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Sandwich and service are part of a larger mission

Longtime friends and Providence Associates Karen Goehl, left, and Rosaline Secrest help bring the mission of love, mercy and justice to people needing food in the north part of Terre Haute, Indiana, though the twice weekly sack lunch program.

It might seem small. A sandwich, some fruit, a can of soup, dessert. But it makes a difference in the day of the residents of Garfield Towers and Warren Village, government housing facilities for low-income residents on Terre Haute’s north side.

With that sandwich comes evidence that somebody cares. A smile. A question of how is your day. Health updates. Playful banter.

For the past several years, Providence Associates Karen Goehl and Rosaline Secrest have headed up the volunteers who distribute nearly 80 sack lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays to people in need. The small group of volunteers, usually four each day, works to make a difference.

“When I retired I knew I wanted to do something in the area of feeding people. There are so many people who are food insecure,” said Karen, a retired educator who largely worked with special needs children. She joined a committee with the local Catholic deanery that determined there was a real need for food assistance on Terre Haute north’s side. The sack lunch program was born.

“I just feel strongly that is what God calls us to do, to serve others. For me it’s really important,” Karen said. “I wanted to do more community service as a way to serve God. I see this as a blessing.”

The ministry stays afloat with support from churches, the Catholic Charities food bank, even donations from volunteers. Having enough funding can be a challenge.

Despite challenges, it is the people who keep them coming back, say both Rosaline and Karen.

Built on friendship

Karen and Rosaline are longtime friends who tend to bring each other along. Karen told Rosaline about the north side food ministry. It was Rosaline who encouraged Karen to become a Providence Associate.

Rosaline chats with a resident as she picks up her sack lunch.

“Rosaline said, ‘Karen you need to be a Providence Associate.’ She’s bossy so I kind of went with that. I decided to apply,” Karen says with a laugh.

The two women have been a part of the same small church community for more than 20 years! (Coincidentally, the group was created by Sister Adele Beacham, SP, when she ministered at Sacred Heart Parish in Terre Haute many years ago.)

Rosaline, a retired teacher, became a Providence Associate in 2007 after being encouraged to look into it by her friend Sister Ann Casper, SP. She has belonged to the same social justice Pax Christ group with Sister Ann for many years. Recently in her retirement, Sister Ann has joined the group of volunteers preparing lunches. She is now there on Thursday mornings putting bologna on bread.

Living the mission

Volunteer Patty Thoms prepares sandwiches with Sister Ann Casper, who recently joined the team of volunteers in her retirement.

Karen and Rosaline bring to life the sisters’ mission in their own local communities. They also volunteer at the Woods, serve on committees with the sisters, attend programs at the Woods and more.

“The sisters are the authentic church,” Rosaline says. She says having this community keeps her in the Catholic Church despite feelings of disillusionment with the institutional church.

Karen, an associate since 2016, says, “Being a Providence Associate has probably been the most instrumental thing that I have done in strengthening my faith in God. It really has. It corrals me; it structures me in a way.”

And serving people who are food insecure in their local community is a way to act on their love for God and their Providence mission.

(Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Mission Advancement office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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