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It takes a community to feed the world

This reflection was prepared by Providence Associate Assistant Director Debbie Dillow for a gathering of Sisters of Providence, Providence Associates and SP ministry partners. It is based on 1 Cor. 12: 3b-11 and John 20:19-23

General superior Sister Denise Wilkinson greets Sisters of Providence, Providence Associates and ministry partners gathered for an annual meeting in June 2014

General superior Sister Denise Wilkinson greets Sisters of Providence, Providence Associates and ministry partners gathered for an annual meeting in June 2014

As I sat reflecting on today’s Scripture readings, my mind took me back to my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During this pilgrimage we visited many holy places where Jesus and his disciples walked over 2000 years ago. One of those places was the upper room. As our group of pilgrims gathered in this room, while it was fairly large, 40 people made it look rather small. As we stood there together we read the same Scripture as today: “the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear…” As I stood in the upper room I could see why they would be fearful. Their friend and teacher had been brutally executed. They were followers of Jesus – would the same happen to them? Can you imagine the relief that swept over them when Jesus appeared in their midst offering them words of peace? Can you imagine the confusion they felt when they knew Jesus had been crucified but now he stood in their midst?

Again, Jesus knows their feelings and calms their fears offering them the gift of peace. This was not the only gift that Jesus would give them. Jesus breathed on them giving them the Spirit providing the strength they would need as they were sent to spread the good news to the world. Jesus has given this same Spirit to us in our baptism.

Although we are many different people with varying talents we are all one body of Christ. The analogy of the various parts of the body, each one needed for a different job, reminds me of our gifts. Not everyone has the same ability but we use our skills collectively to accomplish one mission — the mission of Jesus Christ.

Almost 174 years ago, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin left her beloved France for America. She did not know what lay ahead for her and her five companions. She did not know, but she trusted in the Providence of God that she was to be a part of bringing the Gospel to the people of Indiana and beyond. Through the gift of the Spirit, she led this congregation through tough times — times when she reached out to others to share their time, talents and treasures with the community. It is through this sharing that the community has served the needs of others through many schools, ministries and more. It is now, through the abilities of all of us present, in body and spirit, that the community reaches out to share the mission of honoring Divine Providence and furthering God’s loving plans by devoting ourselves to works of love, mercy and justice in service among God’s people. We collaborate with the Sisters of Providence as we share our individual gifts to further this mission.

Those gathered for the annual meeting listen to reports on each of the ministries of the Sisters of Providence, including White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.

Those gathered for the annual meeting listen to reports on each of the ministries of the Sisters of Providence, including White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.

As collaborators we work together sharing what has been given to us by the Holy One. As partners we can work in areas where the sisters can no longer serve due to health or age. We, the co-workers in relationship with the Sisters of Providence, are becoming the hands and feet of our beloved sisters. We are taking the message of love, mercy and justice into the world in which we live.

Our Providence Associates are working near and far to further this mission. They serve as volunteers here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and at the former St. Ann’s Clinic. They serve at vocation fairs in California. They serve as tutors in English as a second language, helping the sisters’ mission at Providence in the Desert. Associates spread the word about the Sisters of Providence and the associate relationship in Texas at parish functions. Wherever the hands and feet of the sisters need to be to continue their work, our Providence Associates are stepping up to help.

The same is true of our ministry partners. Those helping to distribute food and clothing in West Terre Haute through the Providence Food Pantry and Helping Hands further the mission by showing love and mercy to those in need. Our teachers at our schools, Providence Cristo Rey High School, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Guerin College Prep, are furthering the work by loving the students first and then teaching them. The Wabash Valley Health Center is reaching out to those needing medical and dental services to meet their basic needs. Our Providence Health Care workers are caring for those recovering from surgeries or facing the end of life while at the same time caring for our beloved sisters. The Mission Advisory board shares their wisdom as they lead the Sisters of Providence in continued missions.

It is the Spirit that calls us to task giving us the grace we need to accomplish the charge at hand. Sometimes we see our own ability to help when called. Sometimes it is others that see a gift we have that is waiting to be shared. And there are times when our talent lies hidden waiting to be discovered. It is the Spirit that hands out these abilities when the Spirit sees the need. It is up to us to listen to our heart, opening it to the grace that is being given to us. At times the Spirit is asking us to stretch beyond our comfort zone. Asking us to trust her. Allowing her to nurture us to our full potential. Be not afraid. Peace be with you. I am sending you an Advocate — all words given to us by Jesus to allow us to stretch outside our comfort zone to help others — to think outside the box.

I recently attended a conference where we were asked to think outside the box. Someone at the conference challenged us to throw away the box — we no longer needed it. We were being asked to expand our hearts and minds beyond the old cliché.

Revisiting the upper room, where the disciples waited in fear, I wonder what fear is holding me or you back this day. What is keeping you or me from opening our hearts to freely accept the Spirit and the call we are given to go forth and be Providence in the world? How often do we take time to be silent and listen to the voice of the Spirit within us in order to discern what God is asking of us?

We are all in this mission together. Without the talents of each and every one of us, the mission could not continue as it does today. We are the risk-takers navigating the unknown, just as Saint Mother Theodore navigated the ocean, rivers and roads to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods 174 years ago. She surrendered to the will of our Provident God knowing that God would not fail her or her companions.

As we leave this beautiful and sacred space, remember to listen to the silence within. Allow our Provident God to guide you as you throw away the box and soar where eagles soar.

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Debbie Dillow

Providence Associate Debbie Dillow is the co-director of the Providence Associate relationship. She is the mother of two grown children and grandmother to four. Debbie holds holds bachelor's and master's degrees in media arts and science from Indiana University and a certificate in applied computer science from Purdue University. She also has a master’s in pastoral theology from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She and her husband, Bob, live in Pittsboro, Indiana.

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