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A reflection on the 2021 Providence Associate Commitment and Renewal

It happened again this year.

When our Sister of Providence Leadership Team met to discuss the requests from all of you to become Providence Associates, we were once again overwhelmed.

New Providence Associates 2021. From front left: Jennifer Christos, Michael Booth, Erin Gick, Kathleen Ly. Second row from left: Tanya Pongracz, Michael Rausch, Jonnee Western, Gloria Urrea, Mary Lou Kiesle. Back row from left: Providence Associate Co-Director Sister Susan Paweski, Robb Farris, Marci-Alvis-Slinski, Mary Beth Tribble, Marcia (Skitz) Everard and Providence Associate Co-Director Debbie Dillow

We were and are amazed by the depth of your connections to us – some of you have known us all your lives.

We were and are touched by the sincerity of your desire to develop your own spiritual lives – you seem eager to enter more deeply into the mystery we call Providence.

And we were and are inspired by the earnestness of your commitment to the mission of Providence – you do hope to bring love, mercy and justice to the people and places of your own lives.

Truly Blessed

Truly, blessed are we who welcome you and receive your commitment this day as Providence Associates. And that goes for the many of you watching via livestream who will renew your commitment as Providence Associates today.

As I read your letters again in preparation for today, I was struck by the following story written by one of you that perhaps summarizes what we give witness to in this liturgy.

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski offers her reflection at the Providence Associates ceremony.

This story begins: “Last week, as I came downstairs one morning with the intention to start writing this letter, I felt something in my eye. As I always do when this happens, I thought of Sister Joanna Brown. I could hear her voice saying, ‘Close your eyes, then look up, down, to the left, and to the right, making the sign of the cross with your eyes, and whatever is there will be gone.’”

The story continues: “I did this. As I opened my eyes that morning, I began to see with clarity how Providence has always been at work in my life.”

This is what we celebrate today – that Providence that has always been at work in your lives, that Providence that so far has never failed us. The clarity with which you now see it and embrace it has led you to this moment and this commitment. We rejoice!

This is no small commitment. In Marie McCarthy’s words, captured in that first reading, Providence demands “that we recognize that what we do and who we are can, and does, make a real difference in the world.”

How does your commitment make a real difference in the world? I could list out for you this afternoon, the various promises each of you expressed in your letters of intent and say, “Amen! Let your light shine! Get going! Live the beatitudes!”

We certainly support all your efforts on behalf of God’s mission of Providence wherever you may be.

An ever wider we

But today, I also want us to make a collective promise: that we – sisters and associates and those new candidate associates who will soon join us in November – that we will work towards what Pope Francis names: AN EVER WIDER “WE.”

This was the theme he put forth a few weeks ago for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. And though he was specifically calling for welcoming our brothers and sisters seeking to cross borders in order to escape the devastation of their lives in so many places in our world, he was pleading and continues to plead for an ever-more inclusive world.

His suggestions for how we can accomplish this speak beyond the issue of migration movements. He proposes we:

  • Overcome our fears,
  • Break down the walls that separate us,
  • Acknowledge our profound interconnection,
  • Build bridges that foster a culture of encounter, and
  • Be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts.

Sounds like a pretty good recipe for not only building up the world but also for strengthening the Providence Community.

  • Overcome our fears,
  • Break down the walls that separate us,
  • Acknowledge our profound interconnection,
  • Build bridges that foster a culture of encounter, and
  • Be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts.

And if we strengthen the Providence Community, we build up the world. We become a body of energy that can never be destroyed, a critical mass capable of making a difference. We become the body of Christ. The world needs us for this.

The world needs a group of people who actually believe that Providence will rise before the sun, who trust that God will provide and will break down boundaries and create hope through us.

The chaos in our world, the rupture in our country and in our communities demands a response. Recently, I came across a powerful quote of Saint Catherine of Siena: “Cry out with a thousand tongues,” she said. “I see the world is rotten because of silence.”

Full of possibilities

Sister Barbara Sheehan places the Providence Associate pin on Michael Booth.

I believe your presence today speaks to your desire to be this kind of person, to cry out, to let your light shine, to make a little noise. So, I say, let’s make a little noise together.

In a few minutes, you will express this intention: “I am responding to an invitation from God to unite with you, my sisters and associates, to live more fully the vision of Providence in the world.”

Today’s gospel offers a beautiful glimpse of what that vision entails – a kindom where the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted because of righteousness are indeed blessed.

These words, your commitment today is full of possibility for such a kindom.

And WE will make that happen by uniting with each other, my sisters and associates, in:

  • Overcoming fears,
  • Breaking down walls that separate,
  • Acknowledging profound interconnections,
  • Building bridges that foster a culture of encounter, and
  • Being enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts.

The hallmark of a strong community is when the people in that community feel like they belong. Today, we Sisters of Providence and Providence Associates profess together that we belong to Providence, that Providence that has always been at work in our lives, that Providence that so far has never failed us. May we go forth in confidence as an EVER WIDER WE. WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST. And the world needs us for this.

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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