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Being Providence in a world in need: Sister Dawn’s reflection to new Providence Associates

Father Dan Hopcus and General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski process in at the Providence Associate rite of commitment this past Saturday.

Father Dan Hopcus and General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski process in at the Providence Associate rite of commitment this past Saturday.

Back in the day, each Sister of Providence was assigned a home superior—someone from the community’s council that a sister would see annually or go to for special help or advice at any time. This is not unlike our current general officer liaison relationships. But often a sister would say of that home superior that she belonged to her. So, you would hear: “I belong to Sister Catherine Celine or I belong to Rose Loretto,” and so on.

At our recent Foundation Day celebration, Father Dan Hopcus, one of our first Providence Associates, talked about belonging. I had invited him, as one of three people, to share how our Foundation story gave him hope for the future. I asked him to speak from his perspective as a Providence Associate.

He told us that when he came to the Woods almost 15 years ago to become our chaplain, he felt a special closeness to the Sisters of Providence. But becoming a Providence Associate gave it an added dimension. “Rather than being a presider,” he said, “it allowed me to belong to the Community in a special way.”

I believe this may be what Jesus is saying to us through the Words of John in our Gospel reading today. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what the householder is doing. But I have called you friends….” I hear Jesus saying, “You belong to me.” Or better yet, “We belong to each other.”

Sister Dawn speaks with an associate before the ceremony.

Sister Dawn speaks with an associate before the ceremony.

Candidate Associates, today your public affirmation of your commitment to our Provident God through your participation in the life of the community of the Sisters of Providence, signals a new relationship, a deeper relationship with us and with each other as Providence Associates.

We do call you friends. You belong to this community in a special way. And we belong to each other. Together we belong to Providence. Together we are called to be Providence. The world needs us for this. And certainly, in light of all that has happened this week and in the weeks leading up to our national election as well as what may be required of us as a result of this election—our country needs us for this.

For the past year, I suspect you and your companion have felt like you belonged to each other as together you worked your way through the spiritual integration units—
• exploring your relationship with God,
• learning about prayer,
• discovering how the charism of Providence animates your life, and
• discerning what it means to be in mission and to be a part of the mission of the Sisters of Providence.

Above all, I hope you have embraced your own giftedness in the process. It is YOU with whom we seek to be in relationship. It is YOUR gifts that we need. Why else would God have called you to this relationship?

In the reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we are told about the variety of gifts and services and reminded that it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. “To each is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good.” Your commitment today signals your willingness to share your unique gifts in the larger context of the charism of Providence for that common good.

What does sharing your gifts demand of you as a Providence Associate? What does being Providence mean for you as a Providence Associate?
Here is the answer from the new associate mission statement fashioned during a more than year-long visioning process:

Providence Associates, in relationship with the Sisters of Providence, further the charism of the Sisters of Providence by co-creating a hope-filled world, building relationships, cultivating community, and living lives that challenge them to embody the face of Providence as they seek to be love, mercy, and justice in the world.

That’s quite a mouthful. But the world needs you for this. Our country needs you for this. We Sisters of Providence need you for this—
• to be a bringer a hope wherever you may be;
• to be a builder of relationships wherever you may be;
• to be a cultivator of community, wherever you may be;
• to be the face of Providence as you carry out that Gospel command to love one another.

The directions we set at our General Chapter this past summer are set off by a quote from Saint Mother Theodore. I think it is her version of today’s section of John’s Gospel:

“Grant, O my God, that all who dwell in this house may love you much, may love one another and may never forget why they came here.”

You and all the other Providence Associates are part of this household. We have chosen each other and are counting on each other to go and bear fruit. This is who and what you belong to now. Together we are Providence. Let’s never forget that. The world needs us for this.

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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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