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A community based on mutual, abiding love

General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski offered the following reflection at the Providence Associate Rite of First Commitment on Nov. 9, 2019. You can find photos from the Providence Associate commitment ceremony here.

Last weekend, I attended a meeting of the Women of Providence in Collaboration. As we are apt to do, we were sharing our current “numbers.” How many sisters are there in each of the 13 Providence communities involved in the collaboration. How many novices? How many associates?

General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski offers a reflection at the Providence Associate first commitment

At last count, there are 1,260 sisters and novices across the congregations. Associates in our Providence Communities now number 1,791, including those who are both making their first commitment and renewing their commitments here today. [Pretty impressive.]

I also have been following Richard Rohr’s reflections these past few weeks on the Emerging Church. He calls it is a movement of the Spirit. “No one is directing, controlling, or limiting this movement,” he says, “We are just trying to listen together…. It is happening almost in spite of all of us — which tells me the Spirit must be guiding.”

What does that Emerging Church look like?

I might suggest to Rohr that what we do here today in this Church — what is happening in many religious communities through the Associate Movement — is an important part of what is emerging for the sake of our world.

I should probably send Father Rohr a copy of the Providence Associate mission statement. It captures well what he believes this emerging church should look like:

Providence Associates, in relationship with the Sisters of Providence, further the charism of the Sisters of Providence by:

  • co-creating a hope-filled world,
  • building relationships,
  • cultivating community,
  • and living lives that challenge them to embody the face of Providence as they seek to be love, mercy, and justice in the world.
The gathered Providence community blesses the new Providence Associates

Thank you Candidate Associates for responding to the inspiration of the Spirit. Thank you Providence Associates for renewing your choice to walk the path of Providence. Thank you all for putting your gifts at the service of God’s mission of Providence in order that more love, more mercy, more justice will be released into our world.

As the excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians suggests, the Spirit is calling out these gifts. And if our Providence Communities are any indication, the Spirit is indeed active on behalf of the common good.

Like so many of our candidate groups, our soon-to-be Providence Associates bring a wide array of gifts, although most of you have been involved in education in some form. Just two of the candidates who have been teachers have given a combined total of 84 years of service.

Quite a number of you are or have devoted much of your life to the healing ministries as nurses and therapists — we even have a therapeutic riding instructor! We also welcome a graphic designer, a human resources professional, a Spanish translator, several involved in the food industry and someone who has been told she makes awesome brownies!

As always, the General Officers and I were deeply impressed with the gifts our new candidates bring. AND as we read through your letters of commitment, we were especially touched by the yearning within you for spiritual growth and for deepening connection with God, with those you love, and with creation.

New Providence Associate Carol Sloan and her companion Sister Kay Kelly

We hope this deepening has already begun for you during this past year of integration as you met regularly with your companion for prayer and study and, hopefully, some fun. May that continue. 

And may you also grow in your sense of belonging to something bigger than yourselves, something greater than all of us gathered together in this church, something called for by Jesus in John’s Gospel which we heard today:

  • to be friends of God;
  • to be members of a community that mirrors the one established more than 2,000 years ago, a community based on mutual, abiding love and not, as with other human institutions, on power or fear.

To return to Rohr: “What is emerging must become more inclusive and universal, as it was always meant to be.… We may not be cutting-edge scientists or avant-garde artists, but we can all push the boundaries of our ability to love — to love more people and to love them more fully.”

Earlier this fall, at the prayer service held in this very church in solidarity with actions at the border in El Paso, our Sister Tracey Horan challenged us to “choose to invest in love.” I love that line.

In so many ways, this associate relationship is an investment in love. When you speak your words of commitment and recommitment today, make an investment in love, choose to push the boundaries of your ability to love. Love more people. Love them more fully. 

You have been chosen for this. We have been chosen for this. The world needs us for this.

And I feel certain that what will emerge is a hope-filled world.

And as our Saint Mother Theodore said: “This is the path traced by Providence and I [we] follow it.”


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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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