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A community of friends: the Providence Associate relationship

Sisters of Providence General Officer and blog post author Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, center, with her Providence Associate companion Christine O'Connor, right, and her companion from several years ago Donna Kehoe, left.

Sisters of Providence General Officer and blog post author Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, center, with her Providence Associate companion Christine O’Connor, right, and her companion from several years ago Donna Kehoe, left.

“The friends of my friends are my friends.”

I have always loved this quote; mostly because it has come true so many times in my life.

And it happened again when 65 Providence Associates, Candidate Associates and Sisters of Providence gathered for their annual retreat in March. Entitled, “Belonging as Providence: Rooted in Relationships,” the retreat was facilitated by Sister Ann Sullivan. She helped all of us reflect on how our understandings of God, the universe and ourselves shape our spirituality, shape our relationships.

The retreat carried a powerful reflection on what it means to be in relationship with each other and with Providence. During the retreat I watched that happen; I observed my friends become friends with other friends.

It started from almost the moment I arrived and sought out Christine O’Connor. Christine and I are companions on the journey as she seeks to become a Providence Associate. We meet regularly to explore the Spiritual Integration Units that are part of the integration process in becoming an associate.

Providence Associate Jean Smith has grown from knowing only one sister to gaining a whole community of friends as a Providence Associate. Here she visits with sisters and associates at a social during the spring retreat.

Providence Associate Jean Smith has grown from knowing only one sister to gaining a whole community of friends as a Providence Associate. Here she visits with sisters and associates at a social during the spring retreat.

But almost simultaneous with my finding Christine was the arrival of Donna Kehoe who wanted to meet and connect with Christine. Donna and I were companions when Donna was becoming an associate (was that really six years ago?) Because Donna knew me she wanted to welcome Christine. We teased about who was the grandmother in this relationship (I guess that would be me!).

Donna’s reaching out to us made me more cognizant of the other relationships unfolding in the room. Here was Jean Smith, whose initial and only connection with the SPs was a relationship with Sister Catherine Livers, at home at a table with associates from Terre Haute as well as Indianapolis where she lives.

A group of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College graduates attracted my attention when I realized they spanned many class years. And, of course, there was the “family table” that included Bev McGuire, mother of Jessi Blessinger and Jennifer Drake, who were in attendance along with Jen’s husband Duane. When I joined them for conversation they were plotting how to convince Jessi’s husband to become a Providence Associate.

The spirituality of Providence tells us that all of life is interconnected, that all is holy, all is one. There was “oneness” in that room that day. I could see it AND feel it. I know the source is Providence.

Providence Associates are women and men of faith who choose to have an intentional relationship with the Sisters of Providence. They commit to sharing their own unique gifts and talents with others while walking with the Sisters of Providence. But they also walk with each other and that is making all the difference.

We invite you to walk more closely with us as a Providence Associate. Applications are being accepted now for those who wish to become Providence Associates in the coming year. Learn more at Providence Associates.org or request an application here.

Providence Associate Candidate Joan Richards gets to know other Providence Associates at the retreat, including spending time with her associate companion Jane Fischer at right.

Providence Associate Candidate Joan Richards gets to know other Providence Associates at the retreat, including spending time with her associate companion Jane Fischer at right.

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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2 Comments

  1. Debbie Dillow on April 5, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Beautiful reflection, S. Dawn, on a weekend of beautiful friendships and spiritual nourishment.

  2. Lorraine Kirker on April 5, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Thank you, S. Dawn! You got my day off to a lovely start but made me homesick too! What a treasure the associate relationship has been in my life.

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