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Providence Associate connects to the Woods

Donna Snelling carries a candle prepares to carry a candle in the procession at her first commitment liturgy as a Providence Associate in 2014.

Donna Snelling carries a candle prepares to carry a candle in the procession at her first commitment liturgy as a Providence Associate in 2014.

Why did I become a Providence Associate?

There are so many emotions and personal experiences about becoming a Providence Associate that it is difficult even to begin to put it into words.

My first experience with Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was in September of 1999. That was when I became a Woods External Degree (WED) student. Setting foot on campus for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the sense of tranquility that rushed over me as I drove by Le Fer Hall. I remember how in awe of the campus I was that day. Everyone was so welcoming. It just felt like home.

As my years in the WED program went on, I grew closer to some of the faculty and staff at the Woods. I volunteered at WED returns and sometimes in the WED office as well. Eventually I became a mentor. I began to experience the tears of joy when I would arrive on campus and then the tears of sorrow as I would leave.

As my WED graduation approached, I was so disheartened that I was going to lose my connection to the Woods. The place that had empowered me as a woman was soon going to be a place that I no longer had a connection to. Then during my last few semesters, I took a few Theology classes. These classes sparked my curiosity about becoming Catholic. The only child of five to not be a “Cradle Catholic,” I began researching more and asking questions of many people I knew at the Woods. I eventually graduated from the WED program and soon after enrolled in the Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology (MAPT) program.

After much prayer, I did indeed become Roman Catholic. And, much to my surprise, my youngest son also went through the process of joining with me! This drew me in even closer to wanting to help the Sisters of Providence. It was at this point I asked myself repeatedly: How am I going to keep this connection once I have my master’s??

Long talks with the MAPT director, Providence Associate Virginia Unverzagt (RIP), led me to my decision (and want) to become a Providence Associate. Those talks were about our lives, the future, and why I wanted to stay involved with the Sisters of Providence. (Virginia was a great director. She is greatly missed.)

It took me a year longer than the average candidate to become a Providence Associate. Life definitely got in the way many times, but thankfully I had Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp as my sister companion. Although I felt my “gift” may not be that great compared to others, she encouraged me to continue doing what I am. She helped me to realize that what I do does extend mercy and love to others. Sister Jeanne taught me, “We are only human.” While Virginia taught me “We all have a story.” Both very important things to remember when one is trying to extend love and mercy.

I intend to stay a Providence Associate for as long as I can, in the hopes that someone somewhere will think of the Sisters of Providence when they think of me. And also, in the hopes that maybe I can influence one person to love and listen unconditionally. Because we are indeed only human and all with a story to tell.

Might becoming a Providence Associate be for you? May 31 is the deadline to apply to become a Providence Associate in the coming year. Learn more here.

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Donna Snelling

Donna Snelling became a Providence Associate in 2014. She has a marketing degree and a master's in pastoral theology, both from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently spends much of her time seeing the country while accompanying her husband in his tractor trailer.

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1 Comment

  1. Theresa Tighe on June 18, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Lovely entry. And written at 4:13 a.m. I am writing these words in my commonplace book for reflection.
    “And also, in the hopes that maybe I can influence one person to love and listen unconditionally. Because we are indeed only human and all with a story to tell.”
    Theresa Tighe

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