July 28, 2006

Sisters of Providence elect new leadership during general chapter

Providence Sister Denise Wilkinson, a native of Chicago, has been elected the new general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She succeeds Providence Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara, who has served as general superior for the past five years. Sister Ann Margaret chose not to seek re-election.

Elected to the congregation’s General Council was Providence Sister Marsha Speth, vicar and first general councilor; Providence Sister Jane Marie Osterholt, second councilor; Providence Sister Nancy Reynolds, third councilor; Providence Sister Marie McCarthy, fourth councilor; and Providence Sister Paula Damiano, fifth councilor. All but Sister Jane Marie were re-elected to their second five-year term. The officers-elect will be installed during a eucharistic liturgy on Sept. 9.

The election of officers is the culmination of the congregation’s general chapter, which occurs every five years. During the general chapter, the congregation defines its goals for the next five years then elects its leadership.

The general chapter was held at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on July 4-5.

“This is an important time in our history. The women who were elected with me are the right women for the next five years,” said Sister Denise. “We made some important decisions during our chapter, and I look forward with excitement and enthusiasm to carry them out.

“It is very, very humbling to stand in front of the congregation and know that you have their blessing and their confidence. Some of these women have been my teachers, my mentors and my friends for years and years and years. To be trusted by them is humbling, touching, overwhelming.”

Sister Denise has served as vicar and first general councilor for the past five years. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a bachelor’s degree in English. She earned a master’s degree in counseling at Saint Louis University.

Prior to being elected to General Council in 2001, Sister Denise served as director of the Office of Congregational Advancement at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, which oversees development, marketing and communications.

Sister Denise entered the Sisters of Providence on Sept. 12, 1963, from St. Mary-of-the-Woods Parish in Chicago. She professed perpetual vows on Aug. 25, 1973.

She taught at Costa High School in Galesburg, Ill., from 1968-71 and at John F. Kennedy High School in St. Louis from 1971-73. At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, she ministered as assistant dean of residents from 1974-75 and dean of residents from 1975-79. She also served as director of Pilot House in Rosemont, Ill., from 1979-82, vice president of student affairs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College from 1982-89, and formation director for the congregation at the motherhouse from 1991-96.

She is the daughter of the late John and Josephine (Vlasak) Wilkinson. She attended Queen of All Saints and St. Mary-of-the-Woods elementary schools in Chicago and Marywood Academy in Evanston. †


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