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Archive for the ‘My Journey As A Providence Associate’ Category

 

“After all, our only support, our only strength is God.” Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

“Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us” Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

“But our hope is in the providence of God, which has protected us until the present and which will provide, somehow, for our future needs…” Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

“We had but one dollar remaining…and we did not know where to get a cent for the want of the house. Still, how could I mistrust Divine Providence?” Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

 

 

After eight years of serving the Sisters in the food service department at the Sisters of Providence, I will be leaving. I am moving from Indiana to Georgia in the middle of May. I have written about my frustration at being “stuck” in food service and not being able to realize my dream of working with single moms. God has answered my prayers and I am moving to Georgia to work with a non-profit that serves single moms and their children. I will move in May and am so excited to see what God has in store for me. The move is bitter-sweet. I am leaving behind a community of women that I have grown to love and respect. These women have been my strength when I struggled in my job and personal life. They will never know how much they have taught me about serving God and life. They have taught me many lessons that I will carry with me as I leave the nest:

  1. Community – The Sisters are a community of over 300 women religious. They have been an example of what living in a christian community should look like. They have different personalities and different perspectives, but they respect each other. They listen to each other and they find that common ground that brings them together. They celebrate the good, they mourn the losses, they pray, they worship, they serve…TOGETHER. These women pray for each other, they encourage each other and they support each other through good and bad. No matter where they are serving, they still do life TOGETHER.
  2. Prayer – The Sisters pray continually. They pray through the nightly news. They take turns praying the hour in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, praying for justice in a world of injustice. They meet together to pray, knowing that where two or three are gathered together, God is there in the midst of them. I will forever treasure the memory of seeing two Sisters, who are biological sisters, praying the rosary together in a quiet corner of the convent. Prayer is an integral part of their lives and they model this effortlessly.
  3. Service – Every Sister has a ministry outside of her religious life. Many of the Sisters are now retired educators. They have been teachers, principals, and administrators in all levels of education. There are Sisters that serve in the medical field, in different roles in the Catholic church, empowering the powerless through justice organizations and they serve in other ministries in housing, food distribution, advocating for the poor. They take on whatever ministry God calls them too. They never shrink from a challenge, but embrace the opportunities to minister to all.
  4. Providence – Providence is the foreseeing protective care and the guidance of God. I have learned to trust in a Provident God. I have learned to have faith in a God that has ALL things under control and has access to ALL resources. I am used to hearing the Sisters comment on the providence of God when things come together in supernatural ways. I have learned to open my heart to those instances when circumstances are aligned in ways that only God could have aligned them. I take with me the faith that a Provident God will continue to provide and protect me in miraculous ways as I serve Him and others.
  5. Courage – Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was the epitome of courage. In 1840, she led a group of nuns from France to establish an academy for women in the wilderness of Indiana. She was often ill, but still founded what is now Saint Mary of the Woods College, the oldest Catholic College in Indiana. She is also the founder of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana. The Sisters of Providence are an order of women religious who have welcomed over 5,000 women as Sisters in the 179 years since their founding. Following the lead of their courageous leader, the Sisters have opened schools, health clinics, food pantries, reunification programs for children in foster care, and a myriad of other programs that address the needs of the poor. I have watched as Sisters courageously battle cancer and other illnesses. I have watched as they have courageously tackled financial struggles and I have watched as they continue to fearlessly face the future.
  6. Love – The Sisters LOVE ALL that walk through their doors. I have felt that love for 8 years, as I have been prayed for, encouraged, shown appreciation for my work, and blessed in so many different ways. The Sisters are an example of God’s love in this world. They truly love those they serve. It isn’t just lip service. When the Sisters say they care, they really do. They welcome strangers into their midst, hoping that the love and peace found at the Woods will be carried in the hearts of those who wander in. No one who encounters a Sister walks away without knowing that they are deeply loved. They don’t care about imperfections and sins of the past. They love simply because God loves. Love is part of their DNA. It is a part of who they are and I have been a blessed recipient of that love.

 

As I face this next chapter of my life, I will remain in community with the Sisters as a Providence Associate. I will continue to join with them in praying for justice where injustice reigns and I know that I carry their prayers with me wherever I go. I will serve where God calls and in Georgia that means that I will be doing what I have dreamed of for thirteen years, serving single moms with a faith based non-profit organization. I will continue to place myself gently in the hands of providence, trusting in a Provident God, who will continue to provide for me as I find resources to provide for other single moms. I will face my future with courage. There are unknowns and obstacles, but I serve a God who is in control of ALL circumstances and I will fearlessly walk forward in faith. I will welcome those around me with the same love that I was welcomed. I will love others despite imperfections and past transgressions. No one is perfect and God loves us ALL.  The Sisters will remain forever in my heart and I will miss their kind words, their laughter and jokes, their good natured teasing of each other and me, and I will miss their patience when I am flustered and stressed. They each go with me as I journey forth. I will never forget the Women of the Woods.

