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Our trip to Ruillé sur Loir

Note: General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski and Vicar Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp were invited to attend the General Chapter of the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé sur Loir in France in April. During their travels, Sister Dawn detailed in writing their journey and experience. What follows below are Sister Dawn’s Journals:

Day 1 – We Have Arrived!

Jeanne and I have safely landed and have received a warm welcome from the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé, assembled in Sees, France, for their General Chapter.

Our faithful chauffer S. Gillian, one of their councilors, brought us from the airport in Paris through the town of Sees on the way to the convent of the Sisters of Providence of Sees. This enabled us to view the cathedral.

You may recall that this cathedral was the last place Mother Theodore and her companions attended Mass before leaving for the U.S.A.

A picture of the cathedral is hanging in the French Room in the Shrine at the Woods. Jeanne and I hope to spend some time at the cathedral while we are here. 

The other pictures that are attached show our welcome at Sees. I am greeting Sister Josette, their current general superior; Jeanne is getting reacquainted with some of the sisters she met from Madagascar and Sri Lanka the last time she was in France. 

Now, it is time to sleep!!!!

Thank you for your prayers. 

Day 2 – Evening Presentation and Gift

Friday evening, April 5, 2024

The General Chapter of the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé actually begins tomorrow morning. This evening, however, Jeanne and I had been invited to make a presentation to the delegates about our community.

We created a PowerPoint with lots of facts and figures about the Providence Community, and also incorporated the showing of the 6-minute video that had been created some years ago. They are so interested in getting to know us better!

And we have so many similarities. We call ourselves the Providence Community, and they have their Spiritual Family that is inclusive of their associates and other partners. Even our direction statements are similar.

After our presentation, we took the opportunity to present them with the special gift we had brought from the Woods — a first class relic of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. You will see in the picture a small reliquary containing a tiny but precious bone of Saint Mother Theodore.

This reliquary was made at the time of the exhumation of several bones of Mother Theodore in 1998 in preparation for her ultimate canonization.

However, for the last 10 years or so it has been in Archives. The General Officers became aware of this reliquary recently and learned that it is not being used to create second class relics for our own shrine.

Therefore, it was decided that this occasion of the General Chapter of the Ruillé Sisters and the participation of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Sisters was a most fitting time to return Mother Theodore to her native home.

In presenting the gift, we told the sisters that Mother Theodore’s love for her sisters of Ruillé and her determination that the new community would live by the Sacred Rule established by the Ruillé
community never wavered.

“We offer this reliquary with the same unwavering affection and in gratitude that your sister is our good mother and foundress … and with confidence in that Providence that so far has never failed us.”

We gathered their leadership team, and, as a sign of our hoped-for unity, we joined hands to hold the remains of Saint Mother Theodore.

Pictured from left are Ruillé Sisters Shiromali Fernando of Sri Lanka, Gaelle Jacquier of France, Josette Bijloos of Belgium, Gillian Murphy of England, (SPs Jeanne, Dawn) and Marie Brigitte Rakotoson of Madagascar.

Just one other Mother Theodore story for today. A Sister of Providence of the Sees community accosted us in church today, grabbed her Providence cross hanging around her neck, moved the cross aside and showed us the medal of Mother Theodore also attached to the chain on which her cross hung. Though we didn’t understand most of what she tried to tell us, we definitely got the message that she, too, loved Mother Theodore!

Day 3 – Opening of the Chapter

The 2024 General Chapter of the Sisters of Providence opened this morning, April 6, with liturgy during which time each of the delegates — Jeanne and myself included — were called by name, asked to respond “Here I am,” and then instructed to take and place a small vigil light on the altar. We placed our lights near the relic of Mother Theodore, given primacy of place on the altar, next to the wood carved rendering of the Prayers of Reunion recited faithfully by both our communities.

When Carole Kimes and Jeanne attended the 200th anniversary of Mother Mere Madeleine’s death two years ago, they brought this picture as a gift. Jeanne and I were both touched that here it was a centerpiece for their Chapter. At the end of liturgy, Jeanne and I carried the relic and the picture into the Chapter room.

All delegates have been asked to refrain from sharing the content of the discussions at the Chapter with our community members and friends, so we will honor that request. However, we will share impressions of the experience over the next few days.

