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Hospitality remains a strong charism of the SPs

Closed at all timesAugust 30, 1967, was the day I entered the Sisters of Providence. The postulants and novices lived in Owens Hall, which was one of the newer buildings on campus. At some point during my first year here, the postulant director, then Sister Robert Ellen (who returned to her baptismal name, Joyce Brophy), asked me to make two signs that would read, “KEEP THIS DOOR CLOSED AT ALL TIMES. THANK YOU.” Dutifully, I made the signs which were posted on two doors in Owens Hall; those that lead out to the courtyard area.

Over the past 48 years I would return to the Woods from California or Chicago or Terre Haute and chuckle to find the signs in the same place, year after year. Now that Owens Hall is “closing”, the signs have taken on a whole new meaning for me. “KEEP THIS DOOR CLOSED AT ALL TIMES. THANK YOU.”  It’s been anything but! The doors to Owens have never been closed! Instead, they’ve been open to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. The sisters living in Owens have OPENED the doors at all times to:

  • sisters coming home from the missions,
  • guests visiting the Woods,
  • sisters’ family members,
  • retreatants,
  • workshop participants,
  • women and children visiting a family member at the federal prison,
  • White Violet Center interns,
  • Providence Associates,
  • pilgrims to the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore.

Each visitor experienced a comfortable, quiet bedroom, decent meals, and perhaps, most importantly, a closer glimpse into the life and charism of the Sisters of Providence. Nearly every guest commented on the gracious, warm hospitality extended to them. It happened just last week when I showed one of our retreatants to her bedroom. Noticing that Sister Mary Ann Lechner’s bedroom was across the hall, I introduced the guest. Immediately, Sister Mary Ann greeted her warmly and took her down the hall to show her the kitchenette where coffee would be waiting each morning! A few years ago, a young pilgrim WALKED many miles to pray to Saint Mother Theodore. At Owens he found the open arms of the sisters there. They fed him; even washed his tired, swollen feet!

The sisters who lived at Owens Hall these many years can be credited with truly living our charism of generous hospitality. Thank you: for opening your home, for washing the sheets, for making the early-morning coffee, for being kind and welcoming! You never kept the door closed at any time! Thank you from the rest of us!

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Sister Paula Damiano

Sister Paula, formerly Sister Mario, has been a Sister of Providence since 1967. She has ministered as a teacher, director of vocations, pastoral associate and as a General Councilor for the Sisters of Providence. She currently ministers as director of programs and retreats at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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6 Comments

  1. Jeanne on August 12, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Great article, Paula,walking down memory lane! Happy Birthday for the 26th.
    1967 seems like so long ago.

  2. Peg Benson on August 12, 2015 at 7:41 am

    The SPs needed no sign to remember, “All guests are to be welcomed as Christ”.

  3. Will Hine on August 12, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Over the years I have found the SP such an open and life affirming place!! I was blessed to be introduced to the SP by Sr. Margaret Kern.
    She was a person of great Faith and I was truly blessed to have know her.. .
    Will Hine

  4. S, Rita Clare Gerardot on August 12, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Paula, one of the things we regret with the closing of Owens is the loss of being able to welcome visitors to this building. So many who have visited loved ones at the Federal Prison in Terre Haute have found staying in Owens and being able to walk our beautiful campus a joy and comfort after a day spent sitting on a chair conversing with their loved one in prison via the phone. The peace and beauty of the Woods revived their spirits. Our hospitality will be missed by them and the countless others who stayed with us through the years.
    Rita Clare Gerardot, SP

  5. Pat Fischer on August 13, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Great article Paula. I too have very fond memories of walking into Owens Hall on August 30, 1967 and the many experiences and activities that we shared as postulants living in Owens. Owens was one of my favorite places to visit during return trips to the Woods. Looking forward to returning to the Woods on October 24.

  6. Tara Lane on August 14, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Very well said Sister Paula. I do believe that Providence has a plan to maintain and restore the role that Owens Hall has played in so many lives. May we all rejoice in anticipation of divine provision.

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