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Music, nature, environmental justice all part of young Providence Associate’s call

Providence Associate Holly Herber ministers as a parish musician. Here she poses with the organ at her former parish in Conroe, Texas.

What drew me in to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was the connection with Taizé Prayer.

In 2015, I offered Taizé Prayer at my parish, where I was the music director. A choir member mentioned that Taizé was offered at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She commented on how serene the campus was, and that I would love the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice. I stated that my schedule did not allow me to join a third order, and she shared about the Providence Associate relationship option. I was familiar with the area as I had family members who had attended Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Indiana State University. I decided to go check it out.

The Woods

Visiting “the Woods” was a wonderful experience. My walk was visually filled with the farm, church and chapel, ancient trees and the importance of art; along with stories of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. I still love the use of labyrinths, Taizé Prayer and yoga.

Yoga was already part of my daily life, as it was a wonderful practice to manage my back pain and to promote internal stillness and meditation. I was surprised by how dismissive (or even threatened) several of my Catholic brothers and sisters were in regard to the concept of yoga. However, the Sisters of Providence were very welcoming of it — and I was delighted it was offered on the campus! I have since become yoga certified, and yoga – which means to unite — is still an important part of my spiritual, mental and physical practice.

Providence Associate Holly Herber, at right, with her two siblings, brother Nathan at left and Holly’s fraternal twin, Sister Maria Faustina, a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, center.

Mission of unity

The Sisters of Providence mission overflows with unity. Non-Catholics can become Providence Associates. Love, Mercy and Justice among God’s People reaches in and beyond our homes and churches. I see an emphasis on the word “together” in “moving forward together.”

Ecumenism has had an important influence on my life, where Christians of differing denominations are in relationship and promote unity,. I was raised in a multi-faith household. My father practiced Catholicism and my mother attended various churches. Along the way, I had the opportunity to be in different youth groups and congregations. My parents were both English teachers, so reading and education in general were always of the utmost importance. More specifically, I was indirectly taught to ask questions and allow space for people to share opinions that contrasted from my own. They inspired me to be introspective at an early age, with my posing questions to myself such as “Why do I feel discomfort on this topic?” I have an older brother, Nathan, who was introspective like me, and a fraternal twin sister, Sister Maria Faustina, who is a professed Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, Indiana.

Article author and Providence Associate Holly Herber hiking in Huntsville State Park in Texas

Different callings to community

My sister and I are both musicians, yet we have very different personalities. She is more introverted and had a career in computer programing. She originally was looking into a contemplative order of nuns. However, as she says, professed religious life is a calling and sometimes God calls us outside of our own personal plans or preferences. She is committed to following the mission of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in prayer, poverty, obedience and chastity. As a sister, she has served various positions from laundry and IT help at the motherhouse to work in clinical informatics.

For me, the connection to nature with the Sisters of Providence spoke to me. I enjoyed seeing that there is a sister who is a resident artist. And I desired to be part of a community that serves in environmental and social justice. Inner stillness, creativity, combined with social action, is a walk I feel called to.

As Providence Associates, as lay members, it is in our simple weekly activities where we create an impact. While we might not have lives fully dedicated to a mission, such as vowed religious have, we can choose to act in certain ways to create an impact, whether it be small or more substantial. I devote myself to eco-justice by purchasing Fair Trade/ethical tea and coffee, buying biodegradable trash bags and avoiding single use plastic and paper products.

It is in our simple doing that we bring the message of caring for others. And it is together that we can make an impact. Catholic means “universal.” It should be our collective goal to help all those around us.

Explore the Providence Associate relationship. ProvidenceAssociates.org

Originally published in the summer 2022 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Holly Herber

Providence Associate Holly Herber is a church music director and organist in Henderson, Kentucky. She enjoys hiking, gardening, playing various instruments, weightlifting and conversations involving cars, ranging from classic to new.

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