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Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries: Celebrating 20 years of success

GEORGETOWN, Ind. – More than 20 years ago, Sisters of Providence Sister Barbara Ann Zeller developed a few ideas to help youngsters in her area of ministry.

“All I wanted to do was take care of the little ‘street urchins’ who were abused and neglected,” Sister Barbara said. “That’s how it started.”

And on Friday, Sept. 19, the successes of Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries (PSSM) were celebrated during an open house on the 28-acre campus.

The theme for the 20-year anniversary was, “Past, Present and Future.”

Current and former residents and others attended the event to reminisce about their experiences with PSSM. The campus senior center was set up in a circular fashion, meaning those who attended walked around the room, munching on food while witnessing first-hand the accomplishments of the ministry.

Prior to the beginning of the Georgetown campus, Sister Barbara Ann and a handful of Sisters of Providence lived at Holy Family Convent in New Albany. They started two foundational ministries at the same time: A foster care family ministry and a program of education and child care within the context of the New Albany Housing Authority.

Sister Barbara Ann said when the sisters began the housing authority neighborhood ministries, one out of nine people in the area were living in public housing.

“Our intent was to bring education to the mothers and fathers to raise them up so they could transition out of the housing authority development,” she said.

Sister Joanne Cullins greets a visitor.
Sister Joanne Cullins greets a visitor.

In order to do that, Sister Barbara said the sisters taught GED and Adult Basic Education (ABE) courses, before beginning an itinerant child care program, traveling from place to place working with youngsters.

Sister Barbara Ann said they were originally licensed in the convent as a foster family, and could only take care of six children at a time. However, over time, case workers suggested the sisters start a group home because there wasn’t a group home in Floyd County. Following that, they could take care of up to 10 children.

“There was no bus service, so we drove the kids to seven different schools,” Sister Maria Smith said. “It was a wonderful experience. Every story was different.”

As time soared by, Sister Barbara Ann wanted to take the entire program to a new level. She then created the concept for Providence House – serving children and families – and Guerin Woods – serving elderly adults – and it has grown ever since.

Sister Barbara said the Archdiocese of Indianapolis had property in Georgetown that was not being used. She proposed creating Providence House on the property and was given the opportunity to do so, thus the Archdiocese gifted the property to a sister corporation of Guerin, Inc., provided they could break ground for the facility in a handful of years.

They accomplished their goal and moved full-speed ahead.

“Obviously, we’ve had our bumps in the road, but I’m here to tell you that Providence has prevailed,” Sister Barbara Ann said. “It’s been a sweet, sweet journey.”

The Villas of Guerin Woods provide 10 rooms for assisted living and 50 rooms for individuals needing skilled nursing care. Currently, there are six buildings on the campus for providing care for assisted living and skilled nursing.

Those living in the Villas do so in what Sister Barbara Ann refers to as the “small house” concept, the only one of its kind in the state. Those living in the Villas live together, eat together and bond together.

The Meadows of Guerin Woods at the complex offers 24 independent living apartments for individuals and couples age 62 and older with limited incomes.

Guerin Woods Senior Center is also open to all seniors in Floyd and the surrounding counties.

Providence House Family Residential Preservation Program provides housing for up to 12 families in a family reunification atmosphere. The homes offer moms and dads reuniting with their children who are at risk of being placed in foster care or reunites the children leaving foster care with their parents.

Local agencies also collaborate with PSSM to provide the services.

Melissa Bline, who lived with at Providence Housing, arrived at the celebration and said she enjoys visiting the sisters still.

“It was fun,” she said. “The sisters listened to us and compromised the best they could.”

Facility associate Elizabeth England added she is impressed with the sisters’ ability to get things done.

“They are an amazingly, intelligent group of women with so much compassion,” England said.
Fellow employee Jennifer Nally agreed.

“I feel like the sisters’ vision is carrying out the works of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin,” Nally said. “That’s what this is all about.”

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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