Continually called: Providence Associate Connie Schnapf
WHAT DREW YOU INTO THE ASSOCIATE RELATIONSHIP AND WHAT CONTINUES TO CALL YOU FORWARD AS AN ASSOCIATE?
A combination of things drew me into the Providence Associate relationship. My relationship with the sisters has continued to grow over the years in so many different ways.
I was taught by the Sisters of Providence throughout my grade school days at Sacred Heart Evansville. They seemed to always be interested in us and what we did. Not only as students, but as people. I loved their laughter and caring spirits. I would ride along with my mom when she took the sisters to various appointments before they were allowed to drive. I always ended up sitting on one of their laps, which always made me feel special. Every so often my mom would visit one of the sisters at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in the summer. While they talked, I had free rein of the grounds. I was like a kid in a candy store.
During my college days at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, I often found myself out at the Woods on days I wanted to get away from school and just be by myself for a while. I would walk the grounds feeling very at home, even though I didn’t know anyone. I loved it.
After I married and our children were in school, I was hired as director of religious education at St. John the Baptist Parish in Newburgh, Indiana. The pastoral associate on staff was a Sister of Providence, Sister Bernice Kuper (RIP). We worked together for 10 years and became very good friends. Throughout our years together Sister Bernice lived Providence. In her gentle manner, she embraced it with every fiber of her being. She in turn taught me to be able to recognize Providence and name it in my own life.
At the time when she was called back to the Woods, I wondered what would happen to our relationship. As Providence would have it, she became my spiritual director and our relationship went to a deeper level. She continues to be gift and blessing to me.
After the Congregation invited woman and men to be associates, Sister Bernice asked if I would be interested. She never assumed, but always gave me an opening to answer in my own way. There was no hesitation on my part. The tears rolled that day because I felt a rekindling of a Providence spark that began many years earlier in my life.
WHAT CONTINUES TO CALL YOU FORWARD
I feel I am continually being called forward by the graces of the Holy Spirit, a deep devotion to Saint Mother Theodore and an ongoing relationship with my sisters and associates.
Providence continues to call me deeper and deeper in the mystery, and I am so grateful. The opportunity to further my commitment to God’s Providence as a woman of faith, wife, mother, grandmother and companion to others through a call to love, mercy and justice, continues to challenge and bless my life. It is an integral part of who I am and who I am becoming. This community has always been in my life, even though it may have been from a distance from time to time over the years.
It is humbling to realize that each associate is being called in different ways, under different circumstances. Yet we are all deeply connected by the lurings of Providence to be in relationship with the sisters and with one another.
AS AN ASSOCIATE, HOW DO YOU ADVANCE THE MISSION OF PROVIDENCE IN YOUR OWN CORNER OF THE WORLD?
Being retired has opened up a whole new opportunity to slow down, reflect and give more attention to the present moments in my life, and those that enter into it.
I help my husband Joe part time in his vending business. This has been a blessing of surprises because I never dreamed this would be something I would be doing. It has been an unforeseen gift in sharing the ins and outs of his business as his co-worker. Being available and supportive to him has been wonderful. I have asked myself “Where does Providence play a role in servicing snack machines?” It is in deeper connections with my husband and with the people I meet along the way.
Before I retired last year, I worked as a director of religious education and offered spiritual direction in our parish. I continue to offer spiritual direction to others on a regular basis. This ministry is one of my greatest joys. It continues to call me to be open to Providence and to the many paths that are encountered by others. Working with Joe part time and being a companion as a spiritual director is what I am being called to at this time. My prayer each morning is that I not miss the whispers of God. Advancing the mission of Providence is a call that is continually being played out wherever that may lead.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF CONTRIBUTING TO THE LEGACY OF PROVIDENCE?
Volunteering twice a year at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods as part of my commitment is a blessing that just keeps giving back and blessing me is so many ways. As I observe the sisters, I experience their love, mercy and justice being lived out on a daily basis. Working, playing and praying alongside them, be it at the Helping Hands thrift store, in the Sisters of Providence health care, sharing a meal with the sisters, praying with them or watching the news with them, meeting up with sisters for an evening of puzzle fun, helping on the grounds, being in the phone room: it all draws me closer, not only in relationship with the Sisters of Providence and Providence Associates, but it helps renew my own commitments as a Providence Associate.
When I come to volunteer at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for a week at a time, I do so at the same time as two other associates. We have made it our nightly ritual to gather and “debrief,” as we laughingly call it. This time has become a sacred time. We share our day with one another, not only in what we may have been assigned to, but it goes to a much deeper level. It is a time to share the experiences and what is means to us as associates, as women of Providence. What always surfaces are feelings of gratitude to be able to have this time to be with the sisters, to learn and share in the mission of Providence. Our prayer is that we continue to take the unconditional love and learning that we have experienced along the way, and plant it in our own corner of the world.
Being a part of a Providence Associate circle (a small sharing group), is a means of support for me in my desire to further Providence. It also connects me to other associates and Sisters of Providence who are striving to deepen themselves in Providence spirituality. It is through our sharing, prayer and laughter that we have formed a circle that continues to grow in insights, love and devotion to the community and one another.
(During this summer’s 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. You can find other such reflections here and here. Learn more about the Providence Associate relationship with the Sisters of Providence at www.ProvidenceAssociates.org.)