Sharon Medicis Michaud: a granddaughter of Mother Theodore
Sharon Medicis Michaud, PA, resides in McMinnville, Ore., with her husband, Paul. She became a Providence Associate in 2009.
1.) Share with us a little about yourself.
I live in Oregon and every day I’m mindful of the beauty and richness of my life, even when it’s raining, which it often is! Oregon’s a place where it’s always green and the aim to “live green” — live responsibly on the earth — seems built into the culture. I delight in my family, my friends, hot yoga, learning Italian and French, editing with my writing group, and my work — part-time in a clinic and also with private clients as a licensed massage therapist, specializing in Myofascial techniques.
I cherish my husband, Paul, and three grown children, Jonah, Alexandra, and Meredith.
Paul works with deaf and hearing-impaired kids. He’s an artist of nurturing, as well as teaching, bodyworking, cooking, gardening and paint! Jonah works for a visual effects company in Los Angeles, keeps us current on technology, and has become our confident advisor. Alexandra lives with a debilitating illness that began in an accident onstage at 16, and it is amazing what she has borne. But she has. Meredith manages a resource center at a Portland college, is beginning her doctoral program, and recharges herself on the salsa dance floor.
The greatest richness of my life comes from long-term relationships. Paul and I just celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. My parents live in Evansville, Ind., and will celebrate their 66th anniversary this November. The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of my arrival at the Woods where I met Mel Marino Wolff and Sheila Dailey Donis, also Providence Associates, and the half-dozen other women in our circle who have loved and supported me all these years.
2.) What is your connection to the Congregation?
A Sister of Providence visited our eighth-grade class at St. Simon’s in Washington, Ind., and talked about the Aspirancy. I’d wanted to be a nun as long as I could remember, not a teacher-nun particularly, but I was compelled to go the Woods. It amazes me that my parents let me leave home at such a young age, but that was their gift to me. “Whatever will make you happy,” they said.
The years at the Woods were the foundation of how I live and how I relate to people now. I can’t imagine my life without the influence of these brilliant women, Sister Ann Maura (Barb Welch, RIP), Sister Francetta [Brown, RIP], Sister Margaret Mary [Verdeyen, RIP], Sister Mary Alice [Zander, RIP, founding director of the Providence Associate Relationship], Sister Marie Kevin [Tighe], among them. Then there’s the influence of the land itself. My most inspiring places: the Woods, the hills of Calabria, my own back yard.
3.) You were once a member of the Congregation. What year did you enter? How long did you stay in the Congregation? Do you feel comfortable in sharing why you left?
I entered the Aspirancy in 1963. I’d come from a large family, but life at the Woods was larger, a potent mix of regulation and wildness, as if we were living in a movie, or (according to our friend Bettye) a musical.
When the Aspirancy closed down at the end of our junior year, something cracked that even entering the novitiate a year later, in the fall of 1967, didn’t mend. I didn’t want to leave the sisters and at the same time I had to get away as far as possible. In the spring of 1968 I left and headed west and eventually finished college at Marylhurst. When I committed to the Providence Associate Relationship, I expected to be coming full circle, but it was the beginning of a new, vital relationship with the Congregation. Reading SMTG’s Letters and Journals I fell in love with her all over again. And I marveled at how the nuns were living out SMTG’s legacy.
4.) Finish this thought: People would be surprised to know that I . . .
… am a Providence Associate. Not in this crowd, but curious friends and clients have a hard time getting their heads around my being an associate. But I believe in the nuns. In love, mercy, and justice.
5.) Share with us a little about your spirituality. How does spirituality affect your life?
Joy Messick, Matthew Fox, Maria Beesing, Caroline Myss (teachers and authors) and “Love, Mercy, Justice: A Book of Practices of the Sisters of Providence,” have most triggered my understanding of “spiritual.” My mentor Joy once said about spirituality, “If it doesn’t grow corn, what good is it?” I took that to mean, if the soil isn’t rich enough to grow the food that feeds the people, it’s of no worth. It has to be practical. If “spiritual” is the breath we’re given, practical is the exhale, from the language I choose to use, to how I work with clients, to where I spend my money, to why I compost, to how I vote. I resonate with the seamless garment idea on many levels. This doesn’t mean that my life is any less messy or crazy than anybody else’s, but that somehow it’s all of a piece.
6.) Why is having a more formal relationship with the Congregation important to you?
Wherever the path has led me, the Sisters of Providence kept the home fires burning, and it was time for me to go add wood to the fire. It seems that I stand between the past and the future of the nuns, seeing both directions, honoring both.
7.) Anything else you’d like to share?
I couldn’t have articulated this at the time, but I knew when I was 14 that Mother Theodore was the heart of the place and devotion to her was instilled in me. On Saturdays we’d visit the crypt under the Big Church. It was like visiting your grandmother every week, only instead of a live grandmother with hugs and cake, to get close to Mother Theodore you put your hand on the handle of her tomb. You could ask her to intercede for anything you needed but mostly you were just with her, peacefully, and then you could gaze at her sabots and other effects in the glass case. It smelled good down there in the crypt and felt safe. After our visit, we’d dash up the stairs and go out for a walk. We were just children on our grandmother’s land so everywhere we walked belonged to her and to us. And we walked every day. It was because of her we were family and still are.