Reflections for Reception into the Novitiate
What beautiful readings Teresa/Hwei Ru has given us to reflect on today as we prepare to receive her into the novitiate of the Sisters of Providence.
The reading from Romans reminds us that all things work for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to God’s purpose.
And it always good to have those powerful words of Saint Mother Theodore lifted up—“Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.” And if you do, Teresa, all will be well.
These are trustworthy messages for you to take into a year that is prescribed by our Constitutions as a time to internalize Gospel values, to take extended time for prayer and spiritual direction, to give service, and to receive instruction in the religious life, scripture, theology and the history and traditions of our Congregation.
Love God, trust God—all will be well.
But these are not the words that moved my spirit as I prepared for today. It is Teresa’s words, the words she has written by way of requesting entrance into the novitiate that have touched me and offered me a glimpse of what might be demanded of Teresa in the year ahead, in fact, throughout her life as a Sister of Providence—and, perhaps, throughout all our lives.
In just a few minutes, Teresa is going to tell God and all of us, her companions on this journey, that:
- She wants to learn the charism of this community—those gifts that come to us from a Provident God—love, mercy and justice;
- She desires to be a true daughter of St. Mother Theodore; and
- She intends to glorify our God in the world and become God’s merciful witness.
It will be your task in the days ahead, Teresa, to shape how you will live out these desires of your heart. But I thought I might help get you started:
- Your first desire—to learn the charism.
I am confident that your formation directors, other sisters and associates have already taught you and will continue to teach you a great deal about the charism of Providence both in word and deed, especially as we live out that charism through works of love, mercy and justice.
As a community, we pray that you will continue to be open to the designs of Providence for your life. I hope that you also will remember that you bring with you your own particular charism—shaped by your own history, culture, temperament, gifts and limitations. A charism is given not for the glory or satisfaction of the recipient but as a responsibility to benefit others. We welcome your gifts, Teresa, and are counting on those gifts to enliven the Providence community.
- Your second desire: to be a true daughter of St. Mother Theodore.
In so many ways, Teresa, you have already experienced life as a Sister of Providence as Mother Theodore did—as a stranger in a foreign land. To think, it was less than a year ago that you cast your cares upon our God, packed your bags and left your home in Taiwan for a place where both language and custom were unfamiliar. And I don’t know about the rest of you sharing in this ceremony today but my experience of Teresa is that in the midst of everything, she retains her calm demeanor and ever present smile (well, most of the time anyway).
We pray that Mother Theodore will enable you to continue to cast your cares upon Providence. I also place you under the special protection of Mother Marie Gratia Luking, the foundress of our original Asian mission. To be her daughter, Teresa, would be to be filled with courage, perseverance and peacefulness.
And finally, your last request:
- To glorify God and become God’s merciful witness.
One of the best ways to glorify God in our world is to honor God with our lives, to give ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever is undertaken. I love the Howard Thurman quote that says, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Our world does need people who have come alive with God’s mercy. We pray that your desire to become God’s merciful witness will, in fact, lead you to find those situations and people most in need of your compassion and mercy. And, I feel sure, that if you do that you will help make another kind of world possible.
These requests that you are making, Teresa:
- To learn the charism
- To be a true daughter of St. Mother Theodore
- To glorify God and become God’s merciful witness
I believe these requests are not only desires of your heart but also God’s deepest desires for you; God’s invitation to you at this moment; and God’s blessing for this community of Providence which receives you.
God’s invitation to you is not unlike the one God issued to Mary of Nazareth, the woman you chose to put on the front of your invitation and on the worship aid for this liturgy.
And your yes, like her yes, matters. To use the beautiful sentiment of Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr, “The Spirit needs a Mary, a body, a womb, a humanity that says, ‘I want you.’”
The community of Providence needs a Teresa to embody love, mercy and justice, to show us how to be true daughters and sons of St. Mother Theodore, and to glorify God in the world by becoming God’s merciful witnesses.
Your yes does matter. And your yes will strengthen our collective yes. You are no longer an “I.” We welcome you today into an intentional relationship with US. Together may we strive to become one—one heart—cor unum.
Together may we carry out God’s desires for our lives for the sake of the world.
Together may we follow those bold words of Saint Mother Theodore: “Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence. Trusting all your affairs to God and putting them also under the protection of Mary and Joseph. You will see that all will be well.”
It is now my privilege, on behalf of the entire Community of Providence, to call you forth Teresa, to be officially received into the novitiate.
Here is a link to a photo gallery from Sister Teresa’s entrance into the Novitiate.