Tonight, I have to finish my homework — the Moral Report (given by the General Superior and her council), the Entities Report (prepared by the Regions of Europe, Madagascar and Sri Lanka) and the Burser’s Report (finances!). The facilitator has asked us to read the reports not only with our head, but also with our heart and gut.

And my base community table — I have been seated with the Sri Lankan sisters — is in charge of liturgy tomorrow, so I have to learn the song I have attached below. Ha! Take a look — as challenging as trying to sing in Chinese. (Mostly I hum.) The Sri Lankan sisters do speak English but they sing in Sinhala. And they love Sister Rosemary Schmalz! She spent six months in Sri Lanka some years ago teaching the novices English. You did a great job Rosemary.

Love from Sees!

Jeanne and Dawn

Day 4 – A Guest Appearance

April 7, 2024

Today, permission was granted to take a picture in the Chapter Room during a session because of the guest appearance of Mother Mary (Marie Lecor)!! The second general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé, she is really considered one of their co-foundresses, and we know that she and our Mother Theodore carried on an interesting correspondence!

As part of the reports from the Entities, Mother Mary arrived to help the Sisters of the European Entity provide an overview of their lives during the six years since their last General Chapter. Her banter with her sisters was supported by a PowerPoint that presented various quotes from Mother Mary’s letters, including an especially poignant message to Theodore.

The reports from Sri Lanka and Madagascar were also very interesting and creative in their own ways, but Mother Mary was obviously a Chapter favorite. It was not unlike our own experiences of Mother Theodore showing up from time to time at one of our meetings or at a school or parish performance.

I also have included dining room photos, just to begin to give you an idea of the diversity of our Sisters of Ruillé.

More about that tomorrow!! In the meantime, go Iowa women! Go Purdue!

Day 5 – ‘Unity in Diversity!’

Our Ruillé sisters number 233 and they live and serve in six countries. This means that in this Chapter body, at any moment during the day, you can hear French, English, Flemish, Malagash and Singalese (or Tamil). There are three channels of translation on our head phones. Jeanne and I have both been amazed at the number of sisters who know MULTIPLE languages.

Where we have experienced their unity the most is during the times of prayers. Eucharistic Liturgy is perhaps the most powerful witness. Yesterday, for example, the opening song was in Singala, led by the sisters from Sri Lanka.

By the end of the song, however, many of us were humming along. Father Wencelaus, a Spiritan priest from Madagascar, began the liturgy in English. He moved to French for the Gloria, and, by the time we got to the Psalm, he was singing along with the Madagascar sisters who were leading the psalm in Malagash.

They, too, are joined by many others who hum or at least repeat some phrases that have become familiar to them. Sister Henri Dominic seems to be able to sing in all of the languages, and, if you think I’m kidding, you’ll see a picture of her here joining the Sri Lankan sisters as they sang the final song at liturgy today.

The most touching moment for me was actually at the opening Mass of the Chapter when we were invited to say the Our Father in our own language as we prayed together. With ease, we started together and quickly you could hear the buzz of different languages. Amazingly, we all ended at the same time. Unity in diversity!

Another wonderful unifying moment was our very own eclipse party tonight. Jeanne hooked up the computer to the big screen in the Chapter room and invited our Ruillé sisters to join us. There was Lester Holt on the big screen from Indianapolis right here in Sees, France!

Now it did NOT rival the experience you had in the States, but nonetheless it was a moment shared. We are all interconnected! We have loved looking at all the eclipse pictures you have texted to us or have posted on Facebook. This is an amazing world in which we live.

Till tomorrow …

Jeanne and Dawn

Watching the eclipse

Day 6 – The Chapter Schedule

Bonsoir! Good evening! 

We spent most of today in the Chapter room, hard at work in both our Base Groups and our Consensus Groups.  We work first in the group to which we were assigned because of our familiarity with the other people.  So, for example, all the Sri Lanka sisters are together — I am with them, because they all speak English.

Now understand that if I weren’t in the group, they would probably be talking in their first language –Singalese or Tamil. Today, our table facilitator asked my permission to speak in Singalese so she could make sure her sisters all understood the instructions!

