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Valentine’s Day 2012

I know my grade school sisters referred to February 14 as Saint Valentine’s Day!

Perhaps just to make certain that we knew there was a “holy” reason for the annual party in each classroom of Saint Mary of the Woods Grade School in Chicago.

I have two vivid memories of those grade school parties. The first is of transforming a big cardboard box into a mailbox with wrapping paper and red and pink hearts of all sizes.

The second is THE RULE that never changed during my eight years in elementary school. Each student, if s/he brought valentines for classmates, had to bring a valentine for each classmate in the room. No ifs, ands or buts about it … and sister checked each student’s stack of cards to make certain we followed the rule! Those sisters meant business!

Thinking about these two valentine memories now, I’m aware of a couple of things.

The decorated box always seemed beautiful to me. Sister would ask for a few volunteers to help her create this special mailbox; and it was fun cutting out the hearts, deciding on the design and seeing the finished product sitting on the teacher’s desk waiting for the mail drops!

Maybe I’m making too much of this refurbished cardboard box, but it seemed the central part of the Valentine’s Day ritual — watching all my classmates drop in the cards; seeing sister reach in to jumble them up; waiting to open our deliveries until the entire mailbox had been emptied by sister and her helpers. What a good feeling for each of us to have a nice stack of greetings in front of us!

THE RULE — it dawns on me now that it was each one including every other one that made our annual celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day a “holy” day. Everyone included — the message of Jesus taught to us in the simplest of ways — by creating the expectation that it wasn’t acceptable to play favorites or ignore a classmate. And, I know, that the lesson of Valentine’s Day inclusivity was taught in so many other seemingly little ways — being expected to include everyone in recess games, being assigned a class of younger kids to walk to and from the lunchroom and then helping to get them organized and settled, teaming up for projects with those classmates not in my friend group. Yep — the sisters had their methods all right.

So thank you, Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque. I still enjoy creating the “holder” for loving greetings, encouraging greetings for those with whom I am in relationship now. I am still trying to faithfully and genuinely include the “everyone” that Providence has put on my path in this wonderful journey marked out for me by a loving God. If any of you Franciscan Sisters reads this reflection, please consider it my valentine to you.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all you friends of the Sisters of Providence and our Providence Associates! May God’s love and care for each of you make itself known in a special way this season of hearts!

In the name of all the Sisters of Providence and all our associates, Happy Valentine’s Day to each of you reading this!

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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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