On October 25, 1866, two Sisters of Divine Providence touched Texas soil after several months crossing the ocean from their motherhouse in France Over the past twelve months, my Congregation, the Sisters of Divine Providence, has experienced a year of profound grace, joy and gratitude. We have been remembering, celebrating and ritualizing this event that occurred 150 years ago, and we are committing ourselves to honor that legacy by living it into the future.
We end this year with a retreat together at our motherhouse in San Antonio on December 31st. One of the Sisters on the committee responsible for preparing the prayer for this retreat just sent me a draft of part of our retreat day together. Part of the prayer is a “dialogue” with Mother St. Andrew, one of those two original Sisters of Divine Providence who came to Texas 150 years ago, and who led this fledgling Congregation until she was persecuted and ostracized by the then presiding Bishop of Texas.
In the dialogue, Mother St. Andrew, a heroine to all of us Texas CDPs, asks this simple question, “How can you be Providence to the world, if you are not Providence to each other?” I could not and cannot read this question without tears. It resonates with a profound conviction I have had for many years about the ministry of service we offer to our own frail, elder Sisters. We Sisters have been schooled to serving “the other” in a totally selfless manner. We have also wholeheartedly accepted the mandate, operative since the days of the Sister Formation Conference, that we should be fully prepared for the ministries to which we are assigned, or to which we feel called. However, until we Sisters make that shift of consciousness – that the ministry of service to our own members is on a par with and is as sacred and as Gospel-driven as any other ministry “to others” – we will miss the mark.
For me, as a Sister of Divine Providence, I live out our Congregational charism when I am “being Providence”, when I am reflecting the abundance of God’s loving care for all of creation. I cannot, my congregation cannot, restrict living the charism only to “the other”. The charism must also be lived in the way I see my frail, elder Sisters and in the manner in which my congregation sees and executes its ministry of service to their own members.
For women religious following this blog, what is your Congregation's charism? When you ponder that in terms of the aging of your own members and the aging services they need, what do you see in a new light?