Sister Jeanne hard at work

The Madagascar sisters are seated together as well so they can speak in their native language. Jeanne is in a mixed group, but there are enough English/French speakers to translate as they go along. 

Once we do our work in the Base Group, we move to a Consensus Group where it is fruit basket upset!!  You share what you came up with in your Base Group to see what kind of convergence there is in the mixed group. This is when you know that the Holy Spirit is at work!!

But since we can’t tell you what we came up with today, we thought we would share the schedule so you won’t ever complain again about the length of our meetings. 

  • Breakfast is from 7:30 to 8:30,
  • At 8:45 a.m, we meet in our Base Groups for Faith Sharing, using the Gospel of the Day and a corresponding paragraph from their Constitutions or their spirituality book,
  • 9:30, first session, so far we have started in our Base Groups and it lasts all morning; no set pause (break),
  • 11:50 Eucharistic Liturgy followed by,
  • 12:30ish Dinner,
  • 1:45ish The prayer leader of the day stands when it seems that everyone has finished eating; we all stand, sing or pray and are dismissed. (This is when you take a 10-minute power nap if you can!) till,
  • 2:45 session which lasts till Vespers,
  • 6:15ish Vespers,
  • 7 p.m. Supper (yes, 7 p.m.!!!!) until all have finished and we stand and pray, and
  • 8 p.m. Free!!!! 

I’m not complaining, really. It continues to be wonderful to be here — to experience our similarities, our same concerns, our same passion for the Charism of Providence. Today, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods came up on two suggestions put up on Post-a-notes at the end of our afternoon work.  Better get out your French books, sisters! 

Au Revoir for now!

Jeanne and Dawn

P.S.  And yes, it seems that Post-a-notes are a universal language. 

Day 6 – Giving Thanks

Hello again!

After another intense day in the Chapter Room working on orientations for the next six years (complete with more Post-a-notes AND newsprint), the day ended with a celebration of gratitude for the Leadership Team. Elections for the new team begin on Friday. 

Sister Gill (left) with Sister Arlette

Set in the context of prayer, the celebration opened with the Sri Lankan sisters carrying candles to the altar accompanied by beautiful movement. Psalms and prayers and lots of testimonials of praise followed from representatives of each of the parts of their community.

Gill Quigley of England, now living in Etables, who spent a year’s sabbatical at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, was among them, as was Arlette Troisfontaines of Belgium, who visited SMW this past fall with several of her friends.

Soon another dance followed led by the sisters of Madagascar as they delivered flowers and gifts to the Leadership Team. They are pictured below from left to right:  Gillian Murphy, Gaelle Jacquier, Josette Bijloos, Brigette Rakotoson and Shiromali Fernando.

They each received the Icon of Friendship, created by the Taize community.  It features Jesus putting His arm around the shoulder of a friend; this man is called Menas, but he represents each one of us. Jesus does not face Menas, rather He stands alongside him; He accompanies him, sharing in the burdens of life. They also received Joyce Rupp’s book: Return to the Root: Reflections on the Inner Life.  

Jeanne and I also received flowers — two beautiful roses each! Their gracious hospitality continues. We both missed being part of the Taize prayer service last evening in our own beautiful church, but as you can see, our Sisters in Ruillé are taking good care of us.

Love to all of you!

The two Indiana pilgrims

Day 7 – The Blessing of Working Together

Bon Jour!

Today was a turning point in the Ruillé Sisters’ Chapter as we completed the first stage of creating Orientations for the next six years. We then turned our efforts over to a Writing Committee (sound familiar SPs?).

At the end of Mass, we presented the writers with the collection of newsprint as well as the stacks of Post-a-notes used in capturing our best efforts at articulating a vision for the future. We concluded by blessing them on their way. 

Besides the photo of the Writing Committee, I’ve included a few pictures so you can meet the working groups with which Jeanne and I have been spending our time.

Sister Jeanne with her consensus group.

In the afternoon, Catherine Ryan, OSM, the facilitator for the Chapter, laid out the elements of the election process. Jeanne and I will pray with the sisters in the morning, stay for a discussion of their structures, but then excuse ourselves from the rest of the election discernment (except to pray for them!). We are planning a Zoom meeting with our own teammates for tomorrow afternoon. (Someone has to check up on them!)

