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Reflections for Profession of Perpetual Vows

Note: On Saturday, August 20, 2022, Sister Tracey Horan and Sister Arrianne Whittaker professed perpetual vows as Sisters of Providence. Here is the reflection General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, SP, offered during the celebration. See photos from the ceremony here.

Sisters Tracey and Arrianne have offered us many powerful words and images to reflect upon today as we gather to celebrate their perpetual profession of vows as Sisters of Providence. Among them are these from Isaiah:

“Look, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth — can’t you see it?”

Given that both Tracey and Arrianne have lived among us for about 10 years now and as women under temporary profession of vows for a good deal of this time, this profession of vow business should not be new news for them.

Sister Arrianne Whittaker (from left) and Sister Tracey Horan with General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski during the Perpetual Vows celebration on Saturday, August 20

So why does today signal something new?

Because today they are saying to us and to a world so in need of the transformational power of God’s love that not only are they ready, they are also making themselves radically available to be God’s Providence, God’s love, mercy and justice. For me, their radical availability is signified by their willingness to say forever to the Holy One.

I, Sister Tracey Horan, I, Sister Arrianne Whittaker, take forever, the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

AND, they are ready to do this forever with us — the Providence Community — and with the support and love of these two faithful families who have helped nurture them since their birth and are now sharing them with all of God’s creation.

Both Arrianne and Tracey have written beautiful blogs that have been published this week that speak of their readiness as well as their love of God and their willingness to move forward with this community.

This IS a new moment for them and therefore for us

“Now it springs forth — can’t you see it?!”

I don’t know about you, but I think there is cause for rejoicing here!!

And another part of what we are coming to know as new is their place/our place in the global sisterhood. Instead of fretting about the diminishing numbers of sisters, we are beginning to recognize that women throughout the world are continuing to say forever to a life that has meaning, that makes a difference. I love Sister of Saint Joseph Helen Prejean’s description of this sisterhood:

“Women unleashed. We are a force! We have a freedom to do the Gospel … what better way to use our energies than to transform the world. … God bless our sisterhood. I love that we are free agents of the Gospel in the world.”

I am not sure this is exactly what our Saint Mother Theodore had in mind when she said what we heard in our second reading:

“We cannot do our work if we all stay in the nest. As soon as the birds can fly they must be on the wing, looking after the interests of our Saviour Jesus … ”

But Mother Theodore knew, as we do today, that the religious life we lead, the vows we take, the community we make are for the sake of the reign of God, for God’s priorities, for the interests of our Saviour Jesus, for the life of our world.

Arrianne and Tracey, these perpetual vows you profess today are the bedrock of our lives and consecrate you/us in a special way, according to Pope Francis, to be witnesses of a different way of doing things, God’s way. Of acting, of living … the values of God’s kindom incarnated here, on this earth and writ large in our Constitutions.

Sister Tracey Horan (left) and Sister Arrianne Whittaker at the statue of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin outside the Church of the Immaculate Conception

The value of a commitment to poverty in a world of plenty

This vow challenges us:

  • To let go of material goods and possessions in favor of professing a fundamental dependence on God, and leaving us free to connect with the poor and oppressed;
  • To let go of unreasonable adherence to personal opinions in favor of offering space and acceptance that nourishes communion among us.

The value of a commitment to chastity in a world of violence and division

This vow summons us to a loving that knows no bounds. Our single-hearted dedication to God makes possible the inflow of God’s love, enabling our love to flow out to everybody, empowering us to a radical openness to others and a desire to enter into their suffering and woundedness.

The value of a commitment to obedience in a world of individualism and abuse of authority

This vow would have us listen and then listen again to each other for sure, AND:

  • To the Spirit’s call for THIS time in terms of our life and ministry;
  • To the Earth’s call for JUSTICE;
  • To our sisters’ and brothers’ calls for hope and healing.

The Value of These Vows

The value of these, our vows, says Sacred Heart of Jesus Sister Maria Cimperman, is that they “keep us honest, transparent, available and dependent on God.”

Tracey and Arrianne, the strength you need to continue to live these vows and this life will come from many sources. However, your choice of readings for today led me to name one simple source — a source that is so much a part of who we are as Sisters of Providence — TRUST in the Providence that so far has never failed us.

As you have lifted up today, Mother Theodore tells us to:

“lean with all our weight on Providence, and we will be well-supported.”

We have heard Isaiah’s incessant call to:

“be not afraid … God has called you by name, you are precious in God’s sight. If you pass through raging waters — you will not drown. Have no fear … ”

And the Providence Gospel, which assures us:

“ If you seek first the kingdom (of God), everything you need will be given to you. Look at the birds in the sky …”

Be Patient and Trustful

I pray that you will follow your own advice to be patient and trustful, that you will grope along slowly and that you will find in us, your sisters, in all your companions in Providence, a community of love that you can lean on for support and love.

But in addition to trusting in God, I pray that you will trust in yourselves. God has placed great trust in you. God has entrusted you with so many gifts and is counting on you to continue to use those gifts in the service of the Gospel. The words of our Sister Barbara Doherty (RIP), SP, will be forever imprinted on my soul: “The purposes of God are riding on our existence.”

Finding Purpose

Each of you, it seems to me, have found the purpose, the focus for your gifts and talents. In many ways, both of you have embraced a vocation within a vocation. Tracey, you as an advocate; Arrianne, you as a healer.

Tracey, if your family is to be believed, you have been speaking your mind almost since you were born. And you have channeled that energy, absorbed Jesus’ compassion as it were, to stand with los perdidos y los menos, (the lost and the least) at the border, in downtown Indianapolis, wherever the voice of justice has been needed.

And Arrianne, your desire to be a doctor is practically in your DNA, given your parents’ own vocations. Your desire to listen with your heart to your patients, to be there in love for those who come to you in their most vulnerable moments, has given you the strength to persevere these last years to be the doctor you are today.

Cause for Rejoice

I thank you both, on behalf of all of us, for who you are and who you will help us to become because of your yes. There is cause for rejoicing here!!

And so on behalf of the Providence Community, and with these words of Saint Mother Theodore, I ask you to stand as I call you forth to your perpetual profession of vows.

“If … you are quite determined to belong entirely to God, to work with all your strength … I say to you with assurance, Come.”

Tracey, Arrianne: Come!

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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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