Get to know Providence Associate Debra Prieto
Tell about your life so far.
My name is Debbie Prieto and I live in Gary, Indiana. I am currently unemployed (due to a recent lay-off). My work profession has been as an administrative assistant. I live with my father and a sibling.
List things that someone who wants to get to know you should understand about you.
I have a dog. I love to garden, exercise, cook as well as experiment with cooking.
What is something interesting about you that not everybody knows?
In 1996, I was a missionary in Kenya, Africa, for four years. I was a school teacher and taught two courses, office practice and typing and social ethics. My teaching experience came from my profession as an administrative assistant and teaching CCD religion classes in the States.
What are three things that bring you joy?
My faith, my family and no stress.
What would you say are three of your greatest strengths?
I am trustworthy, dedicated and kind-hearted.
What are your favorite ways to spend your time?
Walk for exercise, beach time, private meditation and listening to music.
How did you come to know the Sisters of Providence?
They were in residence at St. Elizabeth Parish/Convent in Van Nuys, California. I met many of them when I was a parishioner at St. Elizabeth. The sisters and I had mutual friends and often we would all go out to dinner. We all ministered together at St. Elizabeth. The sisters are the best friends anyone could ever ask for.
I got to know them better during my nine-month mission discernment. The sisters were very supportive and encouraged me throughout my mission discernment. They took me under their wing. Two nights a week, I would join them for evening prayer where I learned to pray the Office then afterwards I joined them for supper. My time spent with them during discernment definitely had a bearing on my decision to go out on mission. My prayer time became deep as I learned to rely on Providence. Prayer and Providence is what gave me a successful mission experience.
What drew you to the Providence Associate relationship?
My dear friend Sister Mary Esther Lane, SP, (now deceased) had mentioned it to me when I visited her after my mission tour. I had some questions about being a Providence Associate and so Sister Mary asked me to pray about it. I spent lots of time in prayer seeking guidance from Providence and then one day I realized that being a Providence Associate would be my next journey in life post mission. The more I prayed about it the more it felt that it was right for me.
Tell about your experience as a Providence Associate.
When I became a Providence Associate, I spent time at the Woods at least two to three times a year. I enjoyed attending workshops, retreats, visiting the sisters, spending a day walking the grounds or praying in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Home responsibilities keep me away from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods more recently. As a Providence Associate I live out my life in service of others which makes me happy.
In what ways is the relationship life giving?
After any visit for any purpose to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods I feel invigorated when I leave to go home.
What is your favorite thing about being a Providence Associate?
Friendships and meeting new Providence Associates are always delightful. Events, liturgies, or spiritual exercises that I have attended have left me refreshed.
What are the challenges of being a Providence Associate?
Not being able to attend events/meetings/gatherings as often as I would like to.
Who was your companion in becoming a Providence Associate? Tell us about that process.
I had two companions. Sister Mary Esther Lane and Sister Evelyn Ovalles. I live a far distance from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, which is where Sister Mary Esther Lane lived. Sister Evelyn lived in Merrillville, Indiana, much closer to Gary, Indiana, where I live. I would visit Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and speak by telephone. Sister Evelyn and I and another Providence Associate would meet for a meal and share in conversations.
How does the distance you live from the Woods affect your being in relationship with the sisters?
Distance definitely affects my visits to the Woods, as it is a three-hour drive for me and then the time difference is an issue also. Sometimes I feel disconnected, but I realize my relationship is not just visiting the Woods but most importantly the ministries I carry on from day-to-day in my life journey.
How do you live out your commitment to the Providence Associate relationship?
1. Daily care to my 91-year-old father.
2. Ministering to the home-bound by bringing Eucharist every Sunday.
3. Lending a listening ear to friends who are experiencing family issues.
4. At times I give emotional support to a friend who is a cancer patient.
What does being a Providence Associate mean to you?
It means walking with God in my life journey, leaning on Providence for support.