Sisters of Providence announce new Vocations Director
She was assisting with an afterschool program with inner-city children. Working with children was familiar to her. Since becoming a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Sister Joni had ministered at Saint Patrick Catholic School in Terre Haute and also directed the Providence Teen Ministry program.
However, as Providence would have it, an opening for the new Vocations director became available. Sister Joni was approached by several sisters who wondered if her gifts and her personality might be a good fit for this position. Sister Jenny Howard, general councilor for the New Membership Team, also invited Sister Joni to discern this possibility as part of the search process.
And after two months of consideration, prayer and speaking with others, Sister Joni agreed to the next step in this discernment process of meeting with the interview committee. The interview committee’s recommendation was then presented to the New Membership Team for their input, and the recommendation was presented to the General Council for deliberation. At the Council’s February meeting, Sister Joni was appointed Vocation Director for the United States.
The Council believes that Sister Joni’s outgoing personality, sensitivity to multiculturalism, connectedness with youth and young adults, commitment to the Congregation and to the future of religious life will serve her well as an effective vocation minister.
A Congregation’s Vocations Director meets and talks with women who are discerning religious life and how God may be calling them to minister.
“I was awestruck by their devotion to community and mission,” Sister Joni said of her conversation with Sisters Rita Ann and Barbara. “Sister Rita Ann said, ‘Now you have to think about this Joni, the community is asking. You have to really think about this. It is part of our vow of obedience to answer the call.’
“Sister Barbara and I shed some tears at the thought of my leaving Miracle Place and then she said, ‘It is what the community most needs right now. You have our blessing.”‘
Humbled by this new ministry, Sister Joni said replacing Sister Editha Ben will be a learning curve.
“Sister Editha is one of the best Vocation Directors in the country,” Sister Joni said. “I am thankful she has agreed to stay on as my mentor. I am looking forward to learning all that she has to teach me about how to walk this sacred journey with women seeking God’s call.
“This new ministry is different in many ways,” Sister Joni added. “For many years, I have been involved in hands-on ministry like teaching, coaching, and working with kids and teens. Now, I am walking with women who are seeking and discerning if God is calling them to religious life with the Sisters of Providence.”
Sister Editha ministered as the Vocations Director for the Congregation for eight years and is still part of the newly formed Vocation Ministry Team. She said Sister Joni fits the role’s description of “personal qualities and experience as a woman religious which enable her to represent the Congregation’s traditions, values, and charism, transmitting them in a contemporary situation.”
“Sister Joni is very personable,” Sister Editha said. “She makes one feel at home and very comfortable. She is reflective and prayerful. She brings out the best in a person she relates with. She is also bilingual, and she has a gift to intercultural living that surpasses the boundaries of age, color, education, gender, and religion.
“She has the skills in social media and uses other media opportunities, which further promote the image of the Sisters of Providence.”
“There are many ways for women to connect with us,” Sister Joni said. “We offer various ways to connect via phone call, email, text, our Congregation website, WhatsApp, and Skype by clicking here. We had to cancel our April Come and See retreat for discerning women and the once-a-month vocation opportunities for women to connect with us, but I still have been in contact with women.
“The process of discernment is so sacred. There is no formula. I am aware that we are dealing with the Holy Spirit which is potentially calling a woman to explore religious life. I simply connect with the women and see how the spirit moves and directs the conversation. I simply do my best to listen and seek guidance from the Spirit. It is a delicate and humbling experience to walk in this sacred space with these women in such a pivotal time in their lives.”