January 11, 2013

2013 Religious Vocations Supplement

Sisters preparing for perpetual vows have broad range of ministries

By Dave Cox (Special to The Criterion)

Why not let yourself be lured by God?

The bait was cast. The seed was planted. The structure had been put in place.

Whatever analogy is appropriate often leads to a discerning pathway.

“If you are considering religious life, then God has already planted the seed,” said Providence Sister Deborah Campbell, one of four Providence Sisters who are in the final stages of their Tertian year in preparation for professing perpetual vows.

“Do what you can to nurture that seed by praying and listening to the inner longing within your heart. Let God lead you. Let God be the voice that draws you to be in solidarity with others,” she added.

The goal of tertianship is to prepare for perpetual profession of vows as a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

The preparation includes opportunities to deepen a sister’s relationship with God, and to further her sense of identity with the congregation’s life and mission.

Sister Deborah, a native of Chicago, has been ministering with Catholic Relief Services for more than a year. She currently is on mission in Kenya where she is a senior auditor, verifying the proper use of donated funds.

Providence Sisters Patricia Wallace, Beth Wright and Laura Parker also are preparing for their perpetual vows.

Sister Patty is a native of Indianapolis and ministers as children’s librarian with the Indianapolis Public Library. Sister Beth, a native of Beech Grove, is assistant administrator of Wabash Valley Health Clinic (formerly St. Ann Clinic) in Terre Haute, and Sister Laura, a native of Chicago, serves as hospice chaplain for Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care of Illinois in Willowbrook.

“This journey has been and continues to be life-changing, life-giving and life-challenging. One of my biggest growth or learning areas has been the ongoing shift of my worldview from ‘my own back yard’ to a global view and now moving into a cosmic view,” Sister Beth said. “Being opened up to intentionally change where I stand in order to see a different view has opened my human [and] spiritual life to possibilities; not my possibilities, rather, the possibilities within the movements of God energy.”

Sister Patty has had a similar experience.

“Don’t wait until you are ‘perfect’ or have your life totally together to consider religious life,” she said. “Start exploring where you can use your unique gifts to meet the needs of the world with a community to support and challenge you.”

All four have different discernment paths. One is a convert who had no experience with women religious, one was shy and lacked self-confidence, one entered the community, then left, but returned a few years later, and one was married, became a mother and raised a son.

“I know I am where I need to be. If you look at me before, you would say I had it all. I just found I needed more to believe in, to work toward. I am truly happy. I have good role models in the sisters I live with and that I minister with,” Sister Laura said.

They also depend on the presence and influence of St. Theodora Guérin, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence, who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

“When I was in Rome for the canonization, I was in awe of the lives that she had touched and continues to touch in the world. Mother Theodore trusted completely in Providence so I turn to her when I need a reminder of this trust,” Sister Patty said.

“Mother Theodore’s influence is always there for me,” Sister Beth said. “It may be subtle, but it is there. Her life, her spirit, her energy and charism have spoken to me since I began this journey. She and her companions set the tone for this Sisters of Providence community.”

Sister Laura calls upon her own life experiences with health care to relate to her patients. Sister Deborah appreciates the humbling experience of working with people in developing countries who have “practically nothing.”

Sister Beth is passionate about the role of women in society and the sharing of their gifts, wisdom and voices.

And Sister Patty says promoting early childhood literacy connects her gifts to her order’s founding mission of education. She also is attracted by raising voices to assist less-privileged and oppressed citizens in our society.

All were lured by the call of God. They have experienced the journey that seems to be different from popular or common life choices that women make today.

“It is easy to get pulled in by the societal promises of wealth, power and fame,” Sister Deborah said. “It is easy to convince yourself that the better thing to do is go with the flow, go with the majority.”

For women who are in discernment, or think that God may have cast a lure in their direction, Sister Deborah has some advice—“I would pray, pray and pray some more. And, most of all, listen to your heart.”

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

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