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A reflection for Easter

Easter-Reflection-blog-ir-picHe Is Risen!

A joyful sentence of three words …

We will hear this so many times in the coming days and weeks as the Easter mystery unfolds, as we try to make sense of it all.

Let me share with you a true story that opens a door in my heart as I attempt to “make sense of it all.”

In the Congregation, we have Sisters of Providence who are also blood sisters. One of these sister pairs is Sisters Joseph and Patty Fillenwarth. More than a year ago, Sister Joseph was diagnosed with cancer. From the day of the diagnosis on, her mantra was “be positive.”

She never missed a day ministering on behalf of Providence Food Pantry in West Terre Haute. Her warm smile never dimmed. During chemotherapy, she lost all of her beautiful white and wavy hair, so she began to sport a number of colorful scarves that sisters in our sewing room had fashioned for her. Anytime anyone asked, “How are you, Joseph?” her reply was always a version of, “Staying positive. Pray for me.”

In the meantime, Joseph’s younger sister, Sister Patty Fillenwarth, had a different response to the news (one I identified with more than Joseph’s). Patty cried and worried. Patty would come from Chicago to visit Joseph and cry. She would call Joseph and cry. When anyone asked Patty how she herself was doing, she cried.

I am not certain if Joseph and Patty were talking on the phone or in person, but Patty was crying. Sometime during that conversation, Joseph said to her younger sister, “If you are going to pray for me and don’t pray with faith, then don’t pray for me at all.” Oh my!

When Patty repeated this to some of us, I felt jolted out of my complacency, my doubt, any understanding of praying for someone.

As I write, Patty and all of us rejoice that Joseph is cancer free. “Be positive. Pray for me.”

I know Sister Joseph’s admonition will follow me through Holy Week as I meet up with the scribes and Pharisees, Peter and the other followers of Jesus, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the Roman soldiers, the crowds, the disciple Jesus loved – a cast of characters much like ourselves.

When Mary finds the tomb empty, I will definitely remember Sister Joseph’s words.

Through all these holy days, I hope to approach the rituals, the liturgies with a version of her admonition. If I am going to move through these days and to celebrate Easter without faith, then I may as well not celebrate it at all. It sounds harsh to me, and it inspires me.

How am I doing this season?  Staying positive. Pray for me.

Happy Easter!

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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13 Comments

  1. Debbie Dillow on March 23, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Very powerful message as we approach Easter. Thank you for the “jolt” of faith.

  2. Peg Benson on March 23, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Thanks to you, Denise, I now have what I needed as we approach the Holy Days – focus and direction. Thank you so much.

  3. Lori Strawn on March 23, 2016 at 10:42 am

    These beautiful words were just what I needed. Thank you, S. Denise.

  4. Ann Clem on March 23, 2016 at 10:46 am

    I find your writings so practical and “down to earth”. Thank you for a living faith!

  5. Patty Fillenwarth on March 23, 2016 at 11:24 am

    With her first post chemo check up being excellent, I guess I finally have to admit she was right. Thanks, Denise, for remembering and reminding.

  6. Paula Modaff, S.P. on March 23, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    As always, Denise, you are right on. At table today in Providence, we remarked about how much you have energized us with your positive outlook. Sounds/looks like Resurrection to me!

  7. Evelyn on March 23, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    This has really jolted a new awareness in me. If not pray with faith, I might as well not bother to! This will certainly carry me through the Holy Week. Be positive, pray for me. Thank you very much
    Sr. Denise

  8. Monica D Hayden on March 24, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Thank you Sister, for reminding us of what it’s all about. Many times we go through the motions of prayer, but without really putting our hearts in it, or worse, without faith that it will be heard. (And then we complain that our prayers aren’t heard!)

  9. Jean Smith on March 25, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    A beautiful message S. Denise. What a blessing to be always positive and certainly, not
    easy. So much to continue to learn. Thank you

  10. Lorayne Cupero on March 25, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Beautiful. What a simple yet perfect message and reminder!

  11. Edmund Foley on March 26, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Would like to say hello to Sister Patty. Was glad to pitch in to her projects.
    May you all have a beautiful Easter.

  12. Kristy Fry on March 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Good reminder to us all. Thank you for sharing this story with us and also to Sr. Patty for allowing you to share this so that the rest of us would read the lesson.

  13. Kathy McVeigh Cabiness on March 31, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you for reminding us that to stay positive is a roofing act of faith in God’s great providence. My positivity has been the most successful medicine in my own cancer recovery, which I owe to God’s great care!

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