2020 Christmas letter from General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski
Imagine the journey of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth more than 2,000 years ago. A newly betrothed couple, they were forced to register for a census in a town about 90 miles away from their home. Mary was nine months pregnant. It was a cold, long road to Bethlehem. Difficulties and dangers were certainly their constant companions even before they took to the road.
But we know the end of their story, don’t we? “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah) The promises of God were fulfilled. Not only their hopes, but also the hopes of a world waiting for a Messiah, for the dawn of a new age were born in Jesus the Christ.
I have been reflecting on Mary and Joseph as I prepare for my own Advent journey, and as I try to get my mind and heart around what Christmas will be like this year. Will I allow the difficulties and dangers of this past year to keep me from recognizing the Christ and from welcoming hope in my very midst?
I am reminded of Pope Francis’ exhortation on hope:
“We feel disoriented and even rather discouraged, because we are powerless and it seems this darkness will never end. We must not let hope abandon us, because God walks with us. God does not leave us to ourselves.”
This notion that God does not leave us to ourselves is so clear to me when I think of the number of friends and benefactors, ministry partners, Providence Associates and family members who have walked with us this year. Thank YOU!
- YOU may have been one of those who sent a portion of your stimulus check to us during this pandemic because you were grateful for the help and you wanted to help us. Thanks for thinking of us. You did assist us in keeping our staff and sisters going.
- Perhaps YOU have included us in your will this year. I am thinking of one of our alums who had been giving faithfully to us each year. The major gift she left to us in her will has gone a long way in enabling us to tackle some of the major issues we face in sustaining the life of our historic and aging structures at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. You will be remembered, dear friend.
- Or perhaps YOU are one of those co-workers and friends who responded to our cry for help when everything closed down in those early days of the pandemic. Among our many needs, we required assistance with our meal service because every one of our sisters as well as our health-care residents needed a tray delivered directly to them. We are thankful for you and for many like you who have been there for us in ways you cannot even imagine.
- Some of YOU are our ministry partners. Thank you to those of you serving in the schools we still sponsor. You have done cartwheels to keep those students safe AND learning. I am thinking specially of the dedicated administration, faculty, staff and board members of Guerin Prep High School in River Grove, IL. Faced with the prospect of having to close the school in the midst of a pandemic, you still found ways to honor the legacy of education entrusted to you and help those students prepare for the next phase in their educational journey. Thank you, dear friends.
- YOU may be one of our Providence Associates or other like-minded folks who have joined us in our determination to reduce our carbon footprint because of the existential threat of global climate change. Maybe you stood with us across from the Federal Penitentiary in our effort to uphold the dignity of all life by being a voice for those about to be executed. Or maybe you posted a sign on your lawn that states, “Black lives matter.” Thank you for participating in our shared mission to bring love, mercy and justice to our world.
- One of the hardest parts of the pandemic is having to tell the family members of our sisters who die that they cannot participate in the funeral of their loved ones in the accustomed way. Yet, YOU have found ways to share your stories of them, to send gifts in their memory and to promise to join us for the memorial service for all of them when we can gather safely in the future. We are grateful for the gift that our sisters’ families are to all of us.
To all of you who have walked with us this year, thank you.
COVID-19 has certainly impacted all our lives. But COVID-19 does not cancel out Hope or Christmas! COVID-19 cannot stop us from loving one another. COVID-19 will not prevent the promises of God from being fulfilled.
Our beloved Saint Mother Theodore Guerin said:
“But our hope is in the providence of God, which has protected us until the present, and which will provide, somehow, for our future needs…”
We will continue to pray for all your needs, especially during this beautiful season of Advent and Christmas. And please know, we have been praying very purposefully for all our friends and benefactors during these Covid-19 days. Please pray for us that the good work begun by Saint Mother Theodore will continue in and through all of us who share the charism of Providence.
In that Providence that never fails,
Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, SP
P.S. Merry Christmas! May you and yours enjoy a happy and HEALTHY new year!