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Reaching out to others

Editor’s Note: As we celebrate Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14), several sisters will share via the blog about their experiences living as a Catholic sister.

In the second grade, I wanted to be a priest. From then on, I knew I would be a Catholic Sister. The Lent before I entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, I affirmed the role of the laity grounded in Baptism. I “went to Mass” every day, consciously making the statement to myself that lay people are just as holy as sisters and priests.

Reaching out to others has been an important place in my life. It’s where I feel at home. I’ve been a lifelong learner, starting as a student at St. Andrew School in Chicago. I then moved on to learner as a sister – as a teacher, principal, religious education consultant, associate pastor, director of the Sisters of Providence mission development and a number of administrative positions at the archdiocesan level.

Sister Marilyn Kofler, right, visits with another sister during the 2018 Sisters of Providence annual meeting.

Roots of justice, integrity, intimacy, communion and wholeness were nurtured in me by family days as a youngster, novitiate days as an adult-in-the-making, and ministry days as a committed disciple. Throughout my life, raising questions and searching out possibilities filled my conscious interaction with others as well as my interior reflection.


In the past 70 (!!!) years as a Sister of Providence, I have been “surprised” into various forms of ministry. I’ve responded to affirming invitations to do – to be – what I never imagined or dreamed I could be. It was the invitation, both affirming and surprising, that recognized potential and giftedness in me. This led me to a most fulfilling experience in being a woman of the Church.

Being Associate Pastor at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Schaumburg, Ill., for 13 years opened up significant opportunities to experience the reality of priesthood that flows out of our Baptism. It was there that I found myself experiencing more intensely the tension found in the “unrecognized” ministry of the non-ordained. At the same time, I found people affirming my goodness, my effectiveness, my presence in the community.

I found myself in a unique situation in the Church where I was free to be woman in the Church in ways that were not “legalized.” I found support and recognition from my colleagues, both ordained and non-ordained. I found a shared vision of faith, of Church, of ministry and of presence that was exciting, stimulating and life-giving. I found hope in the love and care and concern of parishioners who recognized when I, too, was in need. And I was touched profoundly by such loving presence.

Reflecting on religious life

Reflecting back on these 70 years of being a Sister of Providence, I find renewed enthusiasm and strengthened conviction to continue as a woman of the Church, conscious of my baptismal call to ministry. I find courage and hope in the Providence of a loving God as I become more conscious of my human limitations and the need to accept who I am and who I am becoming. I find wisdom in Christian spirituality as I hear once more the challenge to let go and let be.

I find affirmation and love and warmth as I listen and attend to the people with whom I now interact. In all of this, I know once more the loving presence of God expressed concretely in so many life-giving moments. These God-moments give birth to the freedom to live life fully and lovingly in God. It is in this community, mission-driven and focused on what is central to faith, that I know once more how I am so blessed and loved by God.

Come and see!

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Sister Marilyn Kofler

Sister Marilyn Kofler

Sister Marilyn Ann Kofler has been a Sister of Providence for 67 years. Currently, she ministers as a social justice advocate in the Chicago area.

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  1. Avatar Marsha on March 12, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Thank you for sharing your joy in ministry and the wonderful adventure of being a Sister of Providence, Marilyn!

  2. Avatar Connie SP on March 12, 2023 at 10:41 am

    Great picture and great sacred story!
    Thanks for your reflections Marilyn.
    And congratulations on 70 years as an SP!

  3. Avatar Maureen Dickinson on March 12, 2023 at 10:51 am

    That’s such a beautiful reflection on who you are, Sister Marilyn, and an inspiration for women discerning who they may become as women of the Church. Thank you for your sharing.

  4. Avatar Mary Montgomery on March 12, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    A wonderful reflection of you life, Marilyn! Thank You for these decades of service, Love, Mercy, Justice!!

    My favorite sentence was this –
    “Roots of justice, integrity, intimacy, communion and wholeness were nurtured in me by family days as a youngster, novitiate days as an adult-in-the-making, and ministry days as a committed disciple.”

    See you at River Witness at Fairbanks Park in Terre Haute soon!!

  5. Avatar Sister Susan Paweski on March 12, 2023 at 6:01 pm

    Beautiful, Marilyn. Your reflection on religious life is meaningful. Thank you!

  6. Avatar Stephen Modde on March 13, 2023 at 10:51 am

    This is such an uplifting article about your wholistic, spiritual self. It’s been uplifting to get to know you in our book club. Your article describes, You continue to show us that we all share priestly ministry flowing from our Baptism; and the official Church must legalize such ministries, especially for women! And with encouragement or questioning by Pope Francis and you and us it might happen soon!

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