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Virtual circles offer real relationship

Providence Associates (PA) are people of all faith traditions who wish to have a closer relationship with the Sisters of Providence. Today 193 Associates are in the United States and Taiwan.

When interested candidates are accepted, they are paired with a sister or an associate. They meet with this companion over the span of a year to read and discuss ideas related to the Congregation’s foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, its life and mission and its expressions of love, mercy and justice in various ministries.

Recently “Providence Circles” were formed based on geographic area. Twelve are now operating across the U.S. Because not all Associates live near to each other, two “virtual” Providence Circles were also established. These groups meet via conference call. Any associate, candidate-associate or sister is welcome to attend any of the circles.

Whether “real” or “virtual” the benefits of the Providence Circles seem the same, said director Sister Diane Mason. “One of the greatest benefits of the Providence Circles is deepening the relationship among the associates and the sisters. The ripple effect of these relationships will help further the mission of the Sisters of Providence,” she said.

Another benefit is offering a time for associates to share their joy and happiness with one another. “It is a time for them to find a safe place where they can express their personal concerns, their struggles and truly a time to learn to pray in a way they never thought was possible,” Sister Diane said.

Providence Associate Monica Hayden coordinates one of the virtual circles which meets monthly. She says that their circle’s purpose is “to further the mission and vision of the Congregation by living the SP principles on a daily basis, sharing with one another and providing support for one another.”

Initially, the group spent time sharing how each became a Providence Associate. Some common threads among stories were: acceptance, the intelligence of the SPs and how incredible they are, their mission and charism, their focus on social justice, prayer and liturgy. The group now has 17 members and continues to grow.

Sister Diane explained how the Providence Circles got started almost two years ago.

“The circles were offered at the request of associates, who over the years expressed a strong desire to continue the richness they felt they received during their first year of formation. They found meeting with their companion and sharing the various Spiritual Integration Units very enriching, and once that year was finished they felt a letdown. Providence Circles were the answer to their desire to seek ways to deepen their own spiritual lives and their relationship with Sisters of Providence.”

PA Judy Coulup-Hund advises those considering the Providence Associate relationship, “Do it and do it now. The SPs are so caring and their spirituality is so transparent that it rubs off on anyone near them. Their sense of the world, peace and justice is so alive and needs to be shared continually and more globally.”

(Originally published in the Winter 2014 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Diane Weidenbenner

Diane Weidenbenner is the annual fund manager and donor relations for the Sisters of Providence Advancement Services office. She's also a Providence Associate.

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