Providence people: a reflection for Providence Associate rite of first commitment
As I look out at all of you gathered in this church today:
• our candidate associates on the verge of making your first commitment —
• as well as many others of you here to recommit yourselves as Associates —
• and then there are those of us here just to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Providence Associate Relationship,
I can’t help but think of that quote of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin on our new Associate wall display in Providence Spirituality and Conference Center: What a sweet providence it is to find friends thus willing to assist us.
A sweet providence indeed.
A not so sweet providence happened for me about six years ago when I became the general officer liaison with the Providence Associates. Our new SP leadership team had been meeting with SP staff. We were informing them about what each of us would be doing. I let it slip out that I was liaison with the Providence Associate program.
Well, our little presentation was no sooner over and as I was leaving the room someone blocked my path. This person pointed a finger at me and said, “Sister Dawn, it is not an Associate program. It is a Providence Associate relationship.” She didn’t even have to say, “and don’t you forget it,” because I never have.
That incident came quickly to mind again as I reflected on the readings selected for this celebration today. My finger-pointing friend might as well have been Jesus saying to me, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what the householder is doing. But I have called you friends.”
So, Candidate and Providence Associate friends, we are grateful that you have found your way to this relationship — a relationship with the Sisters of Providence for sure, but also a relationship with each other as Providence Associates across this country and in Taiwan. It is also a relationship with this place — Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. So many of you tell us that the Woods becomes home for you, too.
But most of all, it is a relationship with a loving God who has gifted all of us with the charism of Providence. As the first reading indicates there are a variety of gifts. We are certainly grateful for the individual gifts you bring to this relationship. But the gift we all share — sisters and associates — is the charism of Providence. That is what makes us different from the Franciscan or the Notre Dame or the Mercy sisters and associates.
And it is our responsibility because of our vows and the commitments you make today — to honor Divine Providence and to bring the loving care of that Provident God into our world. As I have found myself saying so often in the past year — the world needs us for this. This is our call to mission. The gifts we have, we are given to share. As Paul says, “…each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
I know during the past year, candidates, you with your companions have explored that charism as well as your own giftedness.
Early on when I was finding my way as a Sister of Providence, Sister Barbara Doherty, my co-provincial at the time, told me that we do not come to the community of Providence to find the charism of Providence; we are drawn to the community, called to this community because we already have the charism of Providence.
I would ask that no matter where you find yourself in the days ahead, no matter what individual commitment you make today, you begin to see yourself as a person of Providence — as an associate with Providence — a Providence Associate. Allow the Providence that already abides in you to deepen and flourish.
As we heard Jesus say in the Gospel reading: “As God has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.”
Which really brings me to the feast we celebrate today — the Feast of Our Lady of Providence. When I look at this picture of Mary and the baby, the word ABIDE just comes home to me.
Is Mary NOT abiding in the love of God offered to her in the miracle of this child, Jesus. And is not this baby totally at home in her arms, basking in the protective, loving care, the providence of this mother, Our Lady of Providence? Oh, that people would be at home in our presence.
Perhaps it was because Mary so abided in God’s love, so trusted in that love, that she made Providence alive in her life and thus active in the world. From the time she found herself pregnant, to the moment she stood at the foot of the cross, she seemed to be able to trust God’s promises to her and embrace and continually nurture her son as the Christ.
Our Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was like that as well. She saw the gifts she received as “proof of the tender watchfulness of that divine Providence.”
And she challenged us to use those gifts to be “devoted to the service of our neighbor, to cooperate so intimately with our blessed Lord in the work for which he laid down his life.”
So…let’s all meet back here a year from now and celebrate how we have shared the gifts of our tender-hearted, provident God. Let’s see how we have cooperated with the designs of Providence in our own time.
Let’s abide in being Sisters of Providence and Providence Associates during the coming year and cultivate the union among us by:
- So loving our neighbor that we foster community and communion wherever we go.
- So showing mercy that we engender hope wherever we go.
- So doing justice that our actions and advocacy lead to change and reduce the violence and hatred in our world.
The world does need us for this. And what a sweet and powerful Providence that would be.
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