Providence Associates Circles
Providence Circles are alive and energized!
After months of preparation, discussion and planning, Providence Associates were introduced to Providence Circles at their annual meeting June 28-July 1 at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Providence Circles comprise a network of groups within the associate relationship that will take on their own forms as they mature. For now, the Circles are mostly geographic, with the initial exception of the Virtual Circle, which connects associates from an array of locations and interests. However, associates are encouraged to explore a relationship in whichever Circles that may interest them.
Potential Circle interests may emerge in prayer, book clubs, scriptural exploration or project participation and smaller Circles may grow within larger ones.
More than 60 associates and candidate-associates grasped quickly the concept of forming Circles through a discussion led by Maria Price, PA, a member of the associates’ Advisory Board and a Circles committee volunteer.
The focus of the Circles concept is to create opportunities for associates and candidate-associates to build their personal relationships with others of similar interests, which strengthens the interconnectedness of all associates involved in the relationship, thus giving greater support to the relationship’s mission and, ultimately, to the mission of the Sisters of Providence.
Participants in the annual meeting were given time to explore their personal Circle connections. Most broke into geographic areas quickly, but after a couple of timed intervals, other interests were developing. Associates may participate in as many Circles as they desire, wherever their interests may lead them.
Circles are encouraged to communicate with one another through the weekly e-mail communications sent to all associates where successes and challenges can be shared as learning experiences. Sister Diane Mason, director of Providence Associates, and Debbie Dillow, assistant director, will monitor progress as well. General consensus was reached to try this concept as a one-year experiment and re-evaluation will occur at the 2014 annual meeting. All associates and candidate-associates are welcome to join Circles that align with their location or interests.
The Providence Associates annual meeting opened with a presentation about the Second Vatican Council by Sister Jan Craven and Sister Paula Damiano. They recalled that historians have identified the gathering of more than 2,800 Cardinals as the most significant meeting in world history.
They shared facts and figures of the Council’s work, the dramatic change of course for the Catholic Church and information about the life and background of Pope John XXIII who made it happen.
Also on the agenda
Sister Diane and Debbie shared initial information about Providence Circles and how they fit into the fiscal year goals as part of their “business meeting” segment of the weekend. They also provided information about progress toward reaching other established goals, budgetary details, scholarship fund-raising and practices and information about upcoming events and other opportunities.
On Monday, July 1, the associates joined the Sisters of Providence for the opening day of their annual meeting. Presentations were offered about sponsored ministries and sponsored institutions with discussions following.
Six Providence Candidate-Associates gathered at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on Monday, July 1, to enhance their discernment as they move toward the decision to become associates.
Sister Paul Bernadette Bounk, CSJ, former alpaca herd assistant at White Violet Center for Eco-justice, led the morning-long retreat.
Sister Paul Bernadette said the intent was to help the candidates learn ways to discern about their decision, but also to be able to use the energy of body, mind and spirit, in addition to intellect, for whatever challenging decisions they may face in the future.
After a relaxation and centering opening, participants learned about the interconnectedness of all things. They were asked to think about their families, their parents, their grandparents and their favorite name for God. Interconnectedness was demonstrated by tossing a ball of colorful yarn to one another so that the yarn eventually formed a tight web.
Participants were asked to share stories one-on-one about personal events and experiences that have brought them into discernment about becoming a Providence Associate. They also spent time going out to locate what Sister Paul Bernadette called a touchstone and those items were blessed.
“Discernment is not just about making a decision,” Sister Paul Bernadette said. “It’s about hearing the voice of God in everything in everyday life.”