Volunteer Spotlight: The Sister Volunteers
For nearly two years, the hallowed doors of Providence Hall were closed to the public, leaving many Sisters of Providence saddened because of the lack of communication with visitors from a face-to-face perspective rather than just talking to people on the phone.
Prior to the COVID-19, visitors at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods would often find their way to Providence Hall, also known as the Motherhouse, and stop to chat with the several Sisters of Providence who volunteer in the building’s phone room at the main entrance where people check in when they first come into the building.
But after COVID-19 reared its ugly head, the visitation stopped.
But those visitors are coming back, giving these Sisters of Providence an opportunity to start those chats again.
For three years, Sister Mary Ann Phelan has helped coordinate the volunteers within the phone room and has amassed 21 sisters for the job. Providence Hall is open to the public from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., seven days a week. During that time, Sister Mary Ann said each sister volunteer will spend at least one hour and 45 minutes in the room greeting the visitors who stop by.
“Almost all of the sisters who are involved have other ministries,” Sister Mary Ann said, providing the example of Sister Joseph Fillenwarth, who is also the director of the Providence Food Pantry.
Sister Mary Ann said many of the people who stop by Providence Hall are involved in the service industry. Others are visitors of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods looking for other locations and some stop at the Motherhouse just to greet or deliver something to a sister.
Since the doors were opened to the public at the Motherhouse, Sister Mary Ann admitted she has noticed more of a pep within the sisters who volunteer time in the phone room.
“It feels really good,” she said. “People come in and say, ‘you have such a beautiful church.’ It’s very welcoming to have people back here.
“We’re here for people, not for ourselves. There is such a wealth of art in this building. There’s so much history. It’s like answering questions about our family home.”
Inspiring and Enriching
Sister Rebecca Keller, coordinator of volunteer services for the Sisters of Providence said it’s a blessing to have so many sisters who offer their services within the phone room.
“It’s inspiring to me how much service our sister-volunteers contribute to continuing the mission of the Sisters of Providence,” Sister Rebecca said. “In 2019, before the COVID shutdowns, 79 of our sister-volunteers here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods gave approximately 5,931 hours of service each month. That’s so amazing!”
Sister Dorothy Gartland also volunteers time in the phone room and said she enjoys meeting with the many new people who stop by.
“It’s an important job to have someone on hand to greet and welcome people, and it is not that hard,” Sister Dorothy said.
Sister Mary Lois Hennel added that during her time as a volunteer in the phone room, she felt as if she was a valuable asset for the other Sisters of Providence who live in the Motherhouse.
“It’s a need to have someone answer the phone and help people when they come in,” Sister Mary Lois said. “It’s another way to help the community.”
Sister Mary Ann added that she views Providence Hall as a welcome center for people who are visiting.
“Volunteering here is so enjoyable and enriching,” she said.
The Sisters of Providence offer many volunteer opportunities where you can make a difference, learn new skills and feel your time is valued.