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Mary Gilroy: reconnected to the sisters and Church

Providence Associate Mary Gilroy (left) is blessed by Sister Nancy Bartasavich (center) and General Officer Sister Lisa Stallings during Mary’s renewal ceremony at the Woods this past summer.

Providence Associate Mary Gilroy of San Cristobal, N.M., made her first commitment in 2010. She was companioned by Sister Nancy Bartasavich, who currently ministers with Health Care Services at the Woods as a minister of care.

1.) Share with us about yourself.

I grew up in Nashua, N.H., and Fullerton, Calif. I’m of Lithuanian and French Canadian heritage. I was in Catholic schools for all but three of my K-12 years, finishing at Marywood High School in Orange, Calif. I received a B.A. in history from San Diego State University and my M.Ed. in learning disabilities from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

My husband is Jim Gilroy. We met while I was studying journalism at UC Berkeley. He had just returned from Santiago, Chile, where he was a Jesuit scholastic and had witnessed the Chilean coup of 1974. We’ve been married for 37 years, with three adult children, and one grandson and another grandchild on the way.

I have taught students with dyslexia for over 40 years. I recently retired from Taos Municipal Schools to allow me more time to train teachers to become dyslexia therapists, to work on a volunteer basis with the University of New Mexico-Taos Adult Learning Center, and to continue my volunteer work with the Southwest Branch of The International Dyslexia Association.

I’ve lived in San Cristobal, N.M., since 1979, having moved there initially to work at the San Felipe del Rio group home.

Since moving here, we have been active members of Holy Trinity Parish in Arroyo Seco, N.M.

2.) What is your connection to the Sisters of Providence?

I was taught by the Sisters of Providence at Marywood High School in Orange, Calif. They were an inspiring, challenging group of women, committed to the spirit of Vatican II. It was profoundly moving to visit the graves of Sisters Colette [Garrity, RIP], Clarice [Asbury, RIP] and Agnes Isabel [Hartman, RIP] when I first visited the Woods in 2009. I realized how much they had shaped my life.

3.) How would you describe your relationship with Sister Nancy? What do you miss most about Sister Nancy now that she is living and ministering in Indiana?

I only met Sister Nancy when I decided to pursue the Providence Associate path and needed a companion. It was Sister Mary Alice [Zander, founding director of Providence Associates] who put me in contact with Sister Nancy and together she and I flew to the Woods for the orientation weekend. I have wonderful memories of trailing behind Sister Nancy, visiting a number of the sisters who were in Providence Hall or health care. Their faces all lit up when Sister Nancy arrived.

Until this summer, Sister Nancy’s ministry was as a social worker in To’hajiilee Elementary School which serves a Navajo community 30 miles west of Albuquerque. The year I met Nancy, I had an unusually high number of students whose lives were so difficult that they worked with our school social worker on a regular basis. While my subsequent students never matched that year in terms of social problems, I came to admire Sister Nancy for dealing year after year with the same, challenging issues. I was sad to see her leave New Mexico but appreciated her decision which I know was not easy for her.

As for what I miss, it’s definitely Sister Nancy’s smile and her kindness.

“Providence is trust in the Great Spirit of Love.”
– Mary Gilroy, PA

4.) What is the best part about being a Providence Associate?

A feeling of being connected to a Congregation of sisters who had a significant impact on my life and who, through Providence Associates, have helped me feel re-connected to the Catholic Church that I have always known. The sisters have provided a voice and a leadership role for women in the Church, and have exemplified the inclusiveness of the Gospel. On a personal level, they have given me hope.

5.) How do you keep in contact with other Providence Associates and Sisters of Providence?

Through email and prayer. But I can say that I’ve now visited the Woods twice and hope to get back there within the next two years to participate in the broader community of the Sisters of Providence and the Providence Associates.

6.) What is your favorite place in the world?

Anywhere near the ocean, but especially the rugged coastline near Glencolmcille in Donegal, Ireland.

7.) Describe your spirituality. How does it influence your life?

I’ve always identified with “contemplation in action” people, but have honestly lived more of an action than contemplative life. I’ve been very grateful for the work I’ve been able to do all these years but found my prayer life took place driving to and from school each day, and my “spiritual” life was more dialoguing with fellow Catholics about the Catholic Church and all its issues.

More recently, and definitely due to my knowing Sister Nancy and my associate commitment, I’ve tried spending more time in contemplation, being more focused on God, on Christ, on learning to appreciate stories like that of Mary and Martha. It’s not easy, but reading “The Cloud of Unknowing” has helped me see how important silence is — silence without a constant inner dialogue.

8.) Finish this thought: Providence …

… is trust in the Great Spirit of Love.

9.) What are some of your hobbies/interests?

I really love teaching students of all ages with dyslexia and hope to do so as long as I can see and hear. I also love reading about the English language and its history, and teaching teachers. My only hobby is calligraphy which I’ve just returned to after taking a course in it 35 years ago. I need to put in my 10,000 hours to become good at it, but for now, I hope to calligraph passages from spiritual readings that I can pass down to my own children.

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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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