Providence spirituality in action: Sister Kathleen Desautels and 8th Day Center for Justice
Images of many Sisters of Providence come to mind when I read their mission statement: An image of one sister surfaces almost immediately: Sister Kathleen Desautels.
In 2010, at the suggestion of a priest friend, I applied to the Claretian Volunteers to serve at 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago. I was familiar with Catholic social justice but had never heard of 8th Day.
8th Day Center for Justice
8th Day Center for Justice was founded in 1974 by six religious congregations, including the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and the Claretian Missionaries. 8th Day is missioned “to act as a critical alternative voice to oppressive systems and to work actively to change those systems.” Today, 36 member congregations of Catholic religious and countless partners support the mission and work at 8th Day. (Learn more at 8thdaycenter.org).
During my two years at 8th Day, I had the opportunity work alongside Sister Kathleen and to learn from her. As I was studying the Spiritual Integration Units with my mentor Sister Pat Mahoney in preparation to make my commitment as a Providence Associate, the unit on Providence Spirituality was giving me difficulty. I read and reread this unit over the period of a month, but I was still not sure I really understood Providence Spirituality.
Around this time, I found myself with the 8th Day staff and friends from many social justice organizations throughout Chicago in a tense nonviolent direct action outside the Federal Building in Chicago. Our group was blocking the door of the building in protest of the Guantanamo Bay prison human rights abuses. Chicago Police gave repeated orders that we would be arrested if we persisted. That’s when I saw Sister Kathleen. She spoke to the police and then to those taking part in the action and then to the police again. I was comforted by her care and concern for every person taking part in this extremely tense situation.
On the line for the greater good
I started thinking about everything I had seen from Sister Kathleen during my time at 8th Day. What I saw was Providence Spirituality in action. In our conversations over those two years, I had heard many of Sister Kathleen’s stories, her thoughts and her prayers. I found a woman willing to put herself on the line for the greater good time and time again.
Saint Mother Theodore Guerin wrote, “Ours is a preparation for the generation that will succeed us, and eminent good will be done this way by us. You may not live to see it, but you will have sown the seed.” I know that Sister Kathleen’s work as well as that of all at 8th Day has and will continue to impact the lives of women, men and children.
Sister Kathleen’s influence continues to impact my own spirituality all these years later. She’s a large part of why I’m currently an intern at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. I have a vision of a “hope-filled world,” and I have Sister Kathleen to thank for that.
I hope to meet her
in the field.