January 13, 2012

Religious Vocations Supplement

Sister of Providence finds ‘God energy’ in ministry at St. Ann Clinic

Providence Sister Beth Wright works on Dec. 13 at the St. Ann Clinic in Terre Haute, a ministry that provides free medical, dental, psychological, pharmaceutical and counseling services to people without medical insurance. (Photo courtesy of Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods)

Providence Sister Beth Wright works on Dec. 13 at the St. Ann Clinic in Terre Haute, a ministry that provides free medical, dental, psychological, pharmaceutical and counseling services to people without medical insurance. (Photo courtesy of Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods)

By Dave Cox (Special to The Criterion)

TERRE HAUTE—Providence Sister Beth Wright finds “God energy” everywhere around her and within her.

She believes it was “God energy” that led her to the Sisters of Providence. She feels “God energy” in all elements of her life. She encounters “God energy” in all of the people she serves in her ministry as assistant administrator of St. Ann Clinic in Terre Haute.

St. Ann Clinic offers free medical, dental, psychological, pharmaceutical and counseling services to people who have no medical insurance. Between 150 and 200 patients visit the clinic each week.

It is located on the campus of St. Ann Parish in Terre Haute, which is scheduled to be closed in May. St. Ann Clinic will remain in operation after the parish closes.

Not only was it a life-changing decision to join the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, but also Sister Beth was not even Catholic when she was first moved by “God energy.”

“I was into my own spiritual journey. I was sitting in my apartment journaling, looking out the screened-in porch at the little lake with a fountain. I was asking the questions,” she said. “What is the meaning of all this? What’s my purpose in being here? I was quiet.

“In my head, I heard, ‘Nun.’ That’s it! ‘Nun.’ Immediately, even without the background, I thought n-u-n, not n-o-n-e.”

“I knew immediately what [that word] meant because I started resisting the possibilities right away,” Sister Beth said. “In that experience, and in looking back over my life, it seems like where the Spirit is moving me is not usually rational.

“It’s not always something I would think of. But, in my journey, that seems to be where I usually find the movement of God, not in human reason. I find the movement of God when I open myself to possibilities or what may be considered as impossibilities.”

As assistant administrator, Sister Beth interviews potential new volunteers, answers the phone when necessary, oversees the processing of donations, fills in and assists wherever needed, and associates with donors, who are plentiful and generous with their time, services and money.

Providing services to patients is at the heart of her ministry.

“I see human beings who should be able to have health care,” Sister Beth said. “In my opinion, health care is not a privilege. It should be a right. Several of our patients have said if it were not for our clinic, they would be dead. We range from [treating people with] colds and breathing issues to those who have been diagnosed with cancer. The clinic has good community support.”

Sister Beth, a native of Beech Grove, is still in initial formation. She is in her Tertian year, the final year of preparation before she professes perpetual vows.

Recently, she was involved in a group discussion about a book titled A Presence That Disturbs. Part of that discussion centered on a quotation from the psychologist Victor Frankel that said, “To live, you must choose; to love, you must encounter; to grow, you must suffer.”

Where does she find her “God energy” at St. Ann Clinic?

“I find it in the encounters I have every day. What I find in my life is all of that. What I find in my ministry is the encounter, which, to me, brings to the center the love and compassion.”

Sister Beth believes her spirituality has grown since she entered the Sisters of Providence eight years ago.

“Prayer for me is very broad. It is the energy. Prayer is where you touch the ‘God energy.’ The way I define prayer is it is like breathing. Both are necessary for life. My spirituality has grown to the point that I know that we are all in God and of God, and we need to treat one another that way,” she said.

Sister Beth learned to trust her “God energy” as she answered her call. In several discernment gatherings, she has heard other women ask, “How did you know? One hundred percent, how did you know?”

“My response would be if you want a guarantee, I didn’t have that. There is no guarantee, just like exploring marriage. I felt called to focus on where I could be supported in ministry, where I could make a difference. It comes down to, for me, how am I going to channel my passion, my life energy? What’s attracting me? For me, it was religious life, community life, living a life in common.

“The call is something I could not ignore,” Sister Beth said. “It’s a leap of faith—at least it was for me. But I cannot imagine not being where I am now. I would not be able to do what I am doing at St. Ann Clinic on my own. It’s a gift to be there and work with people from 13 counties who don’t have health insurance.”

(For more information about the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, log on to www.spsmw.org.)

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