Jan Surber: ‘Walking in Saint Mother Theodore’s footsteps’
Jan Surber’s relationship with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, goes back 25 years.
Jan, who became a Providence Associate three years ago, first met a Sister of Providence while her daughter was still in high school.
She said she met Sister Gertrude Therese Garvey, who died in 2006, at Saint Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, Indiana. At the time, Sister Gertrude Therese worked at the parish.
Sister Gertrude Therese had invited Jan and her daughter to her home to watch a video regarding Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
A relationship was born.
Jan’s daughter eventually enrolled in the college and graduated in 1994.
During her daughter’s time at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Jan would find herself gravitating to Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto nearly every time Jan would visit her daughter.
After her daughter graduated, Jan continued to work in the Indianapolis area and eventually retired.
But something was missing. It was that peaceful, tranquil feeling she felt while at the grotto.
She knew she had to do something.
“I needed something more spiritual in my life,” Jan said.
After she officially retired, Jan still felt as if she needed more in her life. She sought more peace and serenity.
It was at this time that Jan decided to look into deepening her relationship with the Sisters of Providence by becoming a Providence Associate.
“I think they were seeking me as much as I was seeking them,” she said. “I felt like I needed more purpose in my life. I felt a void.”
Jan chose to contact the sisters and go through the process of becoming an associate.
Providence Associates are people of all faith traditions who choose to deepen their relationship with the Sisters of Providence.
All those who wish to become associates go through a year-long spiritual process, learning more about the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.
Each associate candidate has a companion sister or associate. Jan’s companion was Sister Ann Stephen Stouffer.
After becoming a Providence Associate, Jan’s life has changed significantly. She said she feels more at ease.
“I benefit from it so much, from being around the sisters,” she said. “It makes me stronger in my faith.”
In fact, she enjoys being a Providence Associate so much that as part of her chosen commitment to the sisters, Jan travels the near 90-mile jaunt monthly to volunteer.
Jan has made this commitment for a handful of years now. At first, she volunteered at the Wabash Valley Health Center before moving on to White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.
Jan has also assisted in the Owens Hall library. She helped sisters distribute books to various schools and has served as a volunteer for the annual 90s Birthday Party, Family Day, Earth Day and Christmas Fun at the Woods events.
These days, Jan volunteers in the telephone room at Owens Hall and assists sisters with various errands. She and three other Providence Associates also still go to Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto to “deep clean” the area twice a year.
“Being a Providence Associate has affected me 100 percent,” Jan said. “It’s been a wonderful experience. It has filled the void.
“I feel fulfilled. Being a Providence Associate has made me a different person. I’m calmer and I have an overwhelming sense of peace. I feel like I’m walking in the footsteps of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.”
The application period for becoming a Providence Associate in the coming year begins on Feb. 1 and runs through May 31. Find more information on becoming a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods here. Or contact Debbie Dillow, assistant director of Providence Associates, at 317-250-3294 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ProvidenceAssociates.org.