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Embracing technology to further the Sisters of Providence mission

Having the courage to follow the path that Providence is laying out has been a distinguishing characteristic of Sisters of Providence since the
Congregation’s was founded in the early 19th century in France.

The Coronavirus and other issues facing us in the early part of 21st
century have provided new challenges. But Sisters of Providence and our partners in mission have responded with openness to needs in these times.

Exploring the Sisters of Providence

The advertisement for, above, and, below, a shot of the live virtual interview as Sister Tracey Horan shares her story of coming to the Sisters of Providence with Catholic blogger Kathryn Whitaker and a gathered virtual audience in July.

One area we have reached out in new ways is in walking with women who want to learn more about life as a Sister of Providence.

It became clear that offering “Come and See” weekends as retreats at Saint Mary-of-the Woods would not work for the time being. So Vocations Director Sister Joni Luna, SP, created “virtual” discernment opportunities.

Using the Zoom platform, Sister Joni invites women to these sessions who have expressed genuine interest in the Sisters of Providence. Each session begins with prayer based on Psalm 139. Then Sister Joni introduces a sister who has entered more recently and is now in formation as a Sister of Providence.

The sister shares her “vocation story.” She tells about experiencing God’s invitation in her life and what her journey has looked like. She speaks of challenges she has had in telling others, especially parents, about feeling “called.” After the sister shares, participants are invited to ask questions. The session ends with a blessing from the facilitator(s) and an invitation to continue the conversation.

The discernment journey

Prior to each session, Sister Joni invites all Sisters of Providence to pray for the women who have scheduled time to discern virtually. Sometimes she invites sisters who are available and interested to be part of the session via Zoom as well.

Musonda Nyendwa, a native of Zambia now living and nursing at a hospital in Connecticut, said her virtual discernment has inspired her. “From the conversation, I could sense how my story could fit into the Providence story,” Musonda said.

After the pandemic is over, Musonda looks forward to coming to the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore and meeting more Sisters of Providence as she
continues discerning her future as a Sister of Providence.

Sister Joni plans to continue these virtual discernments. “These sessions seem successful in providing a safe place for those wishing to discern and to learn how religious life has evolved and whether it might be a good fit.”

She envisions the ministry evolving in other ways to connect women with Sisters of Providence and their stories. “The sharing of our journey is powerful. It reminds me of how far I have come and how Providence is a transforming force in our lives,” she said.

Do you know someone who might be interested in learning more about life as a Sister of Providence? She can contact Sister Joni at 361-500-9505 or jluna@spsmw.org to join the virtual gatherings. She can also sign up for our virtual Come and See weekend here.

Preparing for the future digitally

Thanks to the efforts of many and the blessings of technology, the community of Providence in summer 2020 lost no time in preparing for the Chapter of 2021.

For two mornings in June, many sisters, associates and partners participated in meetings using Zoom. With Chapter facilitator, Sister Catherine Bertrand, SSND, they received and discussed information and discerned together to refine the Congregation’s ongoing climate justice focus.

The sisters and associates gathered virtually and in small local groups explored intersectionalities that they identified existing between their primary climate focus and a myriad of other issues such as economic injustice, racism and white supremacy, immigration, human trafficking, corporate capitalism, individualism, and human rights, to name a few lifted up for further exploration.

Those who are planning the chapter have taken the data generated by these discussions and are now creating part of the agenda for the 2021 chapter.

We are so thankful for the tools of technology in this time that have allowed us to stay in touch and continue to reach out and move forward.

(Originally published in the Fall 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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