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Foundation day through a young sister’s eyes

“Mother Theodore brought all of who she was into this mission. That’s what we’re called to do.”

Sisters Dina Bato and Regina Gallo are all smiles as they process out at the end of Mass.

Sister Dina Bato at left, with and Siser Regina Gallo, is all smiles as she process out of church on the day she made her first vows as a Sister of Providence.

Foundation Day in an intercultural context

As a woman proud of her Filipino roots, Sister Dina Bato sees the call of foundation day as a call to authenticity. Today, the women who are pioneers in the evolving space of religious life may not be huddling in a log cabin as Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and her companions did 175 years ago today. Still, Dina says, it’s just as crucial that we honor the context each sister brings as she sets foot on the new ground that is the Providence Community.

“We can learn so much from that. (As young women religious), we’re bringing all that we are into this mission. It’s important to remember that everything we bring is a gift.”

Dina admitted that for Mother Theodore and her companions, bringing their authentic selves into a new mission in the wild Indiana woodlands could not have been easy. This is where prayer comes in.

“I think just the fact that they didn’t run away really challenges me,” Dina says.

“They dealt with adversity head-on, but always with a sense of rootedness in prayer. Apart from our relationship with God, we are nothing. Just that realization kept Mother Theodore going.”

Her own foundation day

Dina explained that considering all the uncanny divine nudges she’s experienced in her life, she could point to a number of “foundation days” – situations or circumstances that seemed to point her toward life as a Sister of Providence.

Sister Dina Bato (right) with a guest at a recent Fall Discernment. The Sisters of Providence will host their 2014 Fall Discernment Weekend from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

Sister Dina Bato (right) shares her experiences as a Sister of Providence in formation with women considering religious life during a come and see weekend at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

For starters, although Dina attended a public elementary school, it was called Providence Elementary. Their mascot seemed to Dina the perfect embodiment of Mother Theodore and her companions – the Pioneers. Then, in her college years at Virginia Tech, Dina encountered a dining hall called Owens Hall and a dorm called O’Shaughnessy. Sound familiar? (She would later live in the formation community in Owens Hall and attend community meetings in O’Shaughnessy Dining Room!) On top of all this, Dina had a good family friend who graduated from Mother Guerin High School (now Guerin Prep High School), a Sisters of Providence school in River Grove, Illinois. Did I mention Dina hadn’t met a single Sister of Providence at this point? This Guerin Prep grad was the matron of honor in her sister’s wedding. Oh, and this same sister also used to live on Providence Lane. Are you getting goosebumps yet?

In Dina’s words, “You can’t plan this kind of stuff.”

Above all, though, Dina says her true “foundation day” would have to be June 26, 2011 – the day she took first vows. Although she had been part of the community for three years at this point, Dina said this step made it real for her. And in keeping with her trend of uncanny providential moments, it just happens that this was exactly 34 years to the day after her baptism on June 26, 1977…talk about refounding!

More signs of refounding

Dina points to the leadership and potential she sees in the sisters in formation as a sign of refounding. For her, this potential is made manifest in our newer members in a variety of ways: in gifts that help bring people together to worship, passions that lead to meaningful action, and a willingness to engage in important conversations.

“It looks different from what people thought leadership was years ago,” Dina says.

She says that in refounding, it’s crucial that we all “take a loving look at what is, hold it, reverence it, and be willing to be changed by it.”

Sounds like a fitting description of the journey that began 175 years ago with the words, “Come down, Sisters, we have arrived.”

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Sister Tracey Horan

Sister Tracey Horan is a Sister of Providence in formation. She professed first vows in 2017. She is a former intern at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence. She currently ministers as education coordinator at the Kino Border Initiative/Iniciativa Kino para la Frontera where she works with an education team to coordinate and host individuals and groups for immersions to the U.S./Mexico border in order to engage participants on the current reality of migration.

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4 Comments

  1. Paula Damiano, SP on October 22, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Thanks both to Dina and Tracey for strengthening my hope in the future of this Congregation! I see today as the beginning of another 175 years of living this life through works of love, mercy and justice.

    • Rita Clare Gerardot, S.P. on October 23, 2015 at 9:02 am

      Hi, Dina! I don’t think you could have had more “providential moments” than the many you spoke of in this blog. It seems Providence was beckoning from all sides. So grateful you were attentive to the many nudges you received in such unique ways! We count on our younger members to carry forth the mission and ministry begun 175 years ago. Thanks for all you are currently doing in service among God’s people.

      Rita Clare Gerardot, SP

  2. John Herbertz, Duluth, MN on November 6, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    Hey Tracey and Dina, Reminds me of my time in El Salvador. Whenever I seemed to be lost and not sure which way to go, I would stumble upon a tienda called, “La Divina Providencia”, and it would point the way. Providence seems to always guide our way, especially when we are running in the dark! LOL & Lots of Love, 🙂 Uncle John

  3. Mary Ryan on November 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Dina and Tracey,

    Both of you and the other women in formation give me hope about the future of the Sisters of Providence. Thank you for sharing, Dina and thanks Tracey for a well written article and also for your article in The Criterion. You are two awesome women!

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