Finally, this evening, the sisters who live and work in Madagascar showed their appreciation for the gift our Congregation made to them from the Foley Legacy Fund by sharing a PowerPoint presentation so that we could see what our donation has accomplished.

There will be a story about it in the next issue of HOPE magazine, and we hope to bring the PowerPoint home with us and share it with all of you during our upcoming Annual Meeting.  

In so many ways today, we experienced the blessing of our working together. 

Please pray for our Ruillé Sisters election process, especially for those women who will be asked to discern a position of leadership for the next six years.


Jeanne & Dawn

P.S. Thought I would also show you where we spend a bit of time during the day — the snack room.  Please notice the location for which it is named! 

Day 8 – Views from the Window!

Hello again!

We spent a good deal of our day connected to our teammates in Indiana — an afternoon Zoom call to take care of some essential General Council business. At the end of the time, Anne Therese, Carole and Laura asked us if we were going to be happy to come home.

Instantly, Jeanne and I both got very quiet. I think it suddenly occurred to both of us how accepted we feel in this community and how deeply we have grown to love these “new relatives” of ours! I shared how for the first time in my community life, I really feel like Mother Marie Madeleine and Mother Mary are my foundresses, too!

A view from our window!

And Jeanne explained the deep concern she was feeling for the sisters in her base group as they entered the election discernment process. We ask you to continue to join in prayer for them.

We did participate in their morning session, which was about governance structures. Again, the similarities in what is happening in both our Congregations! However, this Chapter meeting was their first discussion of the issue. We would probably have at least three LGU processes before it even gets to Chapter! 

Tomorrow we head for Lisieux and the Shrine of St. Therese (Little Flower), which is about an hour away. It will be good to be with Sisters Loretta, from Sri Lanka, and Julia, from Madagascar, who both minister with the Sisters in the Sees community located here. I’m sure we will have some wonderful photos to share.

In the meantime, I’m attaching some views from my window. I am having a love affair with the sky and all that is contained in the courtyard below!

Au revoir!

Jeanne and Dawn

‘Angels We Have Heard on High’

Day 9 – In the Family Footsteps of a Saint


It’s been a beautiful day for so many reasons! First of all, it was great to be out of the Chapter Room and motoring around the French countryside. And, for the first time since we arrived, it was sunny (all day!) and warm. 

I was immediately intrigued by the fields and fields of bright-yellow flowering plants! It turns out it is rapeseed, also known as oilseed rape. It is actually from the mustard or cabbage family, and it is the third-largest source of vegetable oil and the second-largest source of protein meal in the world. Besides that, the plants are beautiful!

We had intended to go to Lisieux today but instead made our way to Alencon. (We will go to Lisieux tomorrow when we have more time.) Alencon is where St. Therese (sometimes called the Little Flower) was born, and the family  home there has been developed into a museum/shrine. It is administered by a relatively new Carmelite order from Brazil.

Our guide was a young and very friendly Carmelite who spoke English! (Everywhere we are spoiled.). I know very little about St. Therese and even less about her family so what a coincidence/Providence it was to discover that Therese’s mother’s family name was Guerin!! We then tried to explain to our guide, Sister Mary Catherine, why that was important to us. 

It was an opportunity to see how people of that time lived, but I think Jeanne and I both came away understanding why Therese became the spiritual light she has been to so many. The spirituality of her parents was very deep. We had the opportunity to pray the Hail Mary with Sister Mary Catherine in the room where the family prayed together daily. 

Of course, we saw the cradle in which Therese was laid after she was born, and, later, we saw the baptismal font in the Basilica of Notre-Dame where she was baptized the day after she was born.

There was also a chapel in the house and they have developed that into a place where pilgrims can pray and can leave intentions. You can be sure that Jeanne, Loretta and I did just that. On the first Friday of the month those intentions are transferred to the cradle of Therese.

It is the custom before leaving the chapel for each pilgrim to receive a little scroll that contains a saying of Therese. We had told Sister Mary Catherine that we were participating in a General Chapter and she very thoughtfully offered a little scroll for us to take back to Sees for each of the delegates.

