Reflections from our Golden Jubilees
Recently, the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., recognized 10 sisters – each of whom were celebrating Golden Jubilees – or 50 years with the Congregation. One sister was also celebrating 25 years with the Congregation.
In this blog, six of the sisters reflect on their 50 years with the Sisters of Providence.
The following are their reflections:
• From Sister Barbara Reder – When I entered the Sisters of Providence, I wasn’t sure why I felt called to this order, which was mostly a teaching order at the time. I knew I didn’t want to be a classroom teacher. As it turned out, in the 50 years, I taught in a classroom for only three-and-a-half years. However, I always was in education … instruction to nurses and doctors on nutrition; diets to hospital patients; RCIA input; classes to elementary students, etc. That is indeed the Providence of God working! I went from high school teacher to dietitian to pastoral minister. I can see God’s Providence in each step, especially in hindsight. I continue to minister as a pastoral associate at St. Malachy in Brownsburg, Ind. Although there are always highs and lows, most of the time, there were highs thanks to God’s Providence and my sisters in Providence. The journey has been blessed.
• From Sister Marsha Speth – When one is serving the mission, placing our gifts, time and energy at the disposal of the people of God, the poor, the Congregation, the church, the years fly by! We’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve all wondered, from time to time, why God chose us for this path. Perhaps the best gifts of this Jubilee is in looking back and knowing God was faithfully present in it all.
• From Sister Connie Kramer – My heart is filled with gratitude for these past 50 years as a Sister of Providence. For me, it was the words of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, found in her “Journals and Letters,” that claimed my heart and awakened my own call to religious life as a Sister of Providence. When she was asked to come to America, Saint Mother Theodore said, “I will go if Eucharist is present.” My own faith life experience had taught me the power of Eucharist and I simply said to myself I can do that, too. I have been blessed with many educational, formational and transformational experiences in my years as a Sister of Providence. My pastoral ministry degree from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., was pivotal in my shift from a secondary teacher/business officer/development director to parish ministry where I found my most natural fit to use my gifts and talents. God’s timing is always perfect and each letting go has always led to a new beginning filled with wonderful opportunities for growth, both personally and professionally. I am particularly grateful for three ministry opportunities in my life. The first was the chance to develop a Christmas Giving Tree Project at Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, which helped me work through my grief following the sudden death of three family members at that time. The second ministry opportunity I treasure was the gift of God’s Spirit to envision and help develop Saint Ann Medical/Dental Services, which is now Wabash Valley Health Center in Terre Haute. At present, I am privileged to again minister with the poor in helping to facilitate retreats for homeless women in recovery programs within the Indianapolis area, which allows me to pass on my love for both Ignatian Spirituality and Twelve Step Spirituality to the poor in spirit. These special ministry experiences have given me the chance to enter into relationship with the poor and let them be a gift to me as together we participate in God’s mission to bring love, mercy and justice into the world, to which I have been led by the inspiration of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.
• From Sister Mary Beth Klingel – When I think about my Jubilee, I find it hard to believe it’s been 50 years since I entered on Sept. 12, 1964. My intention was to leave home and never return. However, much was happening in the world, not to mention the church, with the second Vatican Council underway. This church council impacted religious life in a significant way. I received the full habit in 1965 as I began my canonical novitiate and by early 1969, I was wearing “regular” clothes, as I called them. The progressive change in garb was symbolic of the many changes taking place in religious life. My first ministries were as a teacher in elementary schools. However, my teaching career was short-lived. In 1972, I was appointed to a renewal team of six sisters. For four years, we traveled the country conducting workshops for our sisters sprung from the renewal called for by Vatican II. It was a privilege for me to meet almost all of our 1,400-plus members at that time. It was also a time of personal growth in spirituality and theology building upon my years of formal education (1964-69) when we had Sisters of Providence theologians and scripture scholars as teachers. Religious life keeps evolving; it’s wonderful and challenging to be a part of this ever-changing vocation. I am grateful to God for my 50 years, especially for the relationships with my sisters and this gift of the Woods, which we fondly call home!
