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Sisters of Providence welcome new postulant

Leslie Dao always felt like something was missing in her life. It was as if something felt incomplete, unfulfilled. But after a chance encounter, God’s light shone on the right direction she needed to take.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, Leslie stood in front of the entrance to historic Providence Hall. She knocked on the door and was greeted by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, SP. She stepped through the doors and was welcomed as the Congregation’s newest postulant, or member.

Sister Dawn begins the blessing ritual, blessing Leslie’s head

“I now feel at peace. I’m happy because I’m in God’s home,” Leslie said. “I now feel complete and fulfilled.”

Leslie, 44, was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1990, settling in Kansas City, Missouri. She is the youngest of 15 children.

Leslie’s family eventually moved to California, where she attended California State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She also has a bachelor of science degree in social work from the University of Missouri in St. Louis.

For a time, Leslie was a woman religious in another Congregation of Catholic sisters and ministered in Texas with Catholic Charities before moving back to Missouri. In 2014, she began a ministry at St. Pius Parish in St. Louis as the Pastoral Associate for Immigrants and Refugees.

“I loved (ministering at St. Pius Parish),” Leslie said. “I’m an immigrant myself. It’s hard when you start a new life. I’ve been through that before.”

It was at St. Pius Parish where she learned about the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods when she had a conversation with another woman religious who had stayed with the Sisters of Providence. She was encouraged to contact Sister Editha Ben, SP, who at the time ministered as the Congregation’s Vocations Director.

The two corresponded often and Leslie was invited to come to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, in April 2019. She spent a weekend at Woodland Inn with the community of sisters and her stay was not only pleasant, but prophetic.

“I loved the environment,” Leslie said. “It was so joyful and very welcoming. The sisters were so hospitable to other people.”

The joyfulness of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods led Leslie to attend a Come and See retreat later that year in the fall.

“The second time I came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was for a retreat,” she said. “The interaction and joyful spirit inspired me. It attracted me to this community. I wanted to be a part of it.”

During her discernment journey, Leslie also looked at another congregation, but the spirit of the Woods continued to tug at her heart. Then, COVID-19 changed everything.

Sister Editha Ben offers Leslie a big air hug after the ceremony

Despite less one-on-one interaction with any Sister of Providence, Leslie said she remained in contact with Sister Editha.

“Because of COVID, things got slow,” Leslie said. “But my desire to be a Sister of Providence was still there. We were in contact the whole time. And when I said, ‘This is it,’ they assigned me a mentor.”

Her mentor was Sister My Huong Pham, SP, who is also originally from Vietnam. The two were able to meet together monthly during Leslie’s discernment.

Leslie said “This is it” in April 2021. She began the process of entering the Congregation, which became official in late September.

“I knew in my heart that this was it,” Leslie said. “I now feel at peace.”

Director of Postulants Sister Marsha Speth, SP, will help coordinate Leslie’s new schedule and ministry.

“Leslie will learn everything she can about our Congregation and that includes learning about community practices, traditions and ministries,” Sister Marsha said.

After a year in the postulancy, Leslie will be eligible to enter into the first year of the novitiate. At that point, she will receive the title of sister.

The next Come and See weekend takes place Oct. 1-3. Learn more about the Sisters of Providence at SistersofProvidence.org or contact Vocation Director Sister Joni Luna, SP, at 361-500-9505 if you think you too might be called.

View the photo album from Leslie’s entrance ceremony here.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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