Meet Emily: Sister of Providence postulant introduces herself
Editor’s note: Meet the newest member of the Sisters of Providence! Emily TeKolste began her postulant year with the Sisters of Providence on Sept. 7, 2016, with a knocking ceremony on Providence Hall doors. In today’s blog she shares a little about herself and her journey.
It was more than three years ago when I had the urge to Google search “Catholic Worker Indianapolis.” I was hoping to connect with other justice-minded individuals in Indianapolis. Little did I know that through Catholic Worker I would meet Tracey Horan, who was discerning becoming a sister at the time. Tracey re-introduced the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods into my life. This deeply captured my attention and brought me to the beginning of my own life as a Sister of Providence.
I grew up in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel. I attended Cathedral High School, where I took a class with Sister of Providence Mary Ann Stewart. I traveled to Rome with the Sisters of Providence for the canonization of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin as a high school student. I had some inklings of interest in religious life in high school. But I struggled during college with my beliefs about God and the Catholic Church. Religious life wasn’t on my radar.
I attended Xavier University in Cincinnati and majored in sociology. There I delved into issues of injustice by immersing myself in the Dorothy Day Center for Faith & Justice and the Academic Service Learning program. I spent a semester in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and took classes centered around urban communities, poverty, and injustice.
During my service learning, I experienced the importance of relationships in work for justice. At one site, I worked with Sharon, who was employed as an AmeriCorps volunteer to run the food pantry. To me, AmeriCorps programs were volunteer opportunities. But I learned that Sharon found this opportunity as a job because she couldn’t find another to help provide for her two sons. Through our relationship, I connected my family’s abundance – an old computer – with her family’s need – a computer with programs that could assist her special-needs son in his academic work. It wasn’t charity; it was simply a friend sharing with a friend.
During college, my coursework and extracurricular activities fostered an interest in environmentalism and sustainability. I served as a Student Sustainability Intern, coordinating efforts between the university-wide sustainability committee and the student body.
After graduating, I returned to Indianapolis and worked in farm-based education and online publishing.
To foster the types of relationships I grew to value in college, I moved into the Catholic Worker community. It accepted people at various stages of their faith journeys and from all backgrounds to work together to provide hospitality and seek justice. When I met Tracey, I wasn’t excited about a future sister joining the community. I didn’t understand what that meant. Then Tracey and I started running together. During one morning run she shared her vocation story. When I continued asking questions in the days that followed, she began to sense something was up and invited me to a discernment retreat.
Meanwhile, my professional life took a few turns. While continuing to work in farm-based education for a while, I also dabbled in entrepreneurship, the nonprofit world, and child care.
Though I wasn’t ready to move forward in pursuing religious life, I wanted to deepen my connection to the Sisters of Providence. I began the discernment process to become a Providence Associate. It became clear through my conversations with my mentor Sister Carole Kimes that I was looking for a different way to engage with religious communities than the associate relationship offered. Sister Carole guided me through initial discernment, including exploring other communities.
During this time, my mom and I went to visit my sister in Guatemala. While there, I found myself overcome with the sensation that I was going to be a sister and I was at complete peace with it. One morning, before I was out of bed, I developed a sense of urgency to move forward toward entering religious life.
Back home, Sister Carole challenged me to trust this urgency as God’s way of communicating with me and that God would let me know if I was on the wrong path. She’s continued to guide me in my discernment over the past year.
I now realize that what attracted me to the Sisters of Providence was the personal relationships I developed with many sisters. It was also their commitment to justice issues, especially eco-justice, and the broad understanding of spirituality I found among them.
As I begin my postulant year as a Sister of Providence, I’m excited to dig deeper into myself, the community, my relationship with God, and my engagement with justice issues. You can follow my journey on my blog: solongstatusquoblog.wordpress.com.