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Prayer, celebration, business and reflection abound at the SP annual meeting

“The purpose of the annual meeting is bonding through prayer, celebration, business and corporate reflection.” So states the Sisters of Providence document accompanying our “Constitutions.” It takes being at an annual meeting to bring life to that statement, and I attended from June 26 to July 7.

kehoe-group-sing

During a planned weekend social during the annual meeting, a group of sisters native to the state or who have ministered there, belt out “OKLAHOMA” (left to right, Sisters Terri Grasso, Ellen Kehoe, Barbara Bluntzer and Nancy Nolan. Foreground: PA Kathleen Morris and Sister Helen Dolores Losleben.)

Celebration first!

In typical SP fashion, celebrating was first on the agenda! On Saturday, we celebrated our 10 golden jubilarians and one silver jubilarian with Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. I now appreciate Mother Theodore’s descriptive quote that “the church was full as an egg!” Contributing to this fullness (600 liturgy programs quickly disappeared) were family members, ministry partners, former members, friends, Providence Associates, SPs and staff members. Talk about bonding!

Flip the calendar to Sunday. More celebration and another cast of supporters and well-wishers present at Mass as Sister Arrianne Whittaker professed her first vows and Sister Su-Hsin Huang her perpetual vows.

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Representatives from 14 different ministries give reports to sisters, Providence Associates, Mission Advisory Board members and ministry partners during the annual meeting.

Ministry updates and more

Monday’s gathering included about 250 Sisters of Providence (of which 65 sisters participated via closed-circuit), six Mission Advisory Board members, 55 Providence Associates and 26 ministry partners from our sponsored institutions and ministries. Participants began with prayer and then were treated to a short report from 14 representatives of ministries as close as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and the Wabash Valley, as near as Georgetown, Ind., Indianapolis and Chicago, and from as far away as California and Taiwan. The afternoon was devoted to clarifying the meaning of sponsorship and discussing ways the SP mission, charism and vision might be kept alive in the partner ministries.

Tuesday, with sisters and Providence Associates, was devoted to a workshop on anti-racism and white privilege. (This topic will be covered in a separate blog post.)

Dollars and sense

Our financial team on Wednesday shared the reality of our numbers, both membership and sources of revenue, along with future plans to deal with the hard reality of decline in both areas. One plan began a few years ago when our health care facilities were opened to lay persons. The good news is that this year Providence Health Care will not require any operations subsidy from the SPs.

As is true for many persons, the financial collapse in 2008 drastically affected the Congregation’s Retirement Fund, which is currently 42 percent underfunded. As Providence would have it, this enabled our leadership to apply for a grant from the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) to study our Congregation-owned land and facilities and make recommendations. This day for me was summed up as: We’re not “giving up,” but rather “letting go and letting come.”

Mission integration and moving forward

Thursday morning was devoted to further discussion of Mission Integration and continued discussion of what that might look like as we move toward establishing a solid mission integration program. In the afternoon, we heard reports about Providence Health Care and the recognition of quality care accorded it with a five-star rating from Certified Medicare and Medicaid Services and the preferred provider status conferred by two local hospitals.

Other encouraging updates were given on the construction and opening of the Saint Mother Theodore Shrine (scheduled for Oct. 25), and the plans for the 175th year-long joint anniversary celebration with Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, also beginning in October.

Aging gracefully

The gathering time ended with a workshop on aging titled “God’s Overflowing Goodness — Embracing our Gift of Years” which was offered to the sisters. This opportunity, too, was funded by a NRRO grant. As one who has quite a number of years to embrace, I found the presentation by Ray Mattes, IHM, quite meaningful, with much material that will require further reflection. Perhaps words of Maya Angelou best sum up the day for me (and could apply to anyone, no matter one’s age): “Greet the adventure of life head on … run on and see what the end will be … laugh a lot … honor the times with one another.”

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Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper, SP, retired as the executive director for Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Providence in 2018 and currently serves as minister of Providence Community Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Sister Ann has ministered in various scholastic and administrative positions in Indiana and North Carolina. She also was a member of the Sisters of Providence leadership team, serving as General Secretary.

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