Providence Associate Rae Huffman

Can you give us a bit of background on your life?

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky on June 1, 1940. I spent three years in Germany because my dad was in the Army and stationed there from 1946 to 1949. I went to a German school, so when we returned to the U.S., I spoke German and for a while translated back and forth in school. Eventually, I dropped the German and only used English. I went to Catholic schools in Louisville beginning in 4th grade. I graduated from Presentation Academy and got married at 18. When my youngest child started school, I went to Marian College (now University), eventually graduating with a degree in Religious Education/Theology. I taught religion for one year at Carmel High School before my husband got transferred to Illinois. I volunteered at my home parish in several areas, including RCIA. When the pastor decided to hire a coordinator for adult faith programs, I applied and began working for the church. This led to 15 years of Pastoral Ministry, including acting as director of the Catechumenate as well as leading all adult faith programs in the parish. In 1990, I enrolled in the MAPT (Masters in Pastoral Theology) program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, graduating in 1997. After graduation, I became active in the Ministers of Providence, a group of MAPT graduates, thereby continuing my connection to the Woods and the Sisters of Providence. In 2003, I retired from my position as a Pastoral Associate at St. Joseph Parish in Libertyville, Illinois, to move to Fort Wayne and be close to my grandchildren. After spending my life focusing on teaching about religion and sharing my faith, I found myself at loose ends. I needed a focus other than my grandchildren. I now tutor at the Literacy Alliance here in Fort Wayne, helping adults pass the high school equivalency test.

Providence Associate Rae Huffman prays with sisters and associates at an annual meeting.

What first drew you into the Providence Associate relationship?

When I heard that Sister Mary Alice Zander (RIP) was starting a group to be Providence Associates, I contacted her. I did not think that I would be accepted because, by this time, I was no longer in any ministry. She assured me that ministry did not necessarily mean formal ministry in the church. I was invited to begin the process to learn about Providence and what it would mean to be in relationship to the sisters. I felt that my prayers had been answered. I felt that I had been called to a closer relationship with the sisters. I learned that there are many ways to follow the call of Providence and have a connection to the Sisters of Providence. The sisters follow Providence in a special way and have always been an inspiration to me. Years ago, I was at a conference and ended up in a small group of vowed women from various congregations, and I shared that I felt different because I was not in a congregation. One of the sisters said to me that my family was my congregation, and that I could live out God’s will within that relationship. Providence has always guided my life.

How do you live out your commitment to the PA relationship?

I try to keep in touch with other associates and with the sisters through the Internet. Newsletters and posts on Facebook help me know what is happening and what others are thinking. I joined a virtual circle (small sharing group) and we meet by phone once a month. Notices are sent by email. Even though we cannot see each other, we are beginning to connect. I enjoy reading Day-by-Day (the sisters three-times-a-week update email), because it makes me feel that I have a better connection with the sisters. Praying (especially the Prayer of Reunion) is important to living out my commitment to the PA relationship.

From left, Providence Associates Marilyn Webb and Rae Huffman with Sisters Dina Bato and Dawn Tomaszewski, share a laugh after a Providence Associate renewal.

Are there any particular SPs with whom you have an especially deep bond? Who and why?

Sister Mary Ann Fox was my companion in the associate journey and she encouraged me to look beyond the limitations that being in Fort Wayne presented. Her health has deteriorated, and she is now at the Woods, but we keep in touch — not as often as I would like, but when we do talk, she is always encouraging me to listen to Providence and trust in the guidance of Mother Theodore. Saint Mother Theodore’s writings are so valuable, even today, for living according to love, mercy and justice.

Sister Ruth Eileen Dwyer (RIP) recruited me for the MAPT program and encouraged me to keep on working toward my degree even though I was working full-time at the parish. I still miss her. When I graduated from the MAPT program, I told her that I would miss coming to the Woods. Her reply was that there were still many reasons for me to come to the Woods and she was right.

If someone asked you about becoming a Providence Associate, what would you tell him or her?

I would tell my story and encourage him or her to learn more about the relationship that we as associates have with the sisters and how that helps us to follow Providence in everyday life.

What do you see as the future of the PA relationship?

I see the PA relationship growing, with the sisters and with associates, as we continue on the journey that Saint Mother Theodore began. Together we can follow Providence and promote love, mercy and justice in our country and our world.