 

To know more about the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana visit their website at www.spsmw.org

 

 

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I am coming to the end of my first year as a Providence Associate. It has been more of a inward journey than an outward expression. I have finally begun to come to terms with my personality quirks. I still struggle with those quirks, but I am learning to not be so hard on myself. I am learning to accept myself as I am, quirks and all. I decided to post this reflection letter to the associate directors because I could not express my struggles any better than I did in the letter. I am slowly revealing my soul through this blog. My prayer is that it will help someone in some way. If you are reading this and you are struggling, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are more of us than you know. Tell me how I can pray for you. So, below is my reflection letter:

My first year as a Providence Associate is coming to an end. As I reflect over the last year, I realize that I have had ups and downs. As I have been called to be part of this community, I have struggled with the resurgence of my schizoid personality disorder. I was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder and generalized anxiety disorder when I was 17 and living in foster care in Los Angeles County, California. Schizoid personality is simply an avoidance of social situations and a lack of desire to want to form close relationships with others. It makes us somewhat socially awkward and as much as we know we need community, we don’t desire community. We desire solitude and isolation.

As a single mom for 18 years, my kids have been the center of my life. They are now growing up and moving on to lives of their own. It is hard for me, because I also suffer from constant anxiety which leaves me with a fear of being abandoned. As much as I desire solitude, I am terrified of being left alone. I need that circle of support that my kids provide and having that vanish has thrown me mentally and emotionally. I struggle every day I have to work. I love the Sisters, but I have to force myself out of bed to be at work because of the constant anxiety and the sometimes overwhelming desire to run away and hide. I live with my daughter, son-in-law and 4 grandchildren. I love them and I need them, but even then, I spend a lot of time in my room, isolated. I know I need community, but I don’t desire relationships. I have 1 friend. My ex-husband’s wife is my best friend. My ex-husband once told me that during our marriage he always felt that I had a wall up that he could never break through. I see the truth in that. Many schizoids don’t marry at all, because we have no desire for that close of a relationship with anyone. It is extremely hard to know I need community, but not desire community in any way. I become hard on myself and try to push myself beyond what I am capable and it creates further anxiety to the point of the inability to function at all. Thus, there is constant chaos in my mind. It isn’t something that can be “fixed”. We learn to cope the best we can.

I am sharing all this in my effort to share more about myself and to bring awareness of those who do suffer from mental illness. My quirks are what make me the special person that I am. I have to learn to only do what I am capable of doing and not push myself to the point of being overwhelmed by life. It is an ongoing struggle to balance it all and to keep the noise in my head at a manageable level.

I want to renew my commitment as a Providence Associate. I want to be more transparent about my struggles in an effort to bring awareness of those who struggle with mental illness. I want to share my struggle with the Sisters because I know that they love me as I am and will accept me, quirks and all. It is important for others to know that there are those who suffer in silence. The rate of suicide is increasing. People are ending their own lives because they feel hopeless. Suicide is not a choice made by someone who is thinking straight. It is made by someone who has lost the battle to the chaos in their minds and has become overwhelmed to the point of ending the noise in any way that they can. I struggle, but I survive. I survive because I have a provident God who has heard my cries of desperation and keeps me alive to share my story. As hard as sharing my story is, I must share it. I know that surrounded by the love of the Sisters, I can find the strength and courage to do this.

In Love, Justice and Mercy,

Patti Burris

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The commitment ceremony on November 18th was beautiful. It was a full day of reflection, prayer and sharing. It was a day that was celebrated by the 22 of us making our first commitments, those Associates that were able to come celebrate with us and the Sisters of Providence. It was a celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Associate program and a looking forward to the years to come. It was a fond farewell to Sister Diane, who is retiring after years of dedicated service to the Associate program. It was a day of laughter and tears and it was a day of peace in my decision to become an Associate. This day has been a long time coming for me. I started this journey in 2011 and it has taken me this long to get here, but I persevered. I knew that God was calling me into this relationship and as I sat there during the ceremony, eagerly anticipating the moment that I received me associate pin, I knew that this was right. I felt at home. I felt at peace. I knew that Saint Mother Theodore was looking down on me and I was now a daughter of this remarkable woman.

I still don’t know where this journey is going to lead. I am taking one day at a time and trusting in God to lead me in His will for my life. I know that I will still have moments when I want to run, but I trust in Providence. I know that as I delve deeper into this relationship with the Sisters, God will continue to work in my life. As I open my heart to those around me, God will provide opportunities for me to BE Providence in the lives of others and to bring love, mercy and justice to the world around me.

I am blessed to a part of this community of Sisters and Associates and I know that in this place, I am home.

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In just over a month, I will make my commitment as an Associate with the Sisters of Providence. I’m not really sure where this journey will take me, but I do know that God has led me down this path and He will reveal His purpose in His time. I started this journey 6 years ago and it has taken me this long to stop fighting Him and trying to make my own path and trust God to put me where He wants me. I have tried to make my own path. I have tried this and that trying to find God’s will for my life, but God brings me back to this magical place, affectionately called, “the Woods” and under the loving care of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and the Sisters of Providence. God continues to keep me here. This is my home. I know that once I make that commitment, I will find my place and God will be able to use me to bring love, mercy and justice into the world. I have said before that commitments are scary for me. I am afraid that once people get to know me, they will reject me. I need to step out of my fear. I need to allow the love of the Sisters to embrace me and maybe even heal me from my fears and anxieties. It is a safe place. I need to allow myself to be open to the love of these women. WOW! I need to accept