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Providence Associates: addressing the needs in our backyards

We asked Providence Associates from around the country to tell us about an issue in “their own backyard” that they are passionate about. Here several Providence Associates share about a need and how they are responding. They tell how their collaboration with the Sisters of Providence supports them in these efforts and offer advice to all of us in how we can help.

Providence Associate Sandy Wickware, center, speaks with Sisters Jacquelyn Hoffman, left, and Rosemary Schmalz, right.

Sandra Wickware

Brazil, Indiana

“I am passionate about working with children. Children these days, they don’t have the parent training we had as children. Neighbors then were one big family, teaching children to respect especially their elders. The children today don’t respect their teachers and some have a hard time comprehending what the teacher is trying to teach them. I volunteer at Davis Park School in Terre Haute, Indiana, Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Then I go to the Catholic Charities Ryves Hall youth center at 3 p.m. and volunteer into the evening Monday through Thursday. I also have two cases as a CASA (court appointed special advocate), working with children who have been abused or neglected. I have volunteered at all three places for nine years.

Being a Providence Associate has helped me to love my volunteer work more than before. It helps me to study different ways to help the children when I am working with them, to let them know somebody cares for them.

The schools need volunteers to help teach the kids their numbers, ABC’s, and to help them with their reading. The children need to know that somebody needs them and to know that somebody loves them. They need somebody to be a role model in their life.”

Providence Associate Kate Childs Graham, right, with her Providence Associate companion Diann Neu

Kate Childs Graham

Mount Rainier, Maryland

“My backyard is our nation’s capital. Right now, like a movie changing from color to black and white, Washington D.C. is being sapped of life. Or, more to the point, of care for people’s lives and livelihoods. Between the infighting and the impeachment inquiries, the derision and division, nothing is getting done. 

I’m a political speechwriter, and I believe in the power of words to change the world. Through my work writing remarks for leaders in Washington D.C. and on the campaign trail, I’m trying to help remind the American people about the importance of listening to one another, including one another and collaborating with one another. When we join together anything is possible.

I have known the Sisters of Providence my whole life. So, in a way, their persistent presence supports everything I do — whether that’s the musicality of the words I write, or the firm foundation of justice that underpins all the work I do. But, in particular, as our nation is plagued with division, I am grateful for the welcoming spirit of Providence — and how the sisters are so intentional in their relationships, with one another, with associates, with ministry partners and the broader community. 

What can we all do to help? Don’t count anyone out. Because of social media, because of the tone of the political discourse, we are becoming more and more siloed. That is, it’s possible for us to go a day, a week, or even a year without interacting with someone who shares a different view or who has lived a different kind of life. And if we do come across someone who is different, it’s become too easy to discount them — sometimes as easy as a click of a button. The work of bringing our nation back together will start with each of us, taking the time to listen and consider life from a different vantage point.”

Providence Associate Fr. Bernie Lutz, right, greets Sister Rosemary Nudd at a Providence Associate gathering while Providence Associate Deanna Ruston looks on.

Father Bernie Lutz

Newburgh, Indiana

“The main issue ‘in my own backyard’ is the climate crisis. The climate is the primary crisis for our planet. It is a crisis for all the world resources: air, water, plants, animals, etc. It is the life issue. It is the chief national defense issue. 

I try to live simply. But it is very difficult and challenging to do so. I drive too much for one thing. I write or contact my governmental representatives whenever a climate issue surfaces. 

As always the Sisters of Providence are out front on this issue and I support them as they raise climate and other issues of justice.

We can all be sensitive to the climate crisis. We can continue to work to improve our own awareness of the issues, for example the recent Amazon Synod, [The October 2019 meeting of bishops from the Pan-Amazon region that highlighted the vital role the area plays in the planet’s health.] and we can help others to do the same. We can simplify our lifestyles as much as we are capable of doing.” 

Providence Associate Marcy Meldahl reflects during a Providence Associate retreat

Marcy Meldahl

Powell, Tennessee

“I am passionate about the expansion of Medicaid for Tennesseans. Tennessee never accepted Obamacare. The most recent governor, Bill Haslam, a Republican, tried twice to persuade the legislature to pass a modified version of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that should have resonated with Republicans. But because it was associated with Obama, it was toxic. The current governor, Bill Lee, is trying to make Tennessee the first state to receive approval for a block grant, with Tennessee and the federal government to split the ‘savings’ he expects to see. Tennessee is the 46th unhealthiest state (according to CBS). In this extra conservative state, I expect as little as possible will be spent on health care, and many more people will go without.

My past work experience has been, among other things, benefits management. I follow the news and plan to attend a meeting to understand how the state intends to administer block grant money. Frankly, I’m about over trying to write my representatives because my experience with the three Republicans in the U.S. Congress has resulted in nothing but letters telling me how great Trump is or what else they have done, never addressing my specific questions. I do, however, belong to Indivisible East Tennessee. When I was still working, I advocated for the Affordable Care Act among colleagues at the diocese because many of them reflexively took the Catholic Church’s negative position on the Affordable Care Act. As human resources director, I recognized the range of people we employed — from minimum wage janitor and cafeteria workers to six-figure high school principals. Though our health plan at that time was rich and relatively cheap to employees, it was still inaccessible to low-wage employees.

Love, mercy and justice. That says it all. What can we all do to help? While this is a state issue specifically, it certainly reflects the national attempts to do away with Obamacare. I think the Affordable Care Act should be improved and maintained. I think one of the ways to educate is to use actual stories of people for whom even Medicaid is unavailable. Most people just want to know what is going to happen to their healthcare.

Providence Associate Judy Barad speaks with Sister Rita Claire Gerardot during a meeting.

Judy Barad

Terre Haute, Indiana

“I am passionate about animals. Other mammals and birds are thinking, feeling creatures, just as we are. Few people respect other animals, often killing them for enjoyment.

I feed birds in my backyard, leave out nuts for squirrels and leftover cat food for possums and raccoons. In the past, I have defended deer, beavers and other animals from those who would shed their blood. I have also adopted cats and dogs whom people dropped off in my yard as if they were trash.

 We can all discourage violence toward animals.”

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

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Advancement Services office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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