The bond of friendship leads to lives as sisters
Having a good friend become a religious sister can be a great way to explore your own calling. This was the case for two of our newest Sisters of Providence (SPs).
Both Sister Emily TeKolste who entered the Sisters of Providence in 2016 and Teresa Kang who entered in the fall of 2017 became interested in joining the Congregation after sharing in the experiences of a friend who joined first.
Sisters Tracey and Emily
Sisters Emily and Tracey Horan met in 2013 at the Catholic Worker House in Indianapolis. Tracey had finished an internship with White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence, and had decided to enter the Congregation. While completing the SP entrance process, Tracey found full-time ministry work with the Indy Hunger Network, which helps all people gain access to nutritious food.
Tracey rented a room down the street from the Catholic Worker House and asked to join the residents Wednesday nights for dinner. This is where she met Emily.
Emily wrote in her blog about that time, “When I heard there was a future sister wanting to join the community, I kind of rolled my eyes. Who joins the nunnery these days, especially someone who wants to work in social justice?”
Tracey remembers, “Emily greeted me but I think she was a bit leery.”
Tracey kept showing up and she and Emily discovered that they both liked to run. They began running together before work, to train for a half marathon.
“Emily wasn’t used to talking with a buddy while running, so I ended up doing most of the talking. I shared my experiences of the discernment process and working with my spiritual guide, Sister Carole Kimes,” Tracey said. “I never put it together that it was something that Emily would consider. She was a friend who was accompanying me through this year of tough questions.”
Emily began asking Tracey questions about faith, God and life as a woman religious. Emily says she had first thought about religious life in high school but “not in any serious way.”
“Tracey invited me to a Come and See Weekend and we had a lot of fun — I fit right in,” said Emily. “I actually came away from the weekend at peace about not pursuing religious life. Something wasn’t right. So I began looking at the Providence Associates” (a group of non-vowed women and men who desire a deeper relationship with the Sisters of Providence.)
Tracey didn’t want to “color the process” for Emily, she said. “I didn’t want to pressure Emily but I could see a light and energy in her and I wanted her to be happy. We were close but she needed to do the work on her own. I had to stay out of the way.”
Tracey entered the Sisters of Providence in 2014. Emily’s Providence Associate Companion, also Sister Carole Kimes, encouraged her to visit and consider other religious communities. Emily did.
While on a trip to Guatemala to visit her sister, Emily was overwhelmed with certainty that she was going to be a sister and she needed to move forward with it. After visiting other communities, Emily realized that she didn’t feel the same connection with them that she did with the Sisters of Providence. Today, Emily is in her second year with the Sisters of Providence.
Sister Anna and Teresa
Teresa Kang and Anna (Tsai Ping) Fan knew each other for years at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan. Their relationship grew when Teresa started working with Anna at Miracle Home, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence in Taiwan that serves low-income clients who are elderly or have disabilities. Anna would ask Teresa to take photos during their Christmas activities.
It was at Miracle Home that Sister Anna first heard about the Sisters of Providence. She was “living a comfortable life in Taiwan” when she first felt the whispers to join the Congregation, she said. She joined the Sisters of Providence in 2014, moving to the United States to do her first years of formation with the Congregation.
Sister Anna invited Teresa to a Come and See Weekend at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, to learn more about the Congregation. “Anna told me ‘Join us! You must be here to meet God’s greatest love and freedom, peace and joy,’” Teresa said. She felt God calling.
When Sister Anna invited her to join the SPs, Teresa at first “escaped the invitation.” It wasn’t until Teresa saw Sister Anna’s novitiate entrance photos that she realized she wanted to join the community. Teresa said, “Tears drowned me. God began to awaken in the pace of my busy life. I started asking, is it the right time to change my way of life?”
Teresa came to the United States to join the Sisters of Providence as a postulant this past fall. Sister Anna’s friendship helped her make her decision.
“When I think seriously about starting with the SPs to discern my vocation, whenever there is doubt or worry, Anna shared her own experience.” Teresa worried about leaving her family members in Taiwan. Anna comforted and assured her. “She is always like a sister to encourage and teach me. Before Anna and I were friends. Now we are family members of the Sisters of Providence, with a multi-year friendship base to help me live more freely in this family,” Teresa said.
(Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of HOPE magazine.)
As I came across this (again) today and re-read about their friendship and Providence in their lives, it struck me that it has happened to me as well.
I, too, have found my dear friend, Jean Smith, through Providence on the PA side. The charism of Providence draws us in and as we open to it….well, I just can’t imagine being without it.