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Newsnotes: the latest from the Sisters of Providence

Sisters of Providence mission in Asia celebrates 100 years

This November, the Providence community begins a year of celebration highlighting the 100th anniversary of the Congregation’s mission to China. As a first step, sisters, staff, associates and others began reading “Against All Odds,” a biography of the sisters’ mission written by Sister Ann Colette Wolf. A summer retreat is also being planned. And we’ll feature blog posts spotlighting each of the sisters who undertook the mission and other highlights from our continuing mission in Asia. Stay tuned to our website and social media!

Get a feel for the beginnings of the Sisters of Providence mission to China with this story taken from “Against All Odds,” by Sister Ann Colette Wolf.

In the summer of 1919, Bishop Tacconi of Kaifeng, China, approached Mother Mary Cleophas Foley, general superior, and asked if the Congregation would send sisters to start a school for young women in Kaifeng. Mother Mary Cleophas announced to the sisters that they were going to take on their first foreign mission. She asked for volunteers, reminding the sisters that if they accepted this mission, they would probably never return to the Woods “…except on their way to heaven… .”

Mother Marie Gratia Luking

The response of the Congregation was phenomenal. Almost 300 of the 1,000 sisters offered themselves for the mission in China. The Council sent Sister Marie Gratia Luking, superior of the group, Sisters Mary Elise Renauldt, Clare Mitchell, Eugene Marie Howard, Marie Patricia Shortall, and Winifred Patrice O’Donovan. The sisters left the Woods on Oct. 29, 1920, and arrived in Kaifeng on Nov. 24. The Sisters of Providence were the first American women’s religious Congregation to start a mission in China.

Mother Theodore Guerin had always wanted to start a mission in China and the six sisters who were chosen made her dream a reality.


Diocese of San Bernardino honors Sister Mary Jo Piccione

Sister Mary Jo Piccione, SP, center, with Sisters Josephine Bryan and Grace Marie Meehan, SP

Sister Mary Jo Piccione (formerly Sister Mary Joel) was honored in October by the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, as the first recipient of the Saint Damien Molokai award.

The award is for those who provide spiritual care in the health care setting. Sister Mary Jo was nominated by pastors, priests, doctors, nurses and volunteers.

Currently, Sister Mary Jo ministers as a Chaplain at Providence-Saint Mary’s Medical Center in Apple Valley, California. She provides pastoral care to the sick and dying regardless of economic, educational, social and religious standing. The Indianapolis native has ministered at the center for 10 years.

“I was surprised, honored and humbled,” Sister Mary Jo said. “I am so grateful to all those I have had the privilege to meet in this ministry of hope and healing. I have been blessed with many sacred encounters as I visit the patients, their families and our staff. I thank God for taking me on this journey of ministry in loving life and healing hope.”


Providence Food Pantry celebrates 25 years!

Enjoying cookies at the Providence Food Pantry 25 year celebration

On Sunday, Sept. 22, Providence Food Pantry, a ministry of the Sister of Providence, celebrated 25 years of loving service to residents of West Terre Haute, Indiana. The celebration allowed the public to see firsthand what the West Terre Haute community is providing for those needing a helping hand. Many organizations and businesses in the community help support the pantry, including the Helping Hands thrift store and nine local churches.

Sister Joseph Fillenwarth, director of Providence Food Pantry, said the pantry served more than 4,000 families and 16,000 individuals in 2018. “It shows what can be done if we put our trust in the Providence of our God and minister together as a loving and caring community,” she said.


2019 National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC)

Sister Corbin Hannah, SP (right), a volunteer at our NCYC booth with Felician Franciscan Sister Desire Anne-Marie Findlay, CSSF

The Sisters of Providence were delighted to be a part of the 2019 National Catholic Youth Conference this past November in Indianapolis. Approximately 20,000 Catholic high school students, chaperones and clergy attend this conference which is held every two years. Our table in the “Village” gave us the opportunity to tell the story about Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and the Sisters of Providence. We made a lot of new friends and gathered hundreds of prayer requests which were brought back to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for the sisters to pray. We look forward to our return in 2021.


Final Providence High School reunion

More than 470 alumnae attended the final Providence High School homecoming luncheon, which took place near Chicago on Saturday, Oct. 26.

“You are and have been pretty amazing,” Sisters of Providence General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski said to the attendees.

She pointed out that the reunions for the school, which closed in 1969, have helped support the Congregation, as alumnae have given more than $1.6 million in support of the sisters’ retirement fund. Sister Dawn added that number does not include “gifts of support” coming from individual alumnae.

And during the final reunion, they offered the Sisters of Providence $90,000.

In return, the Sisters of Providence also provided them a gift. The Congregation will plant a tree in honor of the alumnae. The tree will stand in Providence Park at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods near the Log Cabin Chapel.


Historic district highlight

To highlight the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District, the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College coordinated an architectural presentation at two venues by noted historian Dr. James Glass. Entitled Bohlen Design: Four Generations of Indiana Architectural Prominence, the presentations brought more than 175 people to Indiana Landmarks on Oct. 3 and 85 visitors to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Oct. 20.

The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods event included a one-hour presentation in the Cecilian Auditorium in the Conservatory of Music. Visitors were then invited to tour historic buildings on the grounds, including the Conservatory, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Woodland Inn, the Saint Anne Shell Chapel, Le Fer Hall, Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Rooney Library.

This program was made possible through a Historic Preservation Education Grant from Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support by the Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau.


Carbon reduction goal exceeded!

Good news! In July 2018, the Congregation pledged to reduce Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2 million pounds. You have helped us exceed our goal!

Sisters of Providence, Providence Associates, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College students and faculty, and other friends have reduced our CO2 emissions by 2,594,143 pounds!

We aren’t stopping here! Stay tuned to learn about our next steps to work toward healing for Earth.


Welcome to 17 new Providence Associates

On Saturday, Nov. 9, the Providence community welcomed 17 new Providence Associates during a first-commitment ceremony at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. These women and men will join nearly 300 other Providence Associates in walking alongside the Sisters of Providence and sharing in their mission of love, mercy and justice.

Our new Providence Associates, from bottom left, first row: Kathy Sternal, Gloria Morgan, Josephine Carbonaro, Michelle Barrentine, Kay Hassan and Providence Associate Co-Director Sister Sue Paweski. Second row from left: Karen Maynard, Wanda Barney, Jan Showalter, Carol Sloan and William Okey. Third row from left: Mary Catherine Chlipala, Jessica Claycomb, Kathy Shickles, Jane Moss, Amanda Seipel and Stephen Modde. At back: Co-Director of Providence Associates Debbie Dillow. Not pictured: Debbie Fornefeld

Learn more about Providence Associates at ProvidenceAssociates.org

(Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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