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Reflections for one of our Asian Sisters perpetual vows

Note: The following is a reflection offered by General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, SP, regarding the recent perpetual vows of one of our Asian Sisters of Providence. The Sisters of Providence are proud of our long history of overseas ministries and in order to protect our Sisters and their work, many details have been intentionally omitted from this story. 

“To be a perpetually professed member of the Sisters of Providence is the most important thing for me, no matter where the ceremony is held – in the U.S. or Taiwan.

These are your very words written to me in your request to begin preparation for perpetual vows.

Little did we know that you would be professing your vow in none of those places –

  • Not in the U.S. where the whole community of Providence could have embraced you, and
  • Not in Taiwan, where the whole community that currently seeks to support your life and mission and helped to nurture that vocation during three years of study there could have embraced you.

But here we stand in Silang, Cavite in the Philippines, at the Providence Spirituality Retreat House, in the embrace of the incredible generosity of the Missionary Sisters of Providence and the mysterious workings of Providence. We give thanks in a special way to Sister Theresa Wang, General Superior of the MSPs, and the Rev. Antonio Wang, SVD, our presider today, who is currently the vice principal of a high school in Manila.

Perhaps it is because we are here that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the words of the German statesmen Goethe are true:

“That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision – that no one could have dreamed would come his or her way.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

You began this bold dream 12 years ago, when, through the influence of your Catholic upbringing and the late Sister Donna Marie Fu, God called you to join an American community that today continues a 100-year mission to the people of Asia.

You have continued that bold dream by spending your energy in the service of vulnerable children. We are so grateful for your ministry and for your Sister of Providence companion. Today, you are the presence of Providence and bearers of love, mercy and justice to the people you seek to serve.

Today, you take another bold step by making this a forever commitment as a professed member of the Sisters of Providence. You promise to spend the rest of your life wholly dedicated to a Provident God and to follow in the Mission of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit and by sharing in the charism of Providence. The gift of the vows and a life joined to the Providence Community will support you in this consecrated life.

The readings you selected for the liturgy today provide a beautiful roadmap of what these vows might mean for your life. In the first reading, St. Paul provides a glimpse of what the vow of chastity might call us to:

“… put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. But over all these, put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”

Saint Mother Theodore, whose sayings were conveyed in the second reading, puts it simply:

“Love all in God and for God, and all will be well.”

May you witness this kind of all-encompassing, generous love, through your vows of chastity.

Mother Theodore also suggests the kind of poverty demanded of a vowed religious when she says:

“God alone can give you the courage to overcome nature and to make to him all the sacrifices he has required of you.”

May you witness this kind of self-giving, a sacrificial openness to all that might be required of YOU through your vow of poverty.

In the Gospel, Jesus could not provide a better example of the vow of obedience. He tells those who are to become his disciples:

“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command (we) will lower the nets.”

Jesus rewards their obedience:

“When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.”

Jesus promises those who devote themselves to the reign of God that they do not need to be afraid.

May you witness this kind of fearless devotion to mission, a willingness to put out into the deep through your vow of obedience.

We pray with you today that these vows – chastity, poverty and obedience – will continue to shape your life. We pray that you will always feel your bond to the Providence Community and the love your sisters and associates have for you despite the many miles that separate us.

Let me close with some powerful advice from Mother Marie Gratia Luking, who 103 years ago this very day, established the SP mission in Asia:

“When my mind becomes occupied about the future … (I) can only get strength by casting it all into the arms of God’s Providence, living one day at a time, expecting everything from (God).”

And let me repeat the beautiful sentiment expressed by our Saint Mother Theodore in the opening of our second reading.

“Continue, my dear and truly chère fille to walk in the presence of God.”

To see more photos from this journey, click here.

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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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