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Sisters and interns: becoming a little bit of each other

A relationship of connection and reverence. White Violet Center for Eco-Justice interns Liv Charlton, left and Virginia Cheij with Sister Ruth Johnson, SP.

Most interns who spend months living among the Sisters of Providence while working and learning from the land gain much from the experience.

Liv Charlton became an intern at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence, last year shortly after graduating from high school in Des Moines, Iowa.

“From being around the sisters, one thing I’ve gotten and am still getting is broadening my idea of what spirituality is,” she said. “It’s really more individual. Before, I thought it was one main thing with harsh rules. But it’s more fluid and, like, a whole deeper process.”

Intern Virginia Cheij, of Nashville, Tennessee, values the relationships she’s developed with the Sisters of Providence.

Intern Liv prepares organic peppers for distribution.

“I feel so much more connected to the environment and these woods because of them,” she said. “I just hope that I’m as lucky as these women in this community someday to have what they have with all the people who love them. They have so many people that surround them in their daily life.”

Impacting each other

Sister Ruth Johnson, SP, (formerly Sister Joseph Maurice) spends many hours a week doing her fiber art at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice. She said the interns have an impact on the Sisters of Providence, as well.

“I think it’s a two-way street. We also have a reverence for the interns. We respect that young people today have such a commitment to the sacredness of Earth and show it by coming and getting dirty in the garden and getting kicked by the alpacas,” Sister Ruth said. “We have a situation of youth and age. We have the whole gamut of what it means to be a part of a lifetime. We have the experience of youth, when we’ve given up our youth to embrace age. And they have a turn to look at what’s coming.”

The relationships that are built while caring for Earth together leaves an impact.

Intern Virginia caring for one of the chickens at White Violet Center

“There’s no way either one of us could go without being touched by the other after we’ve come in contact,” Sister Ruth explained. “We become a little bit them and they become a little bit us. We carry that with us throughout life. Our friendships and our theories and our spirituality merge, so from that we have an evolution.”

Sister Ruth believes once an intern’s experience at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods comes to a close and they continue on their life journey beyond the Sisters of Providence ministry, it represents a form of the Sisters of Providence going out into the world.

“Along this course, somehow or another, your values are going to shift, your thoughts are going to change,” she said. “You’re going to get a new aspect on how to continue life. That all happens with your acceptance — your willingness to be open to it.”


(Originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Cheryl Casselman

Cheryl Casselman worked as a marketing manager for the Sisters of Providence for twenty years. She grew up in Camby, Indiana and now lives in Sullivan County, Indiana. She has a bachelor's degree in communications from Indiana State University and master's degree in Leadership Development from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

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