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Blessing of new ‘green space’ begins 2024 annual meeting

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, joined by their Providence Associates, kicked off their 2024 annual meetings on Saturday with a blessing of a new green space located in the northern section of the grounds.

Sisters of Providence General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski said the purpose of the blessing was to “take time to reflect on the gift of our land and the gift of the indigenous people who once lived on this land.”

Sister Dawn admitted that while the Sisters of Providence currently occupy the land of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the land once belonged to Native American tribes before settlers entered the area.

A Nationwide Effort

Sister Joni Luna conducts a blessing prior to all walking outside to see the new green space.

Sister Dawn said many religious communities nationwide are joining in this effort, including 10 groups within the Women of Providence of Collaboration – a group of religious congregations bearing the name and charism of Providence.

“It is also a movement within the communities of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). It really is a movement within a lot of faith groups,” Sister Dawn said.

Sister Dawn said many religious communities have already started giving back to indigenous peoples in various ways.

“Some have started giving donations,” she said. “And some have given back land. We’re going to figure out something to do. What is Providence calling us to do now?”

A ‘Time of Reflection’

The blessing began with a time of reflection followed by a discussion led by White Violet Center for Eco-Justice Farm Manager John-Michael Elmore, who talked about what is being done with the land now.

During the annual meeting, Sister Barbara Battista delivered the Congregation’s “Land Acknowledgement.” This commitment sets the tone for future initiatives of the Sisters of Providence which will focus on tangible actions to support the history of indigenous peoples.

Sister Jan Craven and Sister Marsha Speth (left) toss items into the sacred fire during the blessing of the green space.

“The Sisters of Providence acknowledge that our presence here today is a direct result of historical forced migrations, attempted erasures, and on-going exclusions of indigenous peoples who had lived and prospered on this land for many generations prior to the arrival of European colonizers,” Sister Barbara said.

She continued, “We therefore pledge to move beyond mere words of repentance and to develop programs, policies and actions that fully embody our commitment to the rights of indigenous peoples and to racial equity and equality for all humankind.”

‘Ritual of Healing’

The closing of the blessing was led by Sister Joni Luna who led those in attendance in a ritual of healing and blessing of the new green space.

“Ultimately, we decided the space offered us the opportunity to share something of our beliefs and values,” Sister Dawn said. “And it will also become a location for interpretive signage that will tell the story of this land, how it came to be, what Native Peoples lived here and what led to their removal from this land.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

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  1. Avatar Kathleen (Kitty) Zink on July 4, 2024 at 7:12 pm

    The new green space. How do we share it with the Native people? Seems at least a day set aside to include them would be a good gesture.
    AND, bravo to Sr. Denise Wilkinson for her beautiful Independence Day article!!

  2. Avatar Cynthia Eckert on July 5, 2024 at 1:52 am

    This ritual of the blessing of the green space of the land on which
    Mother Theodore Guerin built the home for all of the Sisters of Providence and for all of the people who have, throughout the years, come in contact with the beauty of the Woods and the spirit of Providence really touched my heart. This most beautiful and powerful act of remembering the lives and trauma of the indigenous cultures and also their spiritual beliefs that revered all of the aspects of the Spirit of Mother Nature completes the Medicine Wheel that encircles all of humanity.
    Their most powerful statement that opens many of the indigenous ceremonies and rituals in this country is ‘All my relations’ or in the Lakota language ‘Mitakuye Oyas ‘in’. In their culture, none of the Earth’s people have ever been separated from each other and all of Mother Nature.
    This effort will be responsible for raising the consciousness of humans that we hope will eventually lead to healing the wounds humans have inflicted on our Earth and on all our relations.

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