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Stephanie Salter: “When you’re drawn, you’re drawn”

This Rooted for Tomorrow story was contributed by Stephanie Salter for the 175th anniversary of the Sisters of Providence arriving in Indiana.

Drawn. That is the word that keeps coming back when I think of my relationship with the Sisters of Providence and Mother Theodore. I am continually drawn to them. It’s more than an answered call, it’s a magnetic pull, sometimes subtle, just as often compelling.

Although I grew up a 10-minute drive from The Woods, I did not feel the pull until I returned home to Terre Haute after living nearly 30 years in San Francisco. Since that move, in 2004, I regularly tell someone that I cannot imagine my life without such close proximity of the Sisters of Providence and their Motherhouse. Obviously, my conversion to Catholicism while in San Francisco explains part of the closer relationship. But I think, too, that I had to grow up – and deepen as a human being – to distinguish the pull of the SPs from all the other forces in life that draw us in. (Maybe my response magnet wasn’t in place.)

Sometimes my sorrow or frustration increases the pull. I find myself going around in circles or so backed up emotionally I’m almost ill. Then I remember, “Mother Theodore!” and I get to my car as quickly as possible and head across the Wabash River. I sit near her coffin and I tell her my woes. Rarely do I ask for anything specific; I learned years ago that she doesn’t need an itemized list of my needs.

Often she responds to my lament with the gift of long overdue tears that clean and heal my insides. More than once, her prescription has been to allow me to relax so deeply – To give up trying to fix everything? – I come close to falling asleep. Sometimes I end up just laughing at myself. I never go expecting Mother Theodore to work miracles. I know only that I need to be near her sainted bones and lay my troubles at her feet. That act, alone, suffices.

Lest it sound as though only suffering causes me to be drawn to the SPs and their founder, let me correct that. Joy and celebration increase the pull, as well. As I have gotten to know so many of the Sisters as people, they have become part of my circle of cherished friends. When my husband, Bill, and I received special permission in 2011 to be married in the chapel in Owens Hall, we invited every Sister of Providence in Terre Haute to the Mass. Those who attended elevated the happiness and holiness of our amazing day beyond our dreams.

So, too, did the extraordinary power of the SPs and their land transform my 60th birthday into a precious reflection of my past and present. For three days, I retreated in the Luking hermitage house, walking to morning Mass, watching the sunlight dance on St. Joseph Lake, taking stock of my life and thanking God for all my blessings – not least of which was to have made it to 60 despite my bad choices and mistakes.

I suppose I could survive without the Sisters of Providence, but I don’t see that happening. When you’re drawn, you’re drawn – and neither the Sisters nor I can move far enough away from each other to diminish the pull. Ever.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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