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Justice advocates and Providence Associates

Providence Associates Ben Kite, left, and Jeanne Rewa have found justice seekers, spiritual support and friendship among the Sisters of Providence.

Jeanne Rewa and Ben Kite are both Providence Associates and members of the Sisters of Providence (SP) Justice Coordinating Commission (JCC). Jeanne works for a nonprofit, World Savvy. She’s an online learning and engagement specialist supporting K-12 teachers to help their students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be change-makers on global issues. Ben is currently an independent consultant specializing in systems architecture and organizational development.

The couple, who lives in Terre Haute, Indiana, has a long history of justice advocacy that led them to the Sisters of Providence.

Jeanne spent her early years in rural Michigan surrounded by a large extended family of Polish/German descent. Her family later moved to a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. Jeanne grew up in a Catholic family of strong faith and a sense of community. Today Jeanne rejects aspects of injustice she sees in the Catholic church structure, but she hungers to grow in her spirituality.

Ben grew up in Terre Haute in a family of strong Jewish faith and culture. From his father, Ben inherited an appreciation for contemplation. Both his parents and his maternal grandparents instilled in him the responsibility to make the world a better place. He learned to practice kindness, compassion and justice, living out the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (to repair the world).

Meeting the SPs

Ben’s first visit to Saint Mary-of–the-Woods was when he was six and his sister came to summer camp. Jeanne’s began when she applied for college. She was looking for a school with a strong emphasis on developing women as leaders. After meeting administration and faculty at Sisters-of-Providence-sponsored Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), she was convinced that the college was serious about developing women’s leadership. She earned an individualized bachelor’s degree in race, class and gender studies in an international context from SMWC, graduating in 2002.

Ben majored in philosophy at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. He spent several semesters abroad. He studied at a Jewish theological seminary, at a yeshiva — an orthodox Jewish academy — and in a work-study program based on a kibbutz, a kind of Israeli intentional community.

Just as Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was immersed in a new country, culture and language, so were Ben and Jeanne. The couple traveled to China to teach English for two years. They wanted to live and work in another country to see the United States and the world through new eyes. They chose to live in China believing that understanding China was crucial to working for international social change.

They knew how to speak the language in terms of basic needs, but it was an ongoing challenge to learn enough to have meaningful conversations about politics. They learned how some everyday behaviors were interpreted quite differently in China.

Since returning to the U.S., their work for justice has been multifaceted. Racial justice, civil rights, gender equality, LGBT rights, School of Americas, criminal justice reform, animal rights, and environment, including climate change, are only some of the issues addressed.

In working for social justice, their strategies model just and nonviolent relationships with persons of very different perspectives.

Teaming up with the SPs

The Sisters of Providence Justice Coordinating Commission will focus in a special way on climate change. Ben sees this as an essential and urgent issue to be addressed. Jeanne had previously chosen to give up her intense effort to end the death penalty to put more emphasis on climate change because of the urgent need and immense impact on all of life.

What attracted the two to become Providence Associates in the first place?

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Ben had begun to notice that many of the justice issues and organizations in which he and Jeanne were active also included Sisters of Providence. Furthermore, several people he was meeting in these organizations spoke about being Providence Associates. He began to explore the relationship, wondering if his Jewish faith would be a hindrance. He learned that people of all faiths were welcome as Providence Associates and talked the possibility over with Jeanne. On Nov. 12, 2016, they both made their first commitment as Providence Associates.

Jeanne and Ben said they are longing to deepen their spirituality. As Providence Associates of the Sisters of Providence, they hope to find a sense of belonging in a community that shares their values.

The Sisters of Providence are honored to have Ben and Jeanne extending the mission of Providence alongside us in the world.

(Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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