On the way back to Sees, Sister Julia (our driver) stopped at Rose Taille’s house in Semalle. Rose, who served as Therese’s wet nurse, really saved Therese’s life. She was a very frail infant. Zelie Guerin and Louis Martin had nine children in all, but only four of them survived beyond early childhood. Interestingly enough, Louis and Zelie Martin also have been canonized — by Pope Francis in 2015. 

So, now that you know more about St. Therese’s family than you ever thought you wanted to know, I leave you with these words of our own Saint Mother Theodore: “What have we to do in order to be saints? Nothing extraordinary; nothing more than what we do every day. Only do it for (God’s) love …”

Love to all of you,

Jeanne and Dawn

Day 10 – St. Therese is EVERYWHERE

To say that St. Therese is EVERYWHERE in Lisieux would be an understatement! In the Basilica of St. Therese, for example, she is pictured in the dome of the sanctuary; numerous murals on the walls depict scenes from her life; various side altars have statues of her; and hanging from a kind of balcony up and down the main body of the church are large poster-size photos of her.

It IS amazing that someone who led a cloistered existence from age 15 to 24 has had such an impact on people’s lives and spirituality. I found myself purchasing a little book in the gift shop with excerpts from her poems and writings so that I, too, might understand the attraction. 

The Basilica of St. Therese of Lisieux.

Mass in the Basilica was quite an experience of “high Mass” or “high church.” Finally, my Latin study in high school came in handy. We sang all the Mass parts in Latin; the rest was in French. It was actually quite a wonderful way to be in solidarity in the prayer. Everyone around us seemed to be able to access the Latin. There was much singing, many priests and altar boys, and oh, the incense. As the French would say,  “Oh la la.”  (I don’t know how to insert accents on email!)

After Mass in the Basilica we walked down the street and found a restaurant where we ate the noon meal. We cannot tell a lie! Jeanne and I both ordered a Burger and French Fries (a salad, too). After 10 days of French-prepared food, I had a real hankering for a burger. Jeanne’s excuse was she wanted to see if their burgers were like our burgers! We both enjoyed them immensely. I did have Creme Brulee for dessert; Jeanne had chocolate ice cream!

The relics of St. Therese

There was more to see after lunch — the crypt where the relics of St. Therese’s parents are on display; the many side altars within the basilica, including the place where Therese’s relics are on display. The plethora of vigil lights at that altar tell you something of the devotion. We saw an interesting film about her life, and it was there I learned that she had to receive the permission of the Pope in order to enter the Carmel at age 15. She actually traveled to Rome and met with him!

Here’s a fun fact revealed about Therese in the film that all you pet lovers will appreciate. She had a dog named Tom who provided her great solace after her mother died when Therese was just 4-and-a-half years old. Later, we went to her family home in Lisieux and a replica of Tom was out in the yard (as were real chickens!). 

So much more to share. Spring is everywhere here and the flowers and flowery trees are breathtaking.  But it is time to sing off. Two bishops are coming for Mass very early tomorrow morning. (One from LeMans; the other from Sees. LeMans is the location of their administrative offices). Tomorrow is the day the general superior will be elected, and it seems the bishop presides at the election. (I’m not sure which one will do that! We will see!)

Au revoir till tomorrow. 

In Providence,

Jeanne and Dawn 

P.S. We also stopped at the Carmel in Lisieux before heading to the Basilica, where St. Therese’s tomb is located. There I discovered a picture of another Guerin who was a member of the Carmel.

Day 11 – An Election and a MAGNIFIT Tour of the Cathedral of Sees (Seez)

Hello again friends!

You would have thought it was our general superior who was being elected the way Jeanne and I tried to keep track of what was going on with the Ruillé sisters’ election this morning! After Mass with the two bishops, one of the bishops went with the delegates into the chapter room. We did see people scurrying about from time to time, but it wasn’t until the bells started ringing about 10:30 a.m. that we knew the deed had been done. Sister Josette Bijloos was re-elected as general superior and will begin her second six-year term in September. 

The delegates spent the afternoon and into the evening discerning about councilors; first, about how many to elect, and then, who to elect. We hope they will finish by tomorrow afternoon. We hope so; they have a party planned!

