to “Providence happens”!

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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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