• From Sister Ann Sullivan – Coming from a farm family in Galesburg, Ill., and growing up with a large extended farming family nearby (I am the oldest of the 36 grandchildren in my mother’s family), set the stage for understanding and loving God’s creative presence in the beauty of the seasons, the abundance and varieties of plant and animal life on the farm. There was also a profound sense of faith, Irish Catholic faith, which had its roots in County Kerry, Ireland, and permeated every part of our lives. We spent our days mostly outside as constant companions to my dad, who taught us more practical and profound life lessons than we ever could have learned in books. There were no Catholic schools nearby, so I attended a small country school – Henderson Grove – until our new parish had a school when I was in the seventh-grade. While I had met Sisters of Providence through the Saturday Catechism classes, this was my first real exposure to Sisters of Providence in the classroom. I can thank Sister Joyce Brophy, my eighth-grade teacher, for providing not only the model of an excellent teacher and principal, but also a glimpse into her life as a Sister of Providence. Sisters Jean Marian (Jean Fuqua) and Helen Rose Newland were very influential in my high school years – superb teachers and women I admired, then and now. I also have three cousins, Nancy, Carol and Lucy Nolan, who are Sisters of Providence. Their choices opened the door of possibility that I might have a vocation as well, as I entered my senior year at Corpus Christ High School. For a totally family centered farm girl to leave home, knowing that she might not return until the death of a parent, was either madness, or a gift of momentary grace. We all arrived on Sept. 12, 1964, to a relatively new Owens Hall. There were 140 of us in the novitiate once we arrived. BLT’s were on the menu the evening we arrived, and we were allowed to talk. It didn’t last long. Our sister novices helped us get settled into what would be a life-altering experience – the good, the bad, and the not always pretty! The good won out as we worked through home sickness, convent rules and prayers, and began to realize how fortunate we were to be surrounded by novitiate sisters like Barbara Doherty, Mary Alma Murphy, Bernice Kuper, Joann Quinkert, Rita Faucher, Ruth Eileen Dwyer, Mary Dominica and the next year, Joyce Brophy. We were taught first-rate theology, and the life-changing philosophy of “freedom and responsibility.” After first vows, Sister Alexa Suelzer and Marym Gootee welcomed us to the Juniorate as we either completed our studies or went “out on mission.” My first mission was Tulsa, Okla. Sister Jean Michael Rafferty was at the helm. I learned so much from her, and still miss her. Our pastor had significant issues that made life miserable. All Sisters of Providence left that very special parish at the end of the year. I was thrilled to be assigned as the junior high coordinator at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Galesburg, my home parish. The two Sisters of Providence schools consolidated in the new Costa High School building to become Costa Catholic School. So, from never returning home, to home visits in three years, and to being back home to teach in the space of six years was an amazing transition. From wearing the full habit, to wearing the modified habit, to wearing no habit in five years, and from being Sister John Margaret to returning to Sister Ann Sullivan in three. It was the 60s! Change was everywhere. My years of teaching taught me that I didn’t have enough background to deal with increasingly troubled students and families. I studied counseling psychology to better understand the dynamics at play in our families. As mental health monies were being severely cut, my paid internship at the local hospital evaporated. However, the father of two of our students was a psychologist at the local community mental health center. Enter Providence! When I called him, they had no positions open. He called me a few hours later to ask if I could appear the following morning for an interview. I did. It began a wonderful career in counseling work at Spoon River Community Mental Health Center. Then a call from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College brought me back to the Woods as the chair of the psychology department where I remained until being elected to the Sacred Heart Province Provincial team in 1988. A doctorate in pastoral counseling followed, and then a return to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. The idea of White Violet Center for Eco-Justice (WVC) continued to percolate until the Congregation decided to move forward with this ministry. I was honored to be the first director. It would take much more time and space to talk about WVC. To find out more, go to WhiteViolet.org. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is my current ministry home. I am grateful for the relationships I have with these young, and older, Woods Women. The Jubilee celebration itself was a pure joy! Our band has always had the motto, “We love us!” and we still do. Having our families and close friends here to celebrate with us was a pure gift. It was more than I could have imagined it to be in every possible way. So, on to the next 50!
• From Sister Mary Mundy – Gratitude is the one word I most consistently use when reflecting upon my 50 years of life and ministry as a Sister of Providence. I am grateful to our Provident God, who called me to this marvelous vocation and who has been faithful to me every step of this amazing journey. I have been immensely blessed with opportunities to share this Providence as teacher, youth minister, pastoral associate, provincial councilor, and director of novices; the blessings have been no less in relationships with family, friends, community members, Providence Associates, and the many women and men with whom I’ve shared this life and ministry. The challenges along the way to be a Sister of Providence through works of love, mercy and justice in times of light and darkness have fashioned me into the person I am today. All to say, I look forward in hope to God’s surprises! There is no doubt they will keep coming … and that, too, makes me grateful!
• From Sister Joan Slobig – My 50 years as a Sister of Providence have been filled with incredible blessings, unbelievable adventures and challenges to last a lifetime! Providence has enriched my life through a variety of ministries. Responding to both the needs of the Congregation and the needs of God’s people through teaching, administration, health care for the uninsured, individual and couples’ counseling at an ecumenical pastoral counseling center, parish ministry and higher education has called forth every talent with which God has graced me. I was privileged to walk with those engaged in initial formation for 11 years. The opportunity to prepare for that ministry by earning a Psy L degree from the Institute of Psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome was the greatest and most demanding gift the Congregation has given me. Life as a Sister of Providence has provided me with wonderful relationships, both within and beyond the Congregation. I treasure my friendships with the nine other women who also celebrate this year of Jubilee. We entered at a time of great growth, we have weathered the years of renewal, we have remained close to each other and we love the life of Providence and its call to be love, mercy and justice, wherever the journey may take us.
• From Sister Carole Ann Fedders – I am, and will be eternally thankful for the Call I received: To promote/share God’s Providence with people, through services of love, mercy and justice, by way of this Congregation of vowed Sisters of Providence. When I first entered the Congregation, I came “certain” (as I could be) of my YES to the Holy Spirit, even though not at all certain of what it all meant. Now, 50 years later, I am “positive” (as I can be) that being a Sister of Providence is how and where the Spirit sees me being best suited to loving others, and being loved. My life is a rich, fulfilling life, tempered and enriched with its measure of challenges and risks. Perhaps without the challenges involved, my Faith-life could be much less healthy. I am very happy to be part of God’s ongoing cycle of Love, Creation, Forgiveness and Healing … every day. The experience of living this journey of Providence spirituality for 50 years continues to involve, for me, quite a bit of prayer-filled mystery … the amazing grace filled mystery of the blessing of my being a Sister of Providence for 50 years.