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Interculturality: journey of radical welcome

Sisters who were in formation together in the 1980s reflect the cultural diversity of the Congregation. From left: Sisters Barbara Battista, Marilu Covani, Anne Therese Falkenstein and Rosa Pan

Interculturality – What is it? Why has it become a notion central to many conversations in the Providence community? Why is it key as we continue to evolve as religious in the 21st Century?

Basically, “interculturality” is a term that enables us to name and navigate the complex web of relationships “that exist between culturally diverse human groups in a given society.”

From the beginning

Interculturality, as a dynamic, has been part of the fabric of the Congregation throughout its history. Granted, it was not always named and celebrated. Mother Theodore and her companions brought the cultural heritages of the Celts and the people of Brittany, France and of the Roman Catholic Church to the mid-western frontier of the United States. There they met and engaged with Native Americans and settlers from other European backgrounds. In this process of forming new communities, individuals from various cultures found themselves creating a new culture which they identified as “being American.”

In 1920, the Sisters of Providence evolved further as an intercultural community. They accepted the invitation to send six sisters to establish a mission in China. In the coming year, the Sisters of Providence will celebrate the centennial of this mission to Asia. We’ll celebrate and how this process of interculturality has evolved and grown.

Welcoming culture

The Congregation has further evolved its interculturality, welcoming diverse women of various cultures and heritages over the years. We’ve sought to integrate their unique perspectives and artistic expressions as part of the community. With each “yes” to another prompting from Providence, the Congregation becomes richer in its interculturality.

The most fundamental process of interculturality that every sister experiences occurs in her years of formation. Here she yields to God’s invitation to let go of her independence and self-directed life. She immerses herself in processes to learn what it means to live a vowed life of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Sister of Providence.

Sister Jenny Howard. as general councilor, works closely with newer members. She says, the “future of religious life is dependent on our learning how to live interculturally … which can be challenging yet very rewarding. Most certainly it is a deep spiritual journey of radical welcome.”

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

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Sister Cathy Campbell

Sister Cathy Campbell, SP, is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Spirituality from Catholic Theological Union/Chicago. Sister Cathy also ministers as a retreat facilitator for the Providence Spirituality and Conference Center with special interests in scripture and the mystics.

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