Providence Associates celebrate 10 years
For Providence Associate Marilyn Rausch, joining the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, in mission and ministry was critical for her spiritually.
“Drawn in by the deep spirituality and the commitment with which the sisters live their lives, this relationship has provided personal growth and awareness that together, we can make a difference,” Marilyn said.
Marilyn is a member of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis. She is a retired physician, who practiced family medicine for 23 years and immediate care medicine for 13 years. She became a Providence Associate in 2014. Since then, she said the joy of being an associate and deepening her relationship with the sisters has “swelled from deep within.”
“Saint Mother Theodore said, ‘When we love one another in (God), we love (God) better,’” she said. “The sisters have continued to take those words to heart and surround all of us with that love. It is within that encompassing love that I find the joy of being part of a joy-filled community. That joy cannot help but spill out into every aspect of my life.”
The humble steps of the Providence Associates program began on Nov. 17, 2007, and 10 years later, the relationship continues to thrive.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the relationship. The anniversary coincided with the rite of commitment ceremony for the 2017 Providence Associates.
Providence Associates are women and men of faith who have chosen to have an intentional, spiritual and deeper relationship with the Sisters of Providence.
While the first group of Providence Associates entered the relationship with a rite of commitment ceremony on Nov. 17, 2007, the Sisters of Providence had looked into the addition of associates for several years before committing to the project.
In 2005, Sister Mary Alice Zander (RIP) was named founding director of the Providence Associates ministry. Later that year, Sister Mary Alice formed a committee, which included five sisters and five non-sisters to become the Associate Advisory Group. The goal was to develop the relationship.
And by 2006, the sisters were ready to move forward with this relationship, as they invited men and women to become Providence Associates. The application period came to a close in August 2006, and 71 people had showed interest.
Candidate-Associates were then paired with a Sister of Providence companion to go through a year of study, prayer and reflection before the rite of commitment ceremony. After the year, 54 of those first applicants became Providence Associates.
People from all walks of life have become Providence Associates.
“It has changed my life forever. I am more spirit filled. A calmness has come over me,” said Jan Surber, who has been a Providence Associate since 2012.
Jan’s first encounter with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods came in the mid-1990s when her daughter was a student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She had met Sister Gertrude Therese Garvey (RIP) at Saint Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.
As her daughter was attending the college, Jan found herself walking around the grounds, visiting the many sights. And after her daughter graduated, Jan elected to contact the sisters and go through the process of becoming a Providence Associate.
“I benefit from it so much, from being around the sisters,” Jan said. “It makes me stronger in my faith. I feel fulfilled. Being a Providence Associate has made me a different person. I’m calmer and I have an overwhelming sense of peace. I feel like I’m walking in the footsteps of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.”
Now 10 years into the ministry, there are more than 270 Providence Associates walking with the Sisters of Providence.
Current director of Providence Associates, Sister Diane Mason, has been involved with the ministry since its inception.
“I was the assistant director when we started, but I’ve been in this process for 10 years,” Sister Diane said. “The number of Providence Associates we had our first year was a positive surprise for us.”
Five years into the ministry, many Providence Associates approached the sisters. Sister Diane remembers the meeting very well.
“They said, ‘We want what you have,’” she said. “That want was spirituality.”
Consequently, the sisters decided to begin allowing Providence Associates to attend some sessions of their annual meetings, which take place during the summer.
“We have such a close relationship,” Sister Diane said. “We know we have taken off in a very positive way, but we have to go deeper in our relationship with our Provident God.”
Sister Diane said for the last 10 years, the relationship has grown by leaps and bounds.
“It is such a privilege to be in this ministry,” Sister Diane said. “We feel their energy. They’ve given us a tremendous amount of positive energy and we’ve given a tremendous amount of positive energy to them.
“I am in awe of the associates; their sincerity, their responsive enthusiasm. They are honored to do this and we are honored by them. Our relationship has evolved beautifully.”
If you feel called to explore the Providence Associate relationship, learn more at ProvidenceAssociates.org or contact Debbie Dillow, Providence Associate, at 317-250-3294 or by email at email@example.com.
About the Sisters of Providence
The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.