January 12, 2007

Religious Vocations Supplement

‘Leaning on Providence’

By Fr. Eric Johnson

Director of the archdiocesan Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations

In a letter written during the early years of the Sisters of Providence within the Diocese of Vincennes, St. Theodora Guérin counseled her fellow sisters: “And rest assured, my dear daughters, if you lean with all your weight upon Providence, you will find yourselves well supported.”

At the time, these words of trust and hope were intended as encouragement during a period of real struggle, anxiety and uncertainty. And indeed, in the face of such difficulties, it was St. Theodora’s own lived example of trust in God and his providential care that helped sustain the sisters in their life and ministry.

As the Church in central and southern Indiana has just recently celebrated the canonization of its first saint, it seems fitting to have her emphasis on Providence serve as the theme for this year’s Religious Vocations Supplement and to allow St. Theodora’s words to speak to us anew.

St. Theodora’s conviction that those who lean on Providence will be well supported remains relevant to the life and ministry of the Sisters of Providence more than 160 years later, but it also speaks an important truth to all of us.

Her words stand as a reminder of God’s great love and concern for us as well as his constant presence and activity in our lives. In a world touched by struggle, anxiety, uncertainty, brokenness, loneliness and grief, her counsel invites us to remember that our lives are in God’s hands, that he is with us, sustaining us and calling us to his joy.

As a Christian people, all of us, through our lives and prayer, are called to live in the mystery of God’s love, to recognize the movements of that love in those that surround us and to be an instrument of that love to others. In doing so, we are called to the mystery of Christ’s promise to be with us and to sustain us.

To lean on Providence is to trust in this promise. It is to lean on the God who loves us and seeks to journey with us, to bring all that we are and all that we do into our relationship with him and, through that relationship, to be a witness of his providential care for others.

To lean on Providence is to recognize that our lives are not our own, that we have a purpose—a vocation—to participate in God’s plan of salvation.
The lived example of trust in God and his providence are important gifts offered by priests, deacons and religious brothers and sisters. In embracing a vocation of service in and for the Church, they bear witness to their trust that God will sustain them. They serve as living signs of the intimate presence of God, who loves us.

And in their ministry, Providence touches us. Whether through teaching, counseling, prayer, preaching, celebrating the sacraments or simply through their presence, priests, deacons and religious bring God’s love to bear on our lives. We lean on these men and women of faith because, through their witness and ministry, we are called more deeply into the life and love that sustains us.

This supplement contains some of their stories. Though each is unique, I believe all of them witness to trust in God’s providential care. In reading these stories, may we be reminded that if we lean with all our weight upon Providence, we will indeed find ourselves well supported. †

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