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Side by side: our time of need is now

With 138 Sisters of Providence age 80 and older, now is a very real moment of need in caring for our elder sisters. Above,
Sisters Joann Quinkert and Jane Michael Dwyer work on a painting project at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

My mom was a great one for singing in the car. She knew all the verses to every song we sang (or she only sang songs she knew all the verses of). One of our favorites was “Side by Side.” The words of the first verse jumped into my head as I started to write this article:

We ain’t got a barrel of money. Maybe we’re ragged and funny. But we’ll travel along — singin’ our song — side by side.

Together in spirit

Traveling side by side has been a gift these past months as all of us and you confronted the overwhelming challenges of the Coronavirus. No doubt, some of us lost loved ones to the disease. Others endured watching loved ones contract and successfully combat the virus. Shelter-in-place, quarantines and travel restrictions separated us from loved ones, friends, neighbors, work associates. Because houses of prayer and worship closed, we were deprived of places that often comfort us.

Sister Margaret Quinlan enjoys a cookie at lunch in Providence Hall dining room.

Pandemic is now more than a word in a crossword puzzle. Pandemic is a game changer. Pandemic turns our lives upside down. Yet, in company with you, our donors and friends, we travel along, side by side. Just as we have many times before.

You make the difference

No matter the challenge, you help us solve it. No matter the project, you respond with love and generosity. No matter your own financial resources or the state of the U.S. and global economies, you continue to give, to partner with us in the mission of honoring Divine Providence and furthering God’s loving plans.

Hopefully the Sisters of Providence have stepped forward just as faithfully to assist with your needs — perhaps in the education of you and/or your children, through hospital chaplaincy or parish ministry or a long friendship with a sister. A very important way we honor such relationships is by our promise to pray for you. I know by the sheer number of prayer requests coming to us via email, our website, letters, notes, phone calls, a sister friend of yours — you count on us to pray for you and yours and for the needs of our world. You count on us to pray in thanksgiving for gifts received. At every liturgy, we pray “for our benefactors and their needs” and “for all who have asked our prayer.” Praying with and for you is a promise and privilege. Prayer binds us to one another as does nothing else. It is a gift freely and gladly given to you.

Sisters Cynthia Lynge and Andre Panepinto carry up the gifts at a Mass at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Our time of need is now

It is because of this longstanding relationship with one another that we are so bold to share a pressing need of the Sisters of Providence at this time — the care of our sisters who are older.

These women taught for years in Catholic schools while receiving small stipends. They scrubbed school floors and painted classroom walls. These women responded to the Church’s invitation to seek out and serve with the “lost and the least.” A few of these women, the music teachers, learned and taught baton twirling to earn extra money to supplement their stipends. (No kidding! I can introduce you to a former baton twirling sister).

These dedicated women, these Sisters of Providence, now need our care. It is for them that we ask for your financial assistance.

Sister Suzanne Buthod works on a painting activity.

Good stewards

We are bold enough to ask because we know we, the Sisters of Providence, have been good stewards of your past gifts. Years ago, the Congregation wisely established a trust fund — the Sisters of Providence Community Support Trust. These funds have and still do provide for the needs of all sisters over seventy, our official retirement age. Very generous contributions over the years and wise counsel from our Investment Advisory Board members have provided a steady stream of income for care of our sisters who are older.

Yet, as I don’t have to tell you, the increasing cost of living and of health care, an individual’s declining health, world events like a pandemic, unstable financial markets all eat away at anyone’s retirement savings — no matter how carefully planned and administered. So it is with us.

Caring for our elders

When you look at the enclosed Annual Report, you will see that over half of our membership is eighty years or older. Even though many of these sisters are still in active ministry, all require care across a wide continuum of needs — independent living, assisted living, long term care, memory care, physical or occupational therapy. It is no wonder then that our financial resources to cover living expenses and care are dwindling.

Sister Denise Wilkinson participates in a music therapy demonstration at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

That is why we offer you the opportunity to invest in the future of women whose lives of ministry and prayer shaped our present. Their lives of ministry and prayer are shaping the future as well.

For our part, we will honor our partnership with you as we always have: by using the financial resources you provide to do what we say we will do with your gifts. We will also do what we say we will do by continuing to pray with and for you and all your needs. Let me assure you, your gift will support women who are a powerhouse of prayer. Count on them and their prayer!

Once again, we have the opportunity to be great partners in accomplishing a worthy goal. Once again, we’ll have reason to keep singing:

We may be ragged and funny but we’ll travel along singin’ our song, side by side.

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

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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