Trust in a Provident God: Providence Associate Bill Hughes
What drew you into the associate relationship and what continues to call you forward as an associate?
Some history: In 1967 I came to TH to teach music (piano) at Indiana State University. Within the first few months a faculty colleague introduced me to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, especially the Blessed Sacrament chapel and church. In those early days I made frequent bird-watching trips to the Woods. I also had Sister Gloria Memering as a piano student.
As a music faculty member at ISU I have known several of the faculty at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College: Sisters Laurette Bellamy and Carol Nolan and music therapist Sara Jane Stokes among others. (I experienced a course and concluding retreat on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey with Sara Jane, and I mark it as a watershed event in my spiritual formation).
In the late 80s and early 90s I attended five or six courses here at the Woods on the Enneagram with Maria Beesing (a Dominican sister). To this day, the Enneagram continues to be an extremely important part of my formation for my work as a teacher and for life.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods’ grounds have always been a place of retreat and refreshment for me.
Over the years I have arranged and hosted two college student/faculty retreats at the Woods for the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.
In 2000 I found myself in a state of depression, because, among other things, I was overcommitted. (I’m a One on the Enneagram — all of me was out there “fixing” everything, and there was nothing left inside. I hadn’t taken very good care of myself.) One day I came to the Woods to rest and meditate, and I walked into Providence Center. I picked up a brochure that had the photo of Saint Mother Theodore on it and a quote: “We are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do.”
That encounter was life changing for me—and providential. She gave me kind permission to see my plight and to begin to understand and deal with it. Many years later my music faculty colleague and dear friend, Peggy Balensuela, became a Providence Associate. She told me about it, and said that I should investigate. I think of that now as a Holy Nudge. In 2011 I investigated further and felt a Holy Shove in that direction. So I enrolled for a wonderful year of discernment with Sister Ann Casper as my companion. I made my first commitment in 2012.
What continues to draw me to the associate relationship is the deep spirituality I encounter every time I’m with the sisters—their intelligence, their strength, their kindness, their joy, their inclusiveness, their openness to re-evaluating the way things are in their situation, both as individuals and as a community, their openness to change, and most of all the way they live out their strong commitment to Providence “that so far has never failed us.”
I try to “grope along slowly,” not to “press matters inappropriately” (for an Enneagram One, that is always a challenge). I think I have increased my capacity for patience, and my lifelong trust in a Provident God has been strengthened.
As an associate, how do you advance the mission of Providence in your own corner of the world? How do you see yourself contributing to the Legacy of Providence?
I continue my involvement with United Campus Ministries, my main source of contact with students since my retirement. That ministry is dedicated to walking quietly with students who are at various places on their spiritual journeys and trying to help them discover and commit to a spiritual path that equips them for life in our times. I serve the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis in two ways: on its Executive Council and its Commission on Ministry in Higher Education.
In my parish, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, I serve as a reader and chalicist, and I lead and participate in adult formation activities.
I volunteer at the Woods (Earth Day, Family Day and other events). Since January, 2014, I have served on the editorial board for the Sisters of Providence HOPE magazine. I am always astounded by the creative energy embodied in that group, and I consider it a privilege to be part of it. I am talking with friends and trying to do my part to encourage new associates. Gently, but persistently nudging — trying not to shove . . .
(During the recent annual meeting of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, a panel of five Providence Associates of the Sisters of Providence each shared what drew them to the Congregation and how they live out the mission of Providence. Over the course of the next several weeks, we will share those Providence Associates’ reflections here. You can learn more about the Providence Associate relationship with the Sisters of Providence at www.ProvidenceAssociates.org.)
Thanks so much for your reflection, Bill. I am delighted that you have such a deep appreciation for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. It is one of the finest jewels of the Woods. Your description of us makes me want to be the best possible Sister of Providence. And I thank God for you and all who share with us the charism of Providence. your sister, Paula