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Love in action at Providence in the Desert

Sister Loretta Picucci, right, teaches an English class for Providence in the Desert at the Sunbird Trailer Park in Thermal, California.

Sister Loretta Picucci, right, teaches an English class for Providence in the Desert at the Sunbird Trailer Park in Thermal, California.

Love in action.

That is what I saw last week at Providence in the Desert in southern California.

I knew the ministry’s story before I went.

I knew Sister Carol Nolan began the ministry 13 years ago. I knew she reached out to some of the poorest people in the United States, immigrant field workers in the Coachella Valley of California. She had asked them what they needed. They needed to learn English, so she made it happen.

I knew that she and Sister Loretta Picucci and other volunteer and paid teachers travel the Valley bringing English language classes to people who want to learn. I knew the students came to classes often tired from a day in the fields. I knew they sometimes came with kids in tow as they worked to make a better life for their families.

Providence in the Desert's Sister Carol Nolan becomes a part of the community in the rural southern California towns where she lives and serves. Here she greets a couple at Mass at the mission location in Thermal, California, where the largely immigrant population gathers for weekly Mass in a community center because there is no church available.

Providence in the Desert’s Sister Carol Nolan is a part of the community in the rural southern California towns where she lives and serves. Here she greets a couple at Mass at the mission location in Thermal, California, where the largely immigrant population gathersin a community center because there is no church available.

I knew the story of this ministry of the Sisters of Providence going in, but I wasn’t prepared for the fullness of what Providence in the Desert is.

I saw two sisters pouring out their lives for others.

Providence in the Desert is about a lot more than teaching.

It’s about presence. It’s about caring. It’s about love and compassion.

It’s about calling a student during your down time in the middle of the day to quiz her on what she will need to know for her upcoming U.S. citizenship exam.

It’s about advocacy. It’s about being a voice for those not easily heard. It’s about working to create a more just and equitable world.

It’s about overcoming inhibitions in driving and navigating to travel to trailer parks and out of the way little towns (without GPS!) to bring language help to people without other resources.

It’s about living out the Gospel of Christ. It’s about caring for a neighbor that it would be easy to ignore. It’s about showing your love to every person you see.

The ministry at Providence in the Desert brings the English language to immigrant laborers such as these field workers, shown here harvesting peppers a few minutes drive from the sisters' house.

The ministry at Providence in the Desert offers English classes to immigrant laborers such as these field workers, shown here harvesting peppers a few minutes drive from the sisters’ house.

It’s about leaving a much-earned doze in front of the TV at the end of a busy day to take a phone call. It’s about still offering your full, loving presence to the person on the other end of the phone.

It is about being Church. It is about bringing God’s presence to people struggling to improve their lives.

It’s about always giving, always loving, despite your own years, despite your own tiredness.

It’s about offering your life, your energy, because these people need someone, and right now that someone is you.

It’s a powerful thing to see – that love in action that is Providence in the Desert.

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Mission Advancement office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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4 Comments

  1. Lorraine Kirker PA on May 16, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Beautifully said, Amy. One short visit to Providence in the Desert and you may physically leave but it will never leave you. I know that from experience. What wonderful work Sisters Carol and Loretta are doing.

  2. Tracey Horan on May 16, 2015 at 11:33 am

    So true! It was amazing to see Carol and Lorretta’s work in person this spring, and to get a sense for how they are drawing others into a compassionate response and deeper awareness…Such important work. Thanks, Amy.

  3. Jennifer Nowalk, PA on May 16, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing and putting a face on this wonderful, important ministry! I just observed a new classroom in my school in Plymouth, Indiana. It is a bilingual classroom for pre-school aged children. I can’t put words to the connection, but I am thankful to be inspired by the Sisters’ mission and to be encouraged to put all judgments aside!

  4. Cheryl Casselman on May 18, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    It’s been many years since I visited Sisters Carol and Loretta in California, but this brought back lots of feelings from when I witnessed them in ministry. Thanks for sharing, Amy.

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