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Bill Hughes: resonating with Providence

Providence Candidate-Associate Bill Hughes poses for a photo with his companion, Sister Ann Casper.

William “Bill” Hughes is a 2011-2012 Providence Candidate-Associate from Terre Haute, Ind. His companion is Sister Ann Casper.

1.) Share with us a little about yourself.

I lived the first 11 years of my life in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area, moved to Sparta, Ill., at age 11. My father and grandfather were both Presbyterian pastors. In fact, there were eight Presbyterian pastors and a missionary to India within three generations of my family. I have one sister (three years older), and my parents and entire family gave us a strong grounding in faith. My sister is married to one of those eight pastors.

In 1968 I became an Episcopalian and joined St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Terre Haute, Ind., right before I was drafted into the Army. I spent most of my two years in the military at the U.S. Army Chaplain School in Brooklyn, N.Y.

My undergraduate years were spent as a music major (piano performance) at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, a Presbyterian liberal arts school. My master’s degree is from the University of Illinois and my doctorate from the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester (N.Y.).

Fresh out of my master’s degree I was employed by Indiana State University (ISU) and served on the piano faculty there from 1967 through 2007, when I retired. I was the keyboard player for the Terre Haute Symphony for 25 years.

I have served on the Commission on Ministry in Higher Education of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis for over 20 years. I have also served on the board of United Campus Ministries in Terre Haute and have facilitated a book study group there for roughly the same period. I enjoy participating in and facilitating adult religious education, and I completed a four-year course in Education for Ministry in 2010.

2.) What is your connection to the Congregation?

I have known many of the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) music faculty over the years. All of my early Enneagram training and study was with Maria Beesing (a Dominican sister) at the Woods. Virginia Unverzagt, PA, (former SP) and Sister Carolyn Sur, SSND, have been active in the Faculty & Friends book group at United Campus Ministries. I have arranged for and hosted two college work retreats of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis at the Woods. Over the years I have spent many hours walking on the SMWC campus, bird watching, and meditating in the church and Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The campus is a place of retreat and refreshment for me.

3.) Why is the Enneagram important to you. How does this personality assessment influence your relationships? Would you be willing to share your number and what it means?

I have been an avid student of the Enneagram for 25 years. Within the Enneagram type structure I am a One (one-on-one subtype), and the knowledge of myself that the study has given me is invaluable as I interact with those who are very different from me. The Enneagram perspective on life served me well in my career as a teacher. It has also taught me that it is not necessary for me to “fix” everything and everyone, and that makes me able to laugh at myself when the impulse to do that surfaces. Don’t worry, I don’t mentally type everyone I meet, so my knowledge of the Enneagram shouldn’t be a threat to anyone. I do enjoy talking with others who show interest in the structures of type.

4.) Finish this thought: People would be surprised to know that I …

People might be surprised to know that I have done wilderness tent camping in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York every summer for over 40 years.

5.) Why do you desire to become a Providence Associate?

My former music faculty colleague and dear friend, Peggy Balensuela, PA, became an associate a few years ago and has been telling me ever since that she thought I should consider involvement in the group. From what she told me I began to experience what I call a Holy Nudge in that direction. It became a Holy Shove last spring. My sessions thus far with Sister Ann Casper, my associate companion, have confirmed that it was the right decision. I am feeling lots of resonance with the theology of Providence and look forward to the enrichment I will share within the life of the group.

6.) Share with us the role that music plays in your life.

I have always loved teaching and still teach two very talented high school piano students. In fall 2010, I returned to ISU to team-teach a Piano Literature course with a colleague. I am not currently doing any preparation for performances. I attend concerts and listen to lots of recordings and radio performances.

7.) When you look back over your life, can you see the hand of Providence in it?

From early childhood I have felt surrounded by the love of family, friends and mentors, but I have also always been aware of a mystical and loving Presence in my life. Though I retain lots of memories of specific instances of that awareness, they are too numerous to recount here, and some of them are very personal. I have heard it said that coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous. To me synchronicities are evidence of Providence at work. Even experiences that are initially dark have never been able to extinguish my sense of a Presence that gives my life direction and meaning.

8.) How does your spirituality affect your life?

Hmmmmm. Tough question to answer succinctly. Today these answers came to me (out of probably dozens possible): The spirituality I experience helps me see all people and all creation as worthy of love and respect. It also gives me courage to ask tough questions of myself, of the church, and of life without losing hope when things look dark or become discouraging.

9.) What you have enjoyed most about studying the Spiritual Integration Units with Sister Ann? What has challenged you? What has surprised you?

The units are wonderfully written (congratulations to the authors!), and they evoke serious engagement with the theology and life-experience of Providence. Though it is early in my candidate process I have already been pleasantly surprised to find lots of references to writers, materials and practices with which I am familiar. I strongly resonate with the process so far; I have told Sister Ann that this journey feels Providential at this point in my life. I have enjoyed the challenge of revisiting some topics and practices that have not been in the forefront of my life for a while. Sister Ann is a warm and very skilled companion. We have already shared many resources.

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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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