Home » Blog » Rejoice with us: A Silver Jubilee Reflection

Rejoice with us: A Silver Jubilee Reflection

Note: The following is the reflection General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, SP, provided for the Silver Jubilee celebration on Saturday, August 19, honoring Sisters Anji Fan and Sue Paweski for 25 years as Sisters of Providence.

It seems to me that there is no better way to mark this silver jubilee celebration of Sisters Anji Fan and Susan Paweski than to use the words of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin that they themselves chose to have read to us this afternoon.

In the letter that we just heard, written in 1841 to Father Martin, Mother Theodore thanks him for “REJOICING WITH US in the arrival at New York of our dear Irma (Sister St. Francis Xavier).”

For those of you unfamiliar with Sister St. Francis Xavier, she was about the dearest person to Mother Theodore. So, she and Father Martin, who was a great friend of Sister St. Francis Xavier’s family in France, are not JUST happy to see Irma – aka, Francis Xavier – they are REJOICING!

So, in the same manner as Mother Theodore, I thank all of you for being here today and invite you to REJOICE with us in the arrival of Sue and Anji at 25 years of lives of service as Sisters of Providence. All of their readings, even the songs they have chosen, invite us to rejoice, to be filled with great joy.

Sister Susan Paweski (left) with Sister Anji Fan.

Coming Together

We could rejoice simply because they have given us a good excuse to come together, to celebrate and have a party – and what could be more joyful than to have Anji’s mother (Su Fengqin) here with us from China, and Su’s Polish clan originally from Chicago, here as well.

We could rejoice simply because they have survived 25 years as Sisters of Providence! Both of them have spent a good portion of those 25 years as educators – I feel certain they have encountered more than one challenge along the way. That is good reason to rejoice.

But I think we all know that this celebration is NOT just about marking time or having a party. This jubilee day gives witness to the love and lure of a Provident God. As Jesus reminds us in our Gospel reading from John today: “It was not you who chose me; it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit.”

A Fruitful Life

Our Sister Anji was deep in the heart of China when the lure of a Provident God arrived in the person of Sister Donna Marie Fu. Donna Marie, to whom God gave special radar to know just what unsuspecting soul might have a religious vocation, was teaching English at a University in China. Sister Donna Marie attended St. Joseph’s Church in Chongqing (Chaang ching).

Guess who else attended church at St. Joseph’s? Anji Fan. Chongqing (Chaang ching) is Anji’s hometown. “It was not you who chose me; it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit.”

What followed from that encounter has been a fruitful life for both Anji and for the Providence Community. As an educator, Anji has taught at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis, at Guerin Prep High School and St. Therese Chinese Catholic Church, both in the Chicago area, and at Oldenburg Academy in Oldenburg, Indiana. Also, for a time, she served the Congregation as the Director of Novices in Asia. Currently, Anji is working on a doctorate at the University of Louisville, where she also works as a graduate assistant.

Xièxiè, Anji. (Thank you).

Surrounded but Restless

General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski offers her reflection.

As for our Sister Sue, she was surrounded by Sisters of Providence most of her life – in grade school, in high school, in her first teaching job. But following the untimely death of her husband, Ray, to cancer, Sue said she was restless; she just couldn’t settle in; she jut kept thinking about joining the Sisters of Providence community.

She credits Sister Margaret Ann Wilson with being her ongoing connection to the SPs and as a major source of the support she received during this time. But she named her brother Nick as the major nudge of Providence.

In her words, Nick pushed her over the edge and “suggested” she should at least call to find out about this convent life and get it out of her system. In his estimation, it was all she was talking about. “It was not you who chose me; it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit.”

Twenty-five years later, Sue has, in Mother Theodore’s words, accomplished some good here! Besides her life as an educator at St. Alexander and St. Genevieve Schools, Sue, too, has served in ministries within the Congregation – as major gifts associate and later alumnae relations manager within our Office of Congregational Advancement. Most recently, she is one of the co-directors of the Associate Relationship. And, of course, in her spare time she runs around imitating Mother Theodore through the one-woman performance she has developed to share the life of our Mother Theodore with all who might wish to learn about her.

Dziękuję, Sue.  (jen-KOO-yeh: Thank you).

Rejoice in the Love of God

So, we do rejoice today in the deep abiding love of God that has kept them on this path of Providence these past 25 years. The God who chose them to go forth and bear fruit has been faithful, and they have responded in kind.

But there is still a deeper meaning, at least for me, behind this jubilee today AND that is the witness to the meaning and power of religious life.

Where else does a young woman from China and a well-worn life’s traveler from Chicago end up as sisters, and, by virtue of this commitment, share in a mission to be Providence in this world?

Where else would they be asked to work together to further God’s loving plans through works of love, mercy and justice in service to all of creation?

Where else would they be expected to use the gifts of God has given them for the good of all, for the common good, and especially for the least and the lost?

An Ubuntu song we used during our LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) meetings last week helps express what is in my own heart about religious life: “I am because WE are. WE are because I am. United as one we’ll be.”

‘Meant to be Messengers’

Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister says it this way:

Together we are meant to be messengers, models and makers of a whole new world of justice and love wherever we are.

Wherever we are, whatever we are doing.

Sister Sue and Sister Anji embrace.

In this way it will be clear to everyone that Jesus is right: We are friends of God, called to lay down our lives, called to love one another as God, as the Christ has loved us.

This is not the vocation of religious women alone – all of us, all in this Providence Community are called to this kind of holiness, this kind of faithfulness to the God who has loved us into being.

But today is jubilee day for Sue and Anji. And as we celebrate their vocation, let us challenge them to continue to be dynamic witnesses to this vocation.

To return to Joan Chittister, about a year ago she wrote a column in response to the question: “Will religious life rise again – and should it?”

In two sentences, here was her response:

Now is not the time to ignore religious life or to speak of it as something from another age. Now is the time to renew it with vigor.

Continue to Bear Fruit

We are counting on you, Anji and Sue, to be that vigor in our community. With open hands and open hearts, hear Paul’s words to the Philippians as a message for your own lives:

Live according to what you have learned and accepted.

Trust Mother Theodore’s words:

It is always upon nothingness that God is pleased to rear God’s works.

Continue to give your lives, your hearts to being hope and healing wherever you are, whatever you are doing. Go forth and continue to bear fruit.

* * *

As a sign of your continued commitment, I ask you, Anji and Sue, to come forth to the sanctuary and lead us in our renewal of vows. I invite all Sisters of Providence to stand now and with Sue and Anji renew your vows.

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

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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  1. Avatar Debbie Griffey on August 25, 2023 at 7:20 am

    This is a beautiful reflection. I watched the Silver Jubilee virtually, and admire the journey of Sister Sue and Sister Anji. What a blessing they have given us. Thank you so much.

  2. Avatar Janet Tosick, PA on August 30, 2023 at 10:09 pm

    Congratulations, Sister Anji and Sister Sue!!
    You are truly St Mother Theodore’s daughters: thank you for all you do as a Sister of Providence. Your stories are amazing!! I have seen Sister Sues reenactment of St Mother Theodore at St Charles School in Bloomington, IN. The children loved her stories, and Sister Sue’s lovely French accent.
    May God bless Sister Anji and Sister Sue! ♥️♥️🙏

  3. Avatar Jennifer Nowalk on September 3, 2023 at 11:34 am

    Thank you for this inspiring reflection. So many observations caught my attention. The one speaking to me most deeply today is “It is always out of nothingness, that God is pleased to rear Gods works”.

    The next is two beautiful souls coming together from such unlikely places. Literally across oceans and continents. My new companion candidate hails from New Jersey. I am from Gas City, Indiana. Hopefully we will be in the Chapel on October 21. She runs at a clip working as an EMS, I, a contemplative, move slowly with retirement relationships! (Adult children and grandchildren for starters!)

    Mother Theodore never stops calling to me, urging me to hear…. He chose you Jenny, you did not choose Him. Now go and do His will.

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