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Group provides helping hands

Sister Becky Keller (left) and Claudette Nowell-Philipp, of Illinois, helped plan the clean-up day, as a gift of giving from the Women in Providence who are former SPs, to the Sisters of Providence.

Last year, Claudette Nowell-Philipp, of Illinois, was walking on the motherhouse grounds at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., when a gift of giving came to mind.

“I was down for the dedication and open house for Providence Hall,” she recalled. “Mary McGillicuddy and I were walking in the grove and it occurred to me that some helping hands with landscaping and gardening could help make a positive difference.”

The clean-up crew consists of (back row) Sheila Donis, PA, Jo Ann Peters, Millie Brady, PA, Phil Brady, PA, and Mary Kay Kress and (front row) Carol Passmore, PA, Mike Philipp, Claudette Nowell-Philipp and Mary McGillicuddy.

Since December, Claudette and Sister Rebecca “Becky” Keller, coordinator of the Sister of Providence Volunteer Services program, have e-mailed back and forth about her idea. After discussing such a project with Sister Rose Ann Eaton, associate director of Facilities Management, the task was given the go-ahead for work in the cemetery.

So these Women in Providence, who are former Sisters of Providence, showed up at the woods in April and turned Claudette’s thought into reality.

Sister Becky said she and the volunteers, and even two of the volunteers’ husbands, cut, trimmed and weeded their way through the cemetery from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 28. It was a huge task made better by being together and sharing the day.

Providence Associate Sheila Donis, from Jasonville, helps remove debris from the cemetery. Sheila arrived ready for work with all the right tools (extra gloves, rakes, a saw, hooks to lower tall branches and clippers.)

“There were tons of weeds and vines and weeds underneath the vines,” Sister Becky said. “What everyone accomplished was really beyond my imagination.”

Sister Rose Ann Eaton is also grateful for all the work in the cemetery. “The Women in Providence have a strong bond with the sisters living and dead and so they understand how important the cemetery is to us.”

A helpful element to the day was when Sheila Donis, a Providence Associate, showed up with extra gloves, rakes, a saw, hooks to lower tall branches and clippers, according to Sister Becky.

The group collected four huge piles of brush, all picked up later by Facilities Management crew members, Sister Becky said.

Others taking part in the clean-up were Carol Passmore and Millie and Phil Brady, all Providence Associates; Mary Kay Kress, Claudette’s husband Mike Philipp, Mary McGillicuddy and Jo Ann Peters.

The clean up crew poses for a photo behind some brush.

The rains that took hold during the early part of the day cleared so the group could finish its work.

“What an awesome day it was after such a dire start,” Jo Ann, of Illinois, noted. “I’m glad we could make a difference. I was amazed at how many of the sisters knew we were coming and why. They were so appreciative. And the thing about the weeds is we can do it again next year. I enjoyed the day so much!”

Claudette was also pleased. “I think I can speak for the whole group – the day absolutely met our expectations,” she said. We enjoyed our hands-on work, conversations and connecting with friends (old and new).

“Those big brush piles were a pretty satisfying indicator of our collective effort,” Claudette added. “I personally felt a real sense of welcoming and hospitality from the shared meals at Owens and Providence Hall and the overnight accommodations at Owens. No doubt about it we look forward to a next time.”

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Becky Igo

Becky Igo worked as a marketing manager for the Office of Congregational Advancement. She was an Indiana State University grad and former newspaper reporter/editor who worked with Providence Center, Volunteer Services and the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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