Home » Blog » Providence Associate and former Sister of Providence Donna Watzke shares about her journey

Providence Associate and former Sister of Providence Donna Watzke shares about her journey

I was a Sister of Providence for 33 years. And I was schooled by the Sisters of Providence since the first grade at St. Leo School in Chicago. These two realities encompass all that I am today in ways I never could have imagined. It was my eighth grade teacher, Sister Jane Bodine, SP, who invited me to consider going to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for high school. The rest is history! I always say we live our lives going forward but understand our lives looking backward.

For me, being a Sister of Providence (my religious name was Sister Marie Carmelita) was a transformative experience. In my early years of formation, I was steeped in Providence Spirituality, the life of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, the and the SP charism of Providence expressed in ministries of love, mercy and justice. Throughout this journey I learned the meaning of living in right relationship with our Sisters and with the larger world community.

Education and ministry

Providence Associate Donna Watzke, right, volunteers at a community gathering. Pictured with her are Providence Associate Adrienne Curtis-Davis, left, and Sister Mary Mundy, center.

I began ‘active’ ministry as a junior high teacher in Evansville, Ind. In time I was named  principal of All Saints Catholic School in Indianapolis. Eventually I was appointed vicar of religious and director of pastoral planning for the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. During these years, I was blessed with educational opportunities that supported the work I was doing. I earned an undergraduate degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and graduate degrees from Illinois University (education administration) and The Catholic University of America (psychiatric social work). I also received certification in formative spirituality under the mentorship of  Father Adrian Van Kaam through Duquesne University.

Each ministry and education experience widened my horizon. Each gave me an expanding vision of the complexities of systems and the hungers of the wider world. They enlarged my understanding that God’s call is constant and comes day in and day out. In every stage I was supported, encouraged, challenged and called by my Sister companions and community leaders. They believed in me often when I had difficulty believing in myself.

A new way of living the mission

My life with the Sisters continues in my life as a lay person. For 20 years I worked at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, mostly in the role of consultant to human resources. Here, all my experience as teacher, administrator and counselor came to the fore as I served with other leaders and staff who were the life and heart of the hospital. Special to me was being invited to be part of the implementation of their Mission Integration Program.

Providence Associate Donna Watzke speaks at a Providence Community gathering.

At the invitation of Sister Denise Wilkinson, I’ve served on the Sisters of Providence Mission Advisory Board for 12 years. At the invitation of Sister Nancy Nolan, I joined the Sisters in their prison ministry in Terre Haute. As a Providence Associate my life continues to be enriched with opportunities to serve within our Providence Circle and at the Woods.

Now I am very fortunate to be part of a dynamic church community that has specific outreach goals related to our homeless neighbors, our immigrant community and addressing racial inequity. My little part in this has been partnering with our Immigration Welcome Center by mentoring individuals who are seeking citizenship, standing with our Latino community especially during the ICE enforcements (Sister Tracy Horan was a key leader of this endeavor), and supporting a local shelter for homeless families. Other commitments include parish ministry with the hurting, reading, ushering and various ad hoc committees.


I am grateful to the Sisters of Providence, who, I believe, fostered a solid core within me and then encouraged the spiraling out of the core in ways, as I said before, I never could have imagined. I admire the Sisters of Providence, a now smaller but mighty community of women. They continue to live their mission in service to others and welcome other lay men and women to join them in this ministry. And finally, I give thanks for all our Providence Associates who share with the Sisters the charism of Providence.  

Read more about Donna and other former Sisters of Providence in the Summer 2023 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Donna Watzke

Donna Watzke

Donna Watzke is Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence. She is a former teacher, principal, administrator, counselor and consultant. Donna currently serves on the Sisters of Providence Mission Advisory Board.

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  1. Avatar Marsha Speth on May 5, 2023 at 6:49 am

    Thank you, Donna, for your faithfulness in living the charism of Providence!

  2. Avatar Susan Paweski, SP on May 5, 2023 at 7:53 am

    Beautiful story of how you responded to the call of Providence throughout your life, Donna. We are all grateful for your presence in the Providence Community.

    • Avatar Lorrie Scheidler on May 17, 2023 at 9:30 pm

      You have lived a full and amazing life. I have enjoyed our time together as Providence Associates. Your presence is something to behold. Your charism of the Sisters of Providence is ever present.
      Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Avatar Mary Montgomery on May 5, 2023 at 8:11 am

    Donna, I so appreciate your generosity in sharing the gifts you’ve been given in many and varied ways. Thanks be to Providence! Thanks be to You! 💖🙏🤗

  4. Avatar Mary Frances Keusal, SP on May 5, 2023 at 7:23 pm

    A beautiful and so well told Donna! Thank you for sharing it with us. You give Providence special life and meaning. I am so happy to have been part of your journey for over seven decades.

  5. Avatar Donna Butler on May 6, 2023 at 1:15 am

    I knew you as a young person in high school and then in the community. I am so grateful for how your life has unfolded and how you have touched so many other lives with compassion and wonderful skills. It is such a joy to still be connected with you today. Thank you for your generosity to the SPs and so many others. Thank you for sharing your story, Donna!

  6. Avatar Rita Edwards on May 8, 2023 at 8:37 am

    Thank you, dear Donna for sharing. I am so blessed to be in relationship with you. What a beautiful person you are inside and out. So glad Providence brought us together.

  7. Avatar Mary Tomlinson SP on May 10, 2023 at 7:13 pm

    Donna. What a beautiful life. You have seized every opportunity and found a wide range of ministries using your considerable gifts. I knew very little about you and your piece portrays a skilled and gifted woman. I’m so happy you are part of our Providence Community.

  8. Avatar Connie SP on May 10, 2023 at 10:41 pm

    Thanks fir sharing your beautiful sacred story Donna. You surely have allowed Providence to widen your tent which is so inspiring to me.

  9. Avatar Carole Kimes, SP on May 11, 2023 at 8:06 am

    Your story magnifies the power and presence of Providence. What a gift you are to us and grateful for your presence in my life in various ways and various times. Providence has a way of aligning the journey when most needed.
    Thank you for your presence as a viable member of the Providence Community.

  10. Avatar Linda doyle on May 12, 2023 at 7:24 am

    Donna : Success is something you attract by the person you become ! I read your story and it was telling your calling . peace and joy ! Linda

  11. Avatar Rosemarie on June 21, 2024 at 7:09 pm

    does anyone remember Sister Marie Emmanuel who taught 8th grade in 1954/55 at St. Leo’s grammar school in Chicago Il. On Emerald AV. and does anyone know her name before she was a nun. She was a true saint.

    • Amy Miranda Amy Miranda on June 24, 2024 at 10:41 am

      Hi Rosemarie, Her name before joining the Congregation was Margaret Haugh. I will email you the obituary our Archives department was able to find on her.

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