Jeanne and I spent the afternoon in the vicinity of Sees, accompanied by Sister Ann Marie of the Sees Providence Sisters, and Sisters Loretta and Mary Joanne of the Ruillé Sisters. Ann Marie arranged for an English guide (Victoria) to meet us at the Cathedral of Sees to show us around. Victoria admitted to us that she was nervous to have Sister Ann Marie with us because she believes Sister knows more about the cathedral than anybody. Both guides were delightful, and, once again, we were overwhelmed by the history and magnificence of what has been standing in this small village in France since the 13th century.

The cathedral is also known as the Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Sées and is a national monument of France. The Statue of Our Lady of Sees has been in that building since the 13th century. Time and events have worn out much of the outside of the Cathedral, including the front entrance. Victoria showed us a picture of what it actually might have looked like in its early days. This is probably NOT how the cathedral doors looked when Mother Theodore and her companions arrived there. 

Once inside, you are almost overwhelmed by the height of the cathedral and its lightness! It is considered a prime example of Gothic Norman Architecture. The two stately spires you would have seen in the picture I sent on the first day of our trip are 230 ft. high.

There is a magnificent organ by Cavaille-Coll which has recently been restored. Sunday afternoon recitals are held during July and August. Victoria’s husband is an organist so she gave us a CD of one of these concerts. I think our SP organists would really get their steps in climbing to this organ loft. 

So much to see — two very beautiful “Rose” windows — the large circular stained-glass windows found in Gothic churches; side altars galore; statues; and even some silly expressions of Gothic architecture. 

One very interesting thing we learned today is that the church is not heated, so they do not use it from Christmas to Palm Sunday. Perhaps this is true of all churches like this? Lack of heat has certainly been an issue in the church here at the Convent in Sees. We all put on our coats to go to Mass! (Reminiscent of putting on our fleece jackets in the summer to participate in Chapters and other meetings in O’Shaughnessy Dining Room.)

Our touring time ended today, so I’ll save the rest of the pictures from our Sees and other adventures for one of the upcoming meeting days. Victoria gave each of us a small card with an artistic rendering of the cathedral. This will certainly be a cherished keepsake. Enjoy!

With love from France,

Jeanne and Dawn

Day 12 – The Sisters of Sees


Since the election process started, Jeanne and I have been sharing meals with the Sisters of Sees. They are part of the Congregation that merged with the SPs of Ruillé in 2015. In that fusion, as they call it, they gave up their own Constitutions to follow the Rule of the Sisters of Ruillé. All their affairs are managed by the Ruillé congregation.

They numbered 44 at the time of the fusion; they are now 17. But that is only part of the story. The sisters who live here (and they are joined by two sisters of another community for Mass and the noon meal) form a community with four SPs of Ruillé. The loving care they exhibit toward one another is truly inspirational. You would never know there is a distinction — it really is a fusion!!

Today, Sister Ann Marie, who toured us around the Cathedral of Sees yesterday, decided we needed to understand all the elements of the Chapel here at Sees.

Sister Jeanne (from left), Sister Dawn and Sister Ann Marie.

We laughed because almost upon entering the rear of the church (which would be the front door) you are greeted on the left by a beautiful and very large fresco of St. Therese of Lisieux (of course). Who is kneeling by her side but a Sees SP postulant. Sister Loretta reminded us that Therese was born in the Sees diocese.

That is one of the distinguishing characteristics of this chapel. There are images of feminine figures, including Sisters of Providence, in every stained-glass window and fresco. One of the most dramatic is the figure of a Sister of Providence kneeling at the feet of Mary. In the background you see the planes of war circling ’round. 

Most of the large stained-glass windows are divided into three sections: Top-Old Testament; Middle-New Testament; Bottom-the story of the Sisters of See. 

And in the midst of the grandeur of the building and its windows is the sanctuary and the intimacy of all of us gathered in that space that is setup in traditional choir style (chairs across from one another between the altar and the table of the Word.) 

We will be praying extra specially for them tomorrow — they will vote for the councilors, who, with the general superior, will guide the work of the community. They hope to be finished in time for us to have a party tomorrow evening. They count on the prayers of the Providence Community as well.  Merci!

Till tomorrow. Amore!

Jeanne and Dawn

Day 13 – Party Time!

