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A Reflection for a Golden Jubilee

When Katherine Ann French joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence 50 years ago this September, how could she have known that 50 years later she would be the only one celebrating this Golden Jubilee as a Sister of Providence?

Sister Mary Beth Klingel (left) and General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski (right) with 2019 Golden Jubilarian Sister Katherine Francis French.

To use the theme of sowing and reaping that is laid out for us in the readings and songs Kathy has chosen for this Eucharistic liturgy today (Wednesday, July 3, 2019) – five of the other women who also arrived during 1969 to begin their journey as postulants of the Sisters of Providence went on to sow other seeds, in other fields.

We know those were tumultuous times. The words from Sirach seem especially poignant in light of that: “Accept whatever is brought upon you, and in changes that humble you be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable people in the furnace of humiliation. Trust in God, and God will help you.” This passage from Sirach is also the one used to mark the feast of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

Today, we celebrate the ways Sister Katherine Francis French – Kathy – has relied on Providence, has received the seeds she was to sow as a Sister of Providence and with the help of God and the inspiration and support of her Sisters – has reaped a bountiful harvest in the service of the mission of our Provident God. Your faithful witness, Kathy, provides inspiration and support for all of us on the journey with you as sisters in Providence.

Had I thought of it sooner, I might have contacted:

  • Some of the many students Kathy has taught over the years at St. Rose, Chelsea, and the Immaculata in Washington, D.C.,
  • Or the many people who felt her healing touch as a LPN in various nursing centers and as a visiting nurse,
  • Or those with whom she walked as DRE, youth minister, and faith formator in various parishes;

I would ask them to give testimony to the ways she has sown bountifully – as Paul suggests in the second letter to the Corinthians – or has died to self in imitation of Jesus – as the passage from John’s Gospel challenges us.

But here is one of the things I have learned about Kathy from reading the reflection she wrote to mark her Jubilee – this Jubilee is as much about looking forward as it is about looking back.

Sister Katherine Francis French celebrated her 50th Jubilee on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. Standing with Sister Katherine (third from left) are General Councilors (from left) Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, General Superior, Sister Mary Beth Klingel, Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp, Sister Jenny Howard and Sister Lisa Stallings.

Kathy calls us to continue together the pattern of sowing and reaping the Gospel of Jesus Christ, coupled with the legacy of reliance upon Divine Providence. She asks us to revere and cultivate our Sacred Treasures, which she names as the cross, Providence and Eucharist. “Let us pray,” she says, “that we will continue to live and share the great legacy we have been given by God, Mother Theodore, and thousands of faithful witnesses who have shown us the way of holiness, joy and peace.”

I think we can all say AMEN to that.

One aspect of this legacy that I feel compelled to break open – that I hope will contribute to the continued sharing of this great legacy of Providence – is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is quite prominent on the cover of this worship aid. And the symbolism is obvious – Christ is pouring out the seeds to be sown through our hands. But when I look at the image I see – cor unum – one heart. From I to we to ONE. One in Christ. One in the love of the Christ who challenges us to nurture that love within and sow it to the world.

It isn’t lost on me that the origin of our Reunion prayer, fashioned by Father Dujarie in 1822 for those first Sisters of Providence at Ruille, was taken from “Salutations to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,” composed by Saint John Eudes.

Two of the aspects of the French School of Spirituality out of which this devotion grew are the incarnational nature of Jesus and the understanding that God is a trinity of persons in relationship. Thus, all living things are interrelated. Nothing is living in isolation. I to WE to ONE.

What would our relationships look like if we really believed that – if we allowed our hearts to be made sacred, to be made holy by our generosity, by our greater love, acceptance and inclusion of the other?

Today, we heard Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “You will be enriched in every way for great generosity.” The world needs us to nudge each other toward even greater love and inclusion, to be generous as God is generous.

Which, interestingly enough, brings me back to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1899, Leo XIII by his encyclical “Annum Sacrum,” consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart. His intent? These words of the encyclical speak to my own heart and our times:

“There is in the Sacred Heart a symbol and a sensible image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love one another. Thus … at length be possible that our many wounds be healed and all justice spring forth again … that the splendors of peace be renewed, and swords and arms drop from the hand.”

Which in turn bring me back to Saint Mother Theodore and Kathy’s message to us this Jubilee day: “Let us continue together the pattern of sowing and reaping the Gospel of Jesus Christ, coupled with the legacy of reliance upon Divine Providence.”

Let us also remember the words of our Saint Mother Theodore spoken from her great heart:

“Grant O my God that all who dwell in this house will love thee much, love one another and never forget why they came.”

It is my privilege on behalf of our Jubilarian to invite all Sisters of Providence to stand and renew their vows of Poverty, Chastity AND Obedience. Kathy has asked – as a sign of our unity in Providence and through these vows – that we join hands.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit …

Almighty and eternal God wishing to consecrate myself to Your service under the special protection of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, of my full and deliberate will, I Sister renew and confirm the VOWS of POVERTY, CHASTITY and OBEDIENCE, according to the Constitutions approved by the Holy See for this Congregation of the Sisters of Providence.

Grant me, O my God, the grace to be faithful to them until death. Amen.

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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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