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Providence Associate commitment liturgy reflection

Sister of Providence Nancy Nolan of "Here's the thing, Hon" fame with her Providence Associate Companion Amy Miranda at the first commitment ceremony Nov. 8.

Sister of Providence Nancy Nolan of “Here’s the thing, hon” fame with her Providence Associate Companion Amy Miranda at the first commitment ceremony Nov. 8.

My friend and predecessor as general superior, Sister Nancy Nolan, has many signature phrases or sayings. The one that comes to mind on this occasion is “Here’s the thing, hon.”

When I hear that I know I am going to get her take on what’s going on, a pithy observation that goes to the heart of whatever matter is occurring or being discussed.

I like the confidence of the statement.

“Here’s the thing, hon” is a far cry from my kind of weasely “Maybe what this means is…” or “I was wondering if what happened means….”

Nancy’s confidence mirrors the confidence Jesus acts from in today’s gospel story. Jesus comes back to his home town where everyone knows him (or thinks he or she does).

He proclaims an incredible message – “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me” and has in fact anointed me to ‘bring glad tidings to the poor…liberty to captives…sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed.’

Then he states – quite confidently – today “this Scripture passage has been fulfilled in your presence.” In other words, I am He, chosen of God, beloved of God who comes to save you, to show you the way, to allow you to change your hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.

Wow! Wow! What a wonderful knowing of one’s self! What a wonderful acceptance of one’s self. What bravery to follow the call to be who one is – in truth and freedom.

I believe that same claiming of self and of one’s place in the Sister of Providence and Providence Associate community happened here, in this Church on Thursday evening, October 30, 2014.

General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson gives a reflection at the first commitment and renewal liturgy for Providence Associates.

General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson gives the reflection at the first commitment and renewal liturgy for Providence Associates.

On that evening, Donna Watzke – Providence Associate and a former Sister of Providence – gave the eulogy for Sister Jean Ann Daniel, a woman who was 65 years an SP.

“Here’s the thing, hon.” This claiming of self wasn’t only about Donna and Sister Jean Ann. This claiming of self was about a new moment in the Providence Associate – Sisters of Providence relationship. This moment – for me – broke some boundaries and created hope about our relationship with one another.

In her remarks, it was clear that Donna and Jean Ann had shared for years the charism of Providence. It was clear that at the heart of Donna’s life and Jean Ann’s life was their shared trust in Providence and their witness to that Providence.

It was clear in Donna’s words that only one thing changed about their relationship after Donna left the Sisters of Providence – their friendship grew deeper and deeper.

So, “here’s the thing, hon.” For me, Donna giving the eulogy for Sister Jean Ann honored a relationship begun, fostered and deepened by their shared willingness to allow the God of Providence to shape them as individuals and as friends.

For me, Donna giving the eulogy dissolved a potential barrier (only sisters give eulogies for sisters) and honored a circle of relationship much larger than Jean Ann and Donna.

Standing with Donna at the ambo as she delivered the eulogy were all Providence Associates and all Sisters of Providence.

For me, in the really very simple act of a Providence Associate giving a Sister of Providence’s eulogy, we completed and strengthened the ties, the links of a circle called unity with all who share the charism of Providence.

“Here’s the thing, hon.” Like most mysteries, like most authentic relationships, it’s not easy to describe or explain how deep and strong is the connection between, among those who share the charism of Providence.
As you make your first commitment or renew your commitment as Providence Associates, know that all Sisters of Providence and other Providence Associates stand with you, desire to support and encourage you. Know as well that we Sisters of Providence and all other Providence Associates count on you to stand with us to support and encourage us.

Praise God for the gift we share – the gift of the charism of Providence.

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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