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Sister Terri Boland

Current ministry: teacher, Aquin Catholic School Corporation, Freeport, Ill

Years in the Congregation: 25

Contact Sister Terri at: tboland@spsmw.org

Q. What do you like best about Saint Mary-of-the-Woods? A. I like the American Beech tree at the end of the path near the woods.

Q. When I am not officially at work or involved in ministry, you’re most likely to see me … A. In the garden.

Q. On weekends, I love to … A. Work in the garden.

Q. I am passionate about … A. Gardening.

Q. What the world needs now is … A. A big garden.

Q. Name one thing most people don’t know about you. A. I am the oldest granddaughter of 57 grandchildren.

Q. Name one thing you miss about being a kid. A. I miss playing with my cousins.

Q. Why did you choose to become a Sister of Providence?

A. Initially, It was not my intent to become a Sister of Providence. I came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for a vocation weekend just to explore the possibility. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the beauty of these Woods but that alone is not the thing that drew me back. It was the story and life energy of the women I met here. It was the whole idea that as we come together the energy that each one of us brings becomes a force greater than anything we could accomplish alone. It was that spirit that moved me. I was looking for a greater commitment in my life and I felt I found it here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Q. Had you known the Sisters of Providence before you entered?

A. No, actually, I did not. I actually met the Sisters of Providence through Sister Jody O’Neil, who was a campus minister at a small junior college in my hometown. We met through a mutual friend. I said to her that I really wanted to do something more, to be involved with the church. She invited me to a weekend in Chicago which the Sisters of Providence were sponsoring. There, I met Sister Cathy White. Cathy’s story and my story were very similar. Cathy had been a school principal and she owned her own home. But she was a postulant. I asked her, “Aren’t postulants usually 19 or 20?” She said, “No, I’m not. I am in my thirties.” I was thinking this is so not fair that they would be taking women at 30 years of age. Even though it was a possibility, I was thinking I was way beyond the right age to enter a religious community. I was 35 at the time. That day I also met with Sister Rose Ann Eaton who was the provincial in Chicago at that time and decided to stay in conversation with her for a couple of months. With the initial introduction by Jody, with the life story of Cathy White, discerning with Rose Ann and being open to the grace in my own life, I decided to start the process to enter the Sisters of Providence.

Q. Was there a moment when you knew this is what you wanted to do?

A. After my experience at the vocation weekend, I knew something had changed in my life. Today, the only way I know now that it was the right choice is when I turn around and reflect on my journey and feel the confidence that I made the right decision. I am right where I should be. This is where God has taken me. It doesn’t mean that times weren’t tough and there weren’t struggles. There were.

Q. What do you value most about your ministry opportunities?

A. I have had the opportunity to be a teacher, principal, professor and a gardener. I continue to learn so much about our world through the children and adults I work with whether it is in the classroom or the garden. You realize the seeds or ideas that you plant will produce new life.

I think, because of my relationship with Earth, the Scriptures become alive. There are parables around gardens, planting seeds, not knowing how they grow, but having faith that they will grow.
– Sister Terry

Q. Why would women today find being a Sister of Providence an attractive life choice?

A. The life is all of the positive energy you find in community today. It’s taking on social justice issues, whether it is issues around the homeless, women’s health rights or building awareness around living more sustainably in the world. Being a Sister of Providence is still viable. Life in community is also changing. It’s not stagnant. Your spirit evolves. I think, because of my relationship with Earth, the Scriptures become alive. There are parables around gardens, planting seeds, not knowing how they grow, but having faith that they will grow.

Q. Please finish this sentence. Sister Terri is …

A. I’m a life gardener. I got that from a child. One summer I had the opportunity to be a life guard at a pool. This pool was located in one of our schools. I was working with children with special needs at the time. During a swim time, one little guy yelled out, “Life gardener! Life gardener!” I thought, “Hmmm, what a great title!” Being a teacher and working with young children, I do consider myself a life gardener.

Q. What role does prayer have in your life?

A. I like to gather with friends for prayer, whether it’s once a month or once a week. I often find myself in private prayer when I am in the garden. My private prayer comes not so much from kneeling at the altar, but from kneeling in the garden. I do read the Scriptures of the day but I find I am most reflective and closer to the Creator in the natural world.

Q. How much influence does Saint Mother Theodore Guerin have in your life?

A. Initially, it was her story. I read a story in sixth grade of these woman religious who were coming to America. In this particular story religious sisters were on a ship coming across the ocean. The ship hit a storm and the sisters were being tossed about. The sister who was in charge said to the rest of them not to fear. She said, “We’ve come too far to die at sea.” During the vocation weekend, we went on a tour of the shell chapel. They told us the story about Mother Theodore and her companions praying to St. Ann for safe voyage across the ocean during an awful storm. I didn’t really know the Sisters of Providence, but I remember thinking I certainly felt a connection. As I read her journals, I realized Mother Theodore has had a major impact on the world as an educator. I draw on her strength and her story as an educator.

Q. What were you like as a child?

A. I was the second oldest of five siblings. I was the only girl with four brothers. I was the big sister and often the “little mother” to my two younger brothers who were 11 and 13 years younger than me. I loved to explore the farms of my grandparents and aunts and uncles.


Flower/plant: Four o’clocks.

Book: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

Recreation: Bowling.

Hobby: Gardening (Master Gardener; photography, worm farmer).

Musician: John Denver.

Animal: Cats.

Scripture passage: Seed grows of itself. Mark 4; 26-29.

Dessert: Fresh blackberries and raspberries.

Time of day: Morning.

Season: All four, but spring with the arrival of spring flowers.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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