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The living and growing Providence Associate relationship in California and beyond

Is it really only 12 years since the Sisters of Providence Associate relationship officially came into being? It feels so right that it’s hard to imagine life without it.

When we Sisters of Providence first made the decision to begin this relationship, I was a little unsure. I had heard a couple of less-than-success stories about other communities. But I was more than reassured to learn that Sister Mary Alice Zander would be its guiding light. And so it has been, from the beginning and until now, with subsequent directors. The Providence Associate relationship has been a great gift in every way.

Sisters and Providence Associates in southern California gathered last year for a Providence Circle meeting at Sisters Carol and Loretta’s home.

My hands-on experience with Providence Associates came in California, during the time of our ministry at Providence in the Desert teaching English to migrant farm workers in Coachella. The Spiritual Integration Units, our name for the book of reflections for the year of preparation as a candidate moves with a companion toward being a Providence Associate — is so rich. It is filled with wonderful aspects of Providence life and spirit which the two get together about once a month to discuss. One of my favorites is a contribution from Sister Ruth Eileen Dwyer (RIP) called “My little hope…” The preparation experience continues to be an enriching experience for companions as well as candidates.

Providence Associates Pat Ruck and Linda McMahon

The actual beginnings, and really the heart of the associate life in southern California, centered over on the coast around Providence Associate Mary Jean (Jeannie) Smith, who, with associates Pat Ruck and Linda McMahon, inspired all of us to make connections and find ways to be together. On one occasion Linda renewed her commitment with us by phone! For a great many gatherings, Jeannie planned and wrote our prayer services.

Four wonderful friends made application and eventual commitments as Providence Associates while I was in California: April Bradley, Emma Contreras, Martha Langarica and David Rudolph. They are still very involved in the relationship. April came to the Woods with her husband to make her first commitment. Emma and Martha are hoping to come this summer. (Martha spoke at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods at the Mother Theodore Guerin Dinner for donors some years back.) And David, though he is not a traveler, is a model of engagement. 

Providence Associates Martha Langarica, Emma Contreras with Sister Marilú Covani at a California Providence Circle gathering.

The other Sisters of Providence in our area were and are very helpful: Sister Marilú Covani companioned Martha, Sister Cathy White David, my co-worker Sister Loretta Picucci Emma, and I shared in April’s journey. Besides our frequent gatherings in Coachella, several times we met in San Bernardino at one of their residences, including that of Sister Jeremy Gallet, who came on the scene a little later. 

Our newest California associates, Kathy DiFide and Kathy Markey, made the trek regularly from their homes near San Diego to Sister Loretta and me in Coachella for the year of preparation. The stories of their being called to the relationship made us more convinced than ever of the primacy of Providence in all of this. Now they often meet with the coastal three, with Jeannie still as convener. 

Our Providence Associates become a part of our community. They assist us as they are able: with their prayers, their monetary contributions, their traveling the long distances to participate in our gatherings, and with their outreach, both in California and in Indiana. They live the mission of Providence with their daily lives. In California when we were sick, some of the associates brought us food. Others came to help us with housework, ironing our clothes and doing other tasks we could not handle. April and her husband accompanied us to meet and talk with area politicians and other local friends. We became community together.

Since returning to Indiana, I see Providence Associates driving sisters to doctors’ appointments, acting as docents for visitors to the campus and helping with the many projects associated with carrying out the mission of the Sisters of Providence community. 

Providence does not appear to be finished with our California circle either! Ana Gonzales, a scholarship student of Providence in the Desert who is continuing to study at the College of the Desert, has expressed a desire to become a Providence Associate. We suspect that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Providence truly never fails, not ever.

Do you want to grow your spirituality and walk more closely with the Sisters of Providence? Apply today to become a Providence Associate! We’d love to have you as part of the Providence community.

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Sister Carol Nolan

Sister Carol Nolan recently retired from ministering at Providence in the Desert in Coachella, California, a ministry she founded in 2002. She currently lives and volunteers at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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