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Sisters of Providence support ministries that offer help to those in need

Retired Sister of Providence Mary Pat Peacock tutors a little girl after school at Educational/Family Services in Terre Haute.

For the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, serving a neighbor in need is not something that demands apology. Indeed, for this group of Catholic women religious, loving and serving the economically disadvantaged remains something worth pouring forth a life’s work, worth giving one’s whole heart and worth sharing one’s resources.

Funding ministries that serve people who are poor can prove difficult. Since those who need the services cannot afford to pay for them, from where is the money to come?

Guerin Outreach Ministries understands this dilemma. Guerin Outreach Ministries is comprised of three ministries that serve the economically disadvantaged. Educational/Family Services in West Terre Haute provides tutoring and basic adult education. Providence Family Services in Chicago provides counseling, after-school homework help, English-language instruction and citizenship classes to the largely Hispanic Humboldt Park neighborhood. Providence in the Desert in Coachella, Calif. offers English-language instruction to immigrant field workers and music classes for their children.

Sister Carol Nolan teaches English to immigrants in Coachella, Calif. for Providence in the Desert, a ministry of Guerin Outreach Ministries.

Guerin Outreach Ministries is a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Each of the ministries was formed over the years by a Sister of Providence who saw a need and responded. Sister Patty Fillenwarth was a Catholic school principal in Chicago when she saw the need for affordable, bi-lingual counseling in her neighborhood. She returned to school to obtain a counseling degree, then came back to serve the neighborhood by founding Providence Family Services. Sister Carol Nolan sought out some of the poorest residents of the United States, Mexican immigrants working in the fields and factories of California. She went to them and asked them what it was they needed; she then gathered other sisters and formed Providence in the Desert to teach them to speak the language of their new country. Sister Margaret Quinlan saw residents of the community right outside the gates of her motherhouse struggling with poverty and lack of education. So she invited retired sisters and volunteers from the community and hired a small staff, including current director Penny Sullivan who ably took the reins upon Sister Margaret’s retirement, to help lift them up through tutoring.

One advantage to having a band of sisters with a common love for serving those in need is the power that comes from collaboration. Ministry recipients of Guerin Outreach Ministries benefit from this.

Recently the Sisters of Providence Ministry Fund approved monies to cover yearly salaries for three staff members of Guerin Outreach Ministries: Penny Sullivan, director of Educational/Family Services; Sister Pat Stark, OP, a counselor at Providence Family Services; and Sister Mary Tomlinson, development director for Guerin Outreach Ministries. Other Sisters of Providence ministries approved for funding through the Ministry Fund are St. Ann Medical and Dental Services in Terre Haute and Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis.

“The purpose of the Ministry Fund is to provide resources needed to support Sisters of Providence and others who may serve in collaboration with them in ministry. These ministries serve economically disadvantaged persons and/or work to change structures that oppress them. At least 50 percent of persons served by the ministry must fall below the poverty level. In almost every situation, if it were not for the Ministry Fund, the ministry would not be able to continue,” said Sister Jenny Howard, the Sisters of Providence general officer who acts as liaison to the Ministry Fund.

“I am very appreciative of the Congregation’s support of my ministry,” said Sister Mary Tomlinson.

Sister Mary’s job is critical to Guerin Outreach Ministries’ survival, as she works to gather grants and donations from like-minded groups and individuals which allow the ministries to function.

“Our ministries are to people without many resources and who need assistance to improve the quality of their lives,” said Sister Mary Beth Klingel, the Sisters of Providence general officer who relates to Guerin Outreach Ministries.

“The ministerial services provided by each person/place could not happen without the support of the Congregation. In each instance we are ministering to people who are underserved by our local, state and/or national governments. Many of those who benefit live on the fringes of our society. Through educational services the quality of their lives is improved,” Sister Mary Beth said.

How does one find the funds to serve people in need who have no funds? In the case of Guerin Outreach Ministries it’s by having a group of sisters and other like-minded supporters behind them, willing to give of themselves to help those in need.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Advancement Services office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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