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For Sister Lucy Lechner, it’s the little things

Early in the morning, Sister Lucy Lechner, SP, (formely Sister Mary Louis) sits on the porch of Providence Hall at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She is soaking up all the sights and sounds of the rain, clouds, lightning and thunder as a summer storm rolls through. Nature is her peaceful place where she communes with God. She marvels at the little things and enjoys the aliveness, music and dancing of life outdoors at the Woods.

Since she stepped foot on campus for high school in 1947, Sister Lucy has taken every opportunity to explore and enjoy the natural places here. Early in her life as a sister, she would play on north campus, a place still special to her. “I feel very close to Mother Theodore when I’m out there — I sense her presence,” Sister Lucy shares.

Sister Lucy in her peaceful place, walking in nature at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

Healing in nature

During her nearly 50 years serving first as a teacher then working with older adults, every summer when she would come home to the Woods, Sister Lucy would take the opportunity to walk the property. She curiously explored all the ravines, wooded areas and waterways. Although she can’t do that anymore, Sister Lucy continues to spend as much time as possible outdoors, like morning walks and evening swims in St. Joe’s Lake.

“It’s therapy — there is healing in nature,” she explains.

While outside, she delights in the songs of birds, encounters with fawns and the way things look in the light of the sunrise. Each day, she is amazed at all the little ways God surprises her, from the rhythmic knocking and call of a pileated woodpecker to the different ways the trees dance depending on the tempo of the wind.

Feels like home

Sister Lucy Lechner during some of her daily chores, watering plants in Providence Hall and near the Church.

The Woods reminds Sister Lucy of her childhood home.

“I was born and raised on a farm. One of my favorite things after supper was to go out and walk around our woodlot, which was about 22 acres. That was my peaceful, quiet time,” she remembers. She now realizes that this is how she prayed as a young girl and is still how she prays.

It was there she also gained the skills to take care of a farm. Her grandpa and dad would bring her and her siblings along while working. As their helper, Sister Lucy learned how to fix many things. She also learned how to take care of plants by helping her mom in the garden. Whatever she was doing, she looked forward most to being outside.

Ministry at the Woods

In 2001, Sister Lucy’s ministry brought her back to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods where she was asked to assist with the care of the building, grounds and sisters in Providence Hall convent. This ministry has allowed her to put all the handywoman skills she learned growing up into use in service to her sisters. From hanging pictures, moving furniture and fixing small broken things, to baking, lighting candles and taking care of the plants indoors and outdoors, Sister Lucy for more than 20 years has taken care of the little things to keep things running smoothly.

She knows where almost everything is in Providence Hall — a keeper of the common goods — and she is willing to help anyone who asks. One sister recalls that when she moved into Providence Hall, Sister Lucy was an invaluable support. “All I had to do was ask if we had something and later it would show up at my door!”

Sister Lucy lights the candles in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

A life in service

Given the religious name Mary Louis, Sister Lucy has tried to follow the model of Mary, offering her life in service — to God and her sisters. She wants those she serves to feel secure and supported. “I feel very fulfilled serving my sisters,” she reflects.

Sister Lucy says she is retiring this year, which really means she is letting go of some of the things she is doing. She is grateful to the “new generation” moving back to the Woods who are willing to take on the tending of the “little things.” She is looking forward to more time for solitude and communion with God in and through nature. Thanks to Sister Lucy’s quiet service behind the scenes, many visitors and sisters on campus will also continue to enjoy the peace, beauty and healing of this special place.

Originally published in the Fall 2023 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Sister Corbin Hannah

Sister Corbin Hannah

Sister Corbin has been a member of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods since 2009. She has a master’s degree in Social Work and is currently ministering at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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  1. Avatar Debbie Griffey, PA on October 14, 2023 at 11:06 am

    What a beautiful story! I also draw strength from the outdoors, and you describe so well how Sister Lucy is blessed in her interaction with the flora and fauna, especially at the Woods. Love it!!

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