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Tapping into fresh energies: Sister Joni’s vocation and teen ministries

Sister Joni Luna, top middle, and Sister Kathleen Leonard, bottom row right, lead a virtual Advent retreat for young women in 2021.

“I don’t see myself as a recruiter,” says Sister Joni Luna, SP. “Women are searching, seeking, desiring to be in right relationship. They have a desire to be part of a puzzle bigger than themselves. They want to live the Gospel with other persons who are like-minded. They want to make a difference in the world.”

Enabling women to encounter the power of God’s invitation is part of the work to which Sisters of Providence commit themselves individually and collectively. Sister Joni Luna has the special ministry of being vocation director for the Congregation. But she sees it as a responsibility every Sister of Providence shares through her witness in whatever life of prayer and service she ministers.

Hope for the future

White Violet Center for Eco-Justice interns show off their work from an art and spirituality workshop Sister Joni led with them.

Hope for the future of religious life in the community of Providence and in the church rests among those who continue to hear God’s invitations. Hope rests in those who choose to dedicate themselves to vowed lives and to make the energies of love, mercy and justice present in our world and to share that joy with others.

Sister Joni sees herself as a catalyst. “I am always trying to be present and to meet women at the points where they are. I want to introduce them to Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and her legacy. I can’t be wedded to the outcome. I am always working for the mission. I want to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit take over,” she said.

Sister Joni said that soon after she took on her current ministry, the restrictions of Covid-19 forced her to make a number of adaptations.

Adapting

“Covid moved us into the world and language of social media that younger people speak. For example, we streamed the monthly Taizé Prayer service on the SP website, and invited women who had been discerning with the Congregation to join in a virtual prayer group. We also offered a mini Advent retreat and virtual opportunities to interact with some of our newer members,” she said.

In another virtual session, Sister Tracey Horan, SP, offered a “Solidarity on Tap” evening reflection for eight women. Other offerings have included a session on human trafficking led by Sister Barbara Sheehan, SP, and a mini-retreat on “God’s Call” offered by Sisters of Providence Chaplain Fr. Terry Johnson.

Sisters of Providence Vocation Director Sister Joni Luna takes a selfie with one of our Providence Teen Volunteers.

Sister Joni also interacts with students in the freshman level Woods Core Course at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She introduces the students to Saint Mother Theodore and her legacy as it is evident in the college that they attend.

Planting seeds

She characterizes her ministry as “seed planting and participating in the mystery of God awakening the power of the spirit in another person.” The question that she says she often hears from women discerning is, “Am I worthy enough to answer this call?” Sister Joni says she usually encourages the inquirer to “relax and trust that God may be unfolding a bigger, holier mystery in her every day.”

In summarizing her work, Sister Joni often quotes wisdom from Saint Mother Theodore Guerin: “You may not live to see it, but you have sown the seed and your Sisters will come to reap what will have been sown.”

Teen volunteer ministry

A Providence teen volunteer reads a book with Sister Jane Gibson, SP.

Sister Joni also enjoys ministering with younger “teen volunteers.” Teens are invited to come to the Woods once a month to interact in various activities with retired Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. During their time at the Woods, the young people learn more about the sisters, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and the work of the Congregation, all while bringing a glimmer of light to our elder sisters’ day.

“I believe that Providence touches the life of everyone who comes in contact with Sisters of Providence. So, I want to provide as many opportunities for that to happen as possible,” says Sister Joni.

She is happy that in coming months, she will be able to schedule more in-person events like a “Come and See” weekend retreat for women to get to know better the Sisters of Providence and their style of living out religious life.

To learn more upcoming opportunities with the Sister of Providence, visit Events.SistersofProvidence.org.

To learn more about becoming a Sister of Providence, visit Become.SistersofProvidence.org

Originally published in the summer 2022 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Sister Cathy Campbell

Sister Cathy Campbell, SP, is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Spirituality from Catholic Theological Union/Chicago. Sister Cathy also ministers as a retreat facilitator for the Providence Spirituality and Conference Center with special interests in scripture and the mystics.

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