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Saying yes to poverty, chastity and obedience

Sister Corbin Hannah on the day she professed perpetual vows as a Sister of Providence

On July 26, 2020, I professed perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. This completes an almost 11-year journey of initial transformation within the Providence Community. It truly has been a transformational journey.

I entered the Sisters of Providence with a desire to serve others, a connection with Saint Mother Theodore and a curiosity about religious life. I also entered with my metaphorical baggage of fears, anxieties, ignorance, blind spots and unhealed wounds.

Within a loving community

I was held, supported and challenged by my community and equipped with the tools of self-reflection, a thirst for knowledge and a desire to grow. Thus I began the deep exploration of religious life, communal living, and my inner life in God — the Source of All Being. 

Within a loving, supportive community — that also provided me with many agitations and challenges — I experienced relationships that accepted me as I was, mirrored back to me my gifts and limitations, and allowed me the space to learn, heal and grow. Stage by stage, year by year, I opened my heart more, dove deep into my experience of God, and allowed my authentic self to emerge. Through discernment, I continued to say “yes” to this life. Sometimes it was a “YES!” and other times it was a “yes?”

A continuing yes to vowed life

Sister Corbin, right, at National Catholic Youth Congress, poses with a sister of a different order and with a cutout of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

Professing perpetual vows is another “Yes” — but not the last or final. This “yes” is a commitment I proclaimed before my sisters, the world and the Source of All Being to remain open to life and allow the Kin(g)dom of God to emerge through and around me.

I feel deeply that this vowed life is important. It is a witness to a different way of seeing and moving in the world. I am captured by the life and vision of Jesus, who lived in occupied land, whose people were physically, economically and socially oppressed by a foreign power. Just as Jesus allowed himself to be transformed into Christ, I too am called to be a Christ light. Just as he imagined and built a new society built on love and compassion, I too seek to imagine and create communities around me that are built on equality, love and justice.

The vows

Sister Corbin professes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience

The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience help me channel my life energies so that I can remain focused and committed to following my soul’s purpose.

Poverty

The vow of poverty calls me to live out trust and reliance on the completeness and abundance of life. It challenges me to live from my connection with the Source of Love, where I innately belong and am worthy. From this place, I strive to express awe and gratitude for what it is, face the fear of loss or not being enough, and reject the notion that to be someone I must add things to my life through possession.

Likewise, what matters is who I am, not what I do or produce — and we are all beautiful and diverse manifestations of Divine Love. And so I strive to take what I need and give what I can so that others too may have what they need. From where I see, I truly never own anything. All is gift, and there is as much joy in sharing and giving as there is in receiving.

Chastity

The vow of chastity calls me to live from life’s oneness. It is about how I choose to be love in the world. Honest, genuine and loving relationships are at the heart of this vow, relationships that seek the best for the other rather than self-seeking, transactional relationships that use and manipulate others for personal gain.

I choose instead to see and love each person and being in their innate goodness, marveling in their beautiful diversity and uniqueness, wanting for them to know happiness and well-being, and being willing to give my life energy to contribute to their wellness. It is practicing mutual, vulnerable and committed relationships, knowing that they can heal and transform ourselves, each other and the world. 

Obedience

Sister Corbin, right, in her ministry with homeless young adults in Louisville, Kentucky

The vow of obedience calls me to listen, to be accountable and to responsibly use my power. I commit to listen deeply — especially with my heart — with others, the Spirit and my inner wisdom. This sometimes looks like delving in and through the pain, facing internal and external resistance, remaining grounded in love, and then to choosing life — especially for those who are surrounded by death every day, for those oppressed, marginalized and forgotten. This may require me to begin to think, see, believe and act differently.

This vow challenges me to be loyal to that which allows life to prosper for others, Earth and all creation. I must claim my power, my responsibility, my choice and use it in mutually beneficial ways. The vow of obedience calls me to be honest and accountable, challenging me to be responsive when another calls me in — especially when I have made a mistake — and reminds me of the values and commitments I have made. 

My chosen path

I choose this as my path. And as long as Earth suffers from the diseases of overconsumption, exploitation and disregard. As long as my siblings cry out to be seen and the diseases of colonialism, white supremacy and racism continue to oppress, exclude and exploit. As long as profit continues to matter more than people or planet. As long as the beautiful complexity and diversity of each person, group and culture is shamed and condemned, I commit to use my power, my love, my energy to the building, the emergence of a loving, inclusive, and just community where all can experience life in abundance.

This might seem unreasonable, optimistic, or simply outrageous. But I have seen glimpses of it. I choose to believe that it is possible. I choose to believe that even one life can make a difference. I choose to follow in the footsteps of the prophets, the saints, Jesus, Mother Theodore Guerin, and every other “regular” person who has chosen love, light and life when all appearances were against it.

Are you interested in exploring if life as a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods might be for you? Join us for our virtual Come and See retreat Oct. 23-24.

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Sister Corbin Hannah

Sister Corbin has been a member of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods since 2009. She currently ministers with homeless young adults in Louisville, Kentucky.

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5 Comments

  1. Barbara Behnke on September 1, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Congratulations you have joined a wonderful community. . .

    • Kay Hassan on September 4, 2020 at 8:26 am

      I am in awe, Corbin, of how Providence is woven in you. Warp and weft, you are rooted in the call to love, mercy, and justice. Blessings on your vocation.

  2. Mary Tomlinson SP on September 1, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Corbin. What a beautiful reflection. It came from a deep place within you. It’s obvious you are all about Providence. Thanks for sharing of your journey. We are fortunate to have you with us.

  3. Paula Modaff, SP on September 1, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Corbin, your desire to express your call to love in “outrageous” ways fills me with the energy to live my own unique call to love . Thank you!

  4. Mary Deniise Wilkinson on September 2, 2020 at 10:34 am

    Corbin, thank you for this look into your journey – not only reflecting on the past and present but preparing for the future! Delighted you find yourself called to Providence as lived by our Congregation .

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