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What is your word for 2019?

Amid the many and varied pictures of family Christmas gatherings currently posted on Facebook, this question, “What is your word for 2019,” has been making an appearance.

Susannah Conway, author and photographer, has actually created a test to help you determine your word. She developed this in place of making a New Year’s Resolution, which she says has never really worked for her (or for anyone for that matter)! “Choosing a word as a guiding light for the new year works better because it feels so much more EXPANSIVE.”

I don’t need Facebook or Conways’ test to determine my word for 2019. My immediate response? “Grateful.”

This might have something to do with the fact that I received a beautiful book as a Christmas gift entitled, “Grateful.” Early on, the author, Diana Butler Bass, offers a new twist on an old truth. “For centuries, Westerners have defined gratitude as a commodity of exchange – a transaction of debt and duty … built on required reciprocity.”

She suggests an alternative structure of gratefulness – that of gift and response. “In this mode, gifts exist before benefactors. The universe is a gift. Life is a gift. Air, light, soil and water are gifts. … We are all beneficiaries … we express our appreciation by passing gifts on to others. When we share gifts, we become benefactors toward the well-being of all.”

As a Sister of Providence, who believes in a God whose loving care provides endless gifts, this notion of gratefulness expands my mind and heart and reminds me to focus on what I want to pass on to others.

Certainly, I want to pass on the gift of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, not only to my Sisters of Providence and Providence Associates, but also to all those needing the peace and serenity, the loving and healing presence of the Holy that is the Woods.

And beyond Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, I want to pass on clean air, light, soil and water for the next generation. What can I do this coming year to help make that happen?

Certainly, I want to pass on the very gift of faith in a loving Providence that has been planted and nurtured in me by my family, by my religious community, by the experiences of my life.

And what better way to pass on that faith than by allowing that faith to be alive and active in what I do. I think that might be what we Sisters of Providence mean when we say we will honor Divine Providence by devoting ourselves to works of love, mercy and justice; when we say we will collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service, and advocacy.

Diana Butler Bass suggests that practicing gift-and-response gratefulness will empower both personal and social change. “And it might be what saves us, as individuals and as communities.”

It occurs to me we have our work cut out for us! What better way to welcome the New Year.

What will you pass on in 2019? What is your word for 2019?

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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2 Comments

  1. Bernadette Shonka on December 31, 2018 at 6:55 am

    If no human is “illegal” we reverted to total lawlessness. That’s a tragedy. Everything of value has laws and borders. We lock the tabernacle because Jesus is sacred and precious and we protect HIM from profanation and violence. We must do the same for our country. I think school buildings, convents, and monasteries are also locked–last time I checked. There should be no law or regulation without a good purpose. Those with good purpose must be obeyed or chaos is the result – which is what we are seeing in many cases. God help us. Holy Spirit please lift the cloud of Satan from the minds and hearts of so many and permeate them with truth, faith, and love.

  2. Tracey Horan, SP on January 2, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    Thanks for this reflection, Dawn! I’m grateful and proud to be part of a community that sees the dignity in every human person, that knows the image of God is alive in each of us regardless of our immigration status. And certainly we know that our own Foundress St. Mother Theodore’s immigration status was uncertain. Indeed migrants today and over the generations have modeled for us what it means to “break boundaries” and “create hope.” Thanks for your thoughtful and inspiring reflection. What a great way to start the new year!

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