The elections were completed this afternoon with four new councilors being named to join Sister Josette Bijloos in leading the community. 

In the group picture, they are from left to right: Sisters Shiromali Fernando of Sri Lanka, who will begin her second term as councilor; Arlette Zuster of Belgium, first term (you may remember that Arlette visited Saint Mary-of-the-Woods with three of her associates this past fall); Josette, second term as general superior; Eulalie Ramalalasoazafimanjaka of Madagascar, first term; and Brigitte Marie Rakotoson, also of Madagascar, second term.

Tomorrow the work continues on the orientations (direction statements). But tonight, we partied! 

One of the gifts we received

The homemade fudge and peanut butter cookies we brought were a big hit! Thanks Mary Montgomery and Joni Luna.

After the entertainment from various countries, Jeanne and I taught them the “Place Yourself Gently” Providence song and presented their outgoing leadership team with some thank you gifts. Pretty soon, they were giving us gifts.  Enjoy the pictures! 

Our last day is tomorrow!! Boo hoo! 

See you soon!

Day 14 – Last day!

It was a bittersweet day for us here at the Ruillé Chapter as people began to bid us farewell and offer their thanks and good wishes. More gifts were given, speeches made and quite a few tears were shed. Jeanne and I both have become pretty attached to the sisters at both our base group and consensus group tables.

We knew this experience was going to be historical; I don’t think we realized what an impact it was going to have on our spirits or how deeply we were going to feel the connections that have been made. As we worked on the orientations again today, we heard almost every table group report some desire to deepen the connection with “our” sisters at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

At the end of the day, after vespers, we gathered in the sanctuary of the chapel where we have spent so much time together praying and took a group shot. Enjoy the motley crew we have become. I did sneak in a few pictures during the chapter session today just to give you an idea of how it’s been for us.

So, our bags are packed. We’re praying we’re not over the luggage poundage limit, given all the gifts we’ve been given! We leave at 7:30 a.m. Sees time (1:30 a.m. Indy time); arrive in Indy just after 9 p.m. Indiana time (3 a.m. Sees Time). We count on your prayers for a safe journey.  See you all soon!


Jeanne and Dawn

Day 15 – Epilogue

It seemed only right to send one more missive from our French adventure.  

We left very early Friday morning (both Sees time 7:30 a.m. and Indiana time 1:30 a.m.) for Paris and our flight home. True to form, our many new friends gathered to say Au Revoir! Jeanne and I were both fighting back tears.

Lilacs in bloom

It is amazing how experience can open your eyes and your heart to see and feel in new and deeper ways. The expression, “enlarging your tent” has new meaning. I know Jeanne and I are the better for it, and we hope the community will be the better for it as well.

Your prayers have certainly accompanied our travels. We had no real flight delays or turbulent weather coming or going. We arrived safely home at the Woods, around 10:30 p.m. (4:30 a.m. Sees time). We both stayed well during the time there! (I had to take sinus medicine only once in the two weeks we were there! Now, that’s a miracle.) So, thank you! 

When the Ruillé community presents its final copy of their orientations for the next six years, we will make sure you all receive a copy. You will find echoes of our own Providence Spirituality and desires for the future in the statements.

Tomorrow (Sunday), they will travel to Ruillé for a final liturgy of the Chapter. It is called the liturgy of obediences. Gathered there with the whole community, the new leadership team will pledge their obedience to the work of the chapter and the community during the next six years. In turn, the sisters will pledge their obedience to the new team. And at the heart of all of it will be their collective obedience to our Provident God. Amen!  

Till the next adventure …


Jeanne and Dawn

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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 Jane OBrien on April 25, 2024 at 8:26 am

    I loved reading about this! Thank you for keeping and sharing this diary and the related photos. It fills in some of the background of Mother Theodore, as well as the ongoing vibrancy of today’s Sisters as they renew and deepen their connections and find new ways to express God’s loving Providence.

  2. Avatar Berny Newland Heitzman on April 25, 2024 at 1:44 pm

    Sr. Georgiana T would have been so thrilled with all this!

  3. Avatar Susan Maxheim Carter on April 25, 2024 at 10:17 pm

    I throughly enjoyed every word and felt like I was right there with you. Thanks so much for taking us along.

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