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Evolving Providence in time of pandemic and beyond

Taizé prayer service at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

These words of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin ring as true today as they did when she first wrote them in an 1854 letter to Cecile (Le Fer De La Motte) Choisnet, the younger sister of Sisters Mary Joseph and St. Francis Xavier.

For many decades since, Sisters of Providence have heard these words in our hearts at every juncture in which we’ve felt a compelling invitation to follow the path Providence was unfolding for us. Most especially, when it was not crystal clear where Providence was leading.

Confidence in God

It is this quotation — “Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence” — that the daughters of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin chose to inscribe in her shrine at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. It is a reminder to each of us that, like their foundress, all Sisters of Providence, Providence Associates, our partners in mission, and all who share the charism of Providence are called to be strong in faith and filled with “a confidence in Providence that will never fail.” Even when we are confronted as we are in this current age by the unknowns of the coronavirus pandemic and its unfolding consequences.

As I write these thoughts it is a sunny day in April. I can only guess at what that reality will be like as you, our HOPE readers, reflect on them this summer. In a post pandemic world, how will this Congregation be evolving to meet the challenges? How will we and you be hearing God’s voice inviting us to join in furthering the mission?

Of this, I am certain from the answers I received from Sisters of Providence whom I queried. As we have in the past, so will we now in our new reality, continue to evolve to do the work of Providence in the world entrusted to us.

A mandate to trust

Sister Jessica Vitente gives Sister Ann Stephen Stouffer a high five after they completed together a memory enhancing computer activity in the new Havlik Center at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

“We have an obligation to continue to trust our Provident God. It’s a mandate. It’s in our vows. We cannot stay still.

We must not remain in place. All things change. We must continue to evolve, to flourish. We trust in Providence, and through our associates, family, friends and the generosity of donors, we know we are not alone.
We know we are able to do God’s work in the world,” says Vocation Director Sister Joni Luna.

“Providence nudges us towards a particular cause and through prayer, meditation and collaboration we are moved to respond,” Sister Joni said.

Collaboration and letting go will be key to how Sisters of Providence continue to evolve, says Sister Martha Wessel, who entered in 1962. “We were very independent at that point. We had a college, our own orchards, bakery cannery, and much more.”

Now living in Lourdes Hall, Sister Martha facilitates activities for her co-residents there and elsewhere, including transportation to appointments with doctors and to other destinations in Terre Haute and Indianapolis.

Evolving interdependence

“Since that time, we have evolved in our understanding of how dependent we are on others and how interdependent we are being invited to be. Now we recognize how important it is that the campus has become a center of prayer and spirituality in the Wabash Valley,” she said.

Programs to which the sisters now welcome their neighbors focus on healthy aging, memory care, sustainability, Taizé prayer and a variety of ecumenical retreats and workshops on prayer and spirituality.

A group of high school students from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis visit and tour Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

These kinds of programs will become even more important as the United States and the Wabash Valley emerge into the reality of a post pandemic age in coming months.

Always open to new possibilities, the Sisters of Providence will soon enter into a new expression of community as they collaborate with Flaherty & Collins Properties in affordable Housing Tax Credit [LIHTC] project to convert Owens Hall into apartments.

Looking ahead with hope, strongly anchored by the Providence that so far has never failed them, the Sisters of Providence are ready to place in God’s hands whatever uncertainties we perceive may come. We trust that with our associates, partners in mission and other companions on the journey, we will be able to fulfill the mission entrusted to us.

(Originally published in the Summer 2020 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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