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Ask a Sister: Spiritual help 5 cents

Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Knoblock and Sister Terri Boland share about the Sisters of Providence with a conference participant.

The first week of January 2023 found me in St. Louis at the SEEK23 Conference. I traveled with our Sisters of Providence Vocation Director Sister Joni Luna, SP; Sister Theresa (Terri) Boland, SP, and Sarah Knoblock, the Sisters of Providence volunteer coordinator. While I had represented the Sisters of Providence in 2018 and 2019 at the annual Washington D. C. archdiocesan eighth grade vocations day, held at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I had never attended a national gathering of Catholic college students of this size and duration.

The sister is in

Sister Marilyn Baker in her advice booth

Along with displays and handouts we brought a new element for our Sisters of Providence booth. We had a cardboard replica of Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help 5 cents – The Doctor is IN” booth from the Peanuts cartoon. But our booth said “Spiritual Help 5 cents – The Sister is IN.” I volunteered to be “Sister Lucy.” Going in I had expected that people would come to the display to take a picture with me — “My mom/grandmother will love this!” But in fact so many stopped by and actually wanted to talk to me. Some even lined up to do so! I was amazed. Soon the participants had gone off to the various presentations. I sent a text of me in my “office” to the sisters living in my house asking them to “please pray to the Holy Spirit and Saint Mother Theodore!” 

Conference attendees line up to visit Sister Marilyn’s booth.

Basically, when persons came to my booth, we introduced ourselves. I asked what inspired them to come to the conference and whether they felt God was calling them to a religious or priestly vocation. If they were not sure or hadn’t thought about it, I gave them a prayer of discernment written by Sister Tracy Horan, SP. I also gave information about Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and Saint Mother Theodore, encouraging them to pray to her for guidance. For the young women, I also included an invitation to this year’s Come and See weekend. If becoming a vowed religious did not interested them, I instead shared with them about our White Violet Center for Eco-Justice volunteer program. I gave them printed materials and pointed them to Sarah for more information. For most, this was the extent of our “visit” and they left for the next exhibit or presentation.

Seeking spiritual advice

Sister Marilyn offers spiritual help.

But many others had questions. They asked about how they would know if God was calling them? Or what it was that God really wanted them to do with their lives? There were a few who asked what to do to strengthen their faith. Others asked for prayers for someone who had lost their faith in God, or was ill, or was in trouble. One young person had dabbled in the occult before becoming a Catholic. Now she was feeling the pull of evil; what should she? Another was worried because his younger sister was joining her friends who used a Ouija board for fun. How could he convince her that this can be dangerous for her soul? During these and similar encounters, I really felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and Saint Mother Theodore guiding my thoughts and words!

It was a real joy being able to participate in this conference. My conversations with each of the participants left me energized. I was awed by the depth of faith and the spiritual experiences those who shared with me had gained from being involved in various church groups and/or parish programs. This experience was something I never expected but will treasure it and “ponder it in my heart.”

It’s a wrap! Sister Marilyn after a long day of doling out spiritual help.

What does Mother Theodore say?

At the booth, we also had the small cards with quotes from Saint Mother Theodore on them. Before those who stopped by left our table, we asked them to select one to see what Mother Theodore might be saying to them. To those who had talked to me, I told them that these were excerpts from letters that Saint Mother Theodore had written to the sisters and benefactors, her personal expressions of friendship, appreciation, gratitude, spiritual and practical advice, and, sometimes, admonitions. Many were surprised that the quote they selected related to something they had been praying and thinking about. “Well,” I said to them, “she is a Saint!”

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Sister Marilyn Baker

Sister Marilyn Baker

Sister Marilyn Baker (formerly Sister Ann Cecile) entered the Sisters of Providence in 1962. Sister Marilyn spent many years as a college professor, several of those years serving at Providence University in Taiwan. She currently ministers as a volunteer at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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  1. Avatar Marilyn Kofler, SP on January 25, 2023 at 11:24 am

    Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your insights! What a great way to connect the secular with the sacred! Charlie Brown undoubtedly would have been in line when he saw the sign inviting others to come IN! You are the perfect person to have Lucy move over for a while….

  2. Avatar Della Gunning on January 25, 2023 at 11:54 am

    What a darling idea to use the booth. How amazing that it was received and used so beautifully! As you said . . . I am sure you “will treasure it and ponder it in my heart.” I hope it will be used often.

    • Avatar Connie SP on January 25, 2023 at 6:57 pm

      Loved the inclusion of Charlie Brown’s motif and Sister Marilyn Baker’s delight that came through her descriptions of interactions in this blog.

  3. Avatar Denise on January 25, 2023 at 12:15 pm

    What a heartwarming experience, Marilyn The variety of questions and conversations…wow!

  4. Avatar Susan Paweski, SP on January 25, 2023 at 3:23 pm

    Brilliant idea! So engaging.
    Thank you for the team that represented the Providence Community.

  5. Avatar Debbie Griffey on January 25, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    What a wonderful idea! And such a promise that there was a line! It certainly tells us that young people are searching for answers. Love it!

  6. Avatar Rosaline Secrest, PA on January 25, 2023 at 7:11 pm

    Unlike Lucy who sometimes offered Charlie Brown unkind responses, you obviously were very considerate of each who came to talk to you, evidenced by the lines that formed.

  7. Avatar Joni Luna on January 27, 2023 at 12:18 pm

    Marilyn was perfect for this ministry.
    We had so much fun! Looking forward to RE Congress in L.A.

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