One step at a time: Sister Dina on upcoming vows
“Give me nothing more than Your love and grace. These alone, O God, are enough for me.”*
For nine years I have been in initial formation with the Sisters of Providence. On June 25, I profess FOREVER the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Over the past week, I have been spending many a prayer time reflecting on the forthcoming profession and its meaning for me at this juncture of my journey. No doubt, forever is a long time and such a declaration ought not to be taken lightly. The following resolutions I will make during the liturgy evidence the vital magnitude this perpetuity calls for. They speak to my soul through a heart-warming whisper:
- To persevere in following Christ as a Sister of Providence all the days of my life;
- To unite myself more closely to God by the bond of perpetual profession;
- With the help of God’s grace, to persevere in taking the aforementioned vows;
- To strive steadfastly for perfect love of God and of neighbor by living the Gospel with all my heart;
- By the grace of the Holy Spirit, to spend my whole life in the generous service of God’s people, and;
- As a member of the Sisters of Providence, to further God’s Providence through works of love, mercy and justice in service among God’s people.
To persevere … all of my days … to unite by the bond … to strive steadfastly … with all my heart … to spend my whole life in generous service … works of love, mercy and justice in service among God’s people. What an order! Am I up for it?
“Take my heart, O Lord, take my hopes and dreams.
Take my mind with all its plans and schemes.”
I am drawn as well to other words on which the call toward yes stands: following Christ … more closely to God … with the help of God’s grace … by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
I could not have reached this point without being aware of God’s care and Providence active at every moment of my life, as well as continually learning how to turn my will and life over to God’s Providence. Turning everything over as life happens, however, has been far from easy. Have I been perfect at it? By no means! There have been times where I’ve intended to turn everything over, but I’ve held onto certain parts of my life, afraid of what letting go of them might result in. God’s grace, mercy, love and call have given me the necessary freedom letting go calls for, allowing me to receive much-needed transformation.
Watch Sister Dina's vows ceremony live!Tune in this Sunday, June 25, at 11 a.m. to the Sisters of Providence Facebook page, to watch via Facebook Live as Sister Dina Bato professes her perpetual vows and as Sisters Anna Fan and Tracey Horan make their first vows as Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
By the grace of God, I have grown to see how difficulties in ministry can reveal relational growing edges and matters that need healing within me.
By the grace of God, through the bonds of community, I have been gifted with people who understand the struggle and gift of living the vows, and who undeniably and lovingly, sometimes through tough love, encourage me to get out of myself (from head to heart) and look toward meeting the needs of the day as they come and as I am able.
“Take my thoughts, Oh Lord, and my memory.
Take my tears, my joys, my liberty.”
As I consider the various aspects of my life, not just my life with the Sisters of Providence, I am awed by how Providence has enveloped and continues to envelop my life. One of my favorite sayings is, “You can’t plan this stuff!” Somehow, some very difficult parts of my past have brought me to people and places instrumental to my reaching this point. From early years of struggling academically to successfully completing undergraduate and graduate degrees. From shifts in employment that brought me to a full-time volunteer opportunity where I met the Sisters of Providence for the first time. From service in the public sector to service in the Church. From having preconceived notions of how religious life should look to embracing it for all it is and can be. From searching for my life’s purpose to finding passion and love. I know I could not have planned my life any better. I am reminded regularly to be open and teachable no matter who my teachers are. That every journey starts and continues, one step at a time. And that everything is gift.
“I surrender, Lord, all I have and hold.
I return to you your gifts untold.”
Gathering all of the gifts my life has brought, I see how each gift, when lovingly received and used as intended, can bear and has borne great fruit. I’m continuously learning that such life’s fruit grows to be shared, to give life to others.
So am I up for living the resolutions mentioned earlier? I believe that, by the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit, yes I am. I see that I have been growing toward this slowly but surely. Each day that ends with a yes to this life ends with a peace that surpasses all understanding. Throughout the initial formation process, I have been given the tools and relationships to help grow a lifelong commitment to this life. This juncture is a step through the threshold that peacefully affirms those life-giving resolutions in perpetuity. Undoubtedly, I am merely an instrument that has said yes to the Holy Spirit along the way, not always willingly. God has beckoned me to move forward day by day to do the next right thing.
May God’s will be done in this life, and may all glory be given to God alone! With all my heart, I say, “Yes, my God!”
“When the darkness falls on my final days,
take the very breath that sang your praise.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.”
*Song lyrics throughout from “These Alone Are Enough” by Dan Schutte
Editor’s note: Tune in this Sunday, June 25, at 11 a.m. to the Sisters of Providence Facebook page, to watch via Facebook Live as Sister Dina Bato professes her perpetual vows as a Sister of Providence and as Sisters Anna Fan and Tracey Horan profess first vows.
“Each day that ends with a yes to this life ends with a peace that surpasses all understanding.” Oh, Sister Dina, your words are so powerful and full of spirit!
Thank you for saying “yes” and thank you for sharing your very heart and soul in your words…..the world is a better place because of you.
Hi Sister Dina, I met you at the Woodland Inn on New Years weekend. I was there visiting my aunt, Sister Margaret Kelly, who was in the infirmary at the time. I just want to say CONGRATULATIONS!!!! And, also. this is a beautiful essay that you wrote! Wishing you all the best!
Congratulations on having come so far in your journey with God. Becoming a Sister of Providence is a brave, bold and love-filled commitment. My prayers are with you and my joy. You bring happiness and inspiration to the rest of us in our commitments to God. I will say special prayers of thanks for you and for the rest of your journey on the 25th.
Happiness, joy and fulfillment abound.
Dina. This is so beautiful. I can take much wisdom from it, as I make my journey as a Sister of Providence. I will keep you in prayer in these important days. Mary
Congratulations, Sister Dina! I will pray for you on Sunday as you take your final vows to
become a Sister of Providence. I look forward to meeting you sometime when I visit St. Mary’s,
and my sister friends. Your essay is inspirational and beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.I loved the poetry, and how you included it in your lovely essay.
God bless you from Greenfield, Indiana!
PROBABLY NOBODY WILL REMEMBER ME!!
I MARRIED A MAN FROM Indianapolis. I’M a Canadian.
He was completing a PH.D AT Indiana University
AND I was teaching at St Charles in Bloomington
and then later at Indiana School for the Deaf.
We moved later to Canada and I taught at Ontario
School for the Deaf and then started a program in
Ontario in a regular school.
My dream was that the students could stay at home with their families
and attend school there.
It was quite successful. I am now retired and our 4 beautiful children are grown. -Gwen Johnston
I MUST SAY THAT 1 enjoyed every moment of teaching and raising children.
Wishing each of you many joyous and blessed days! -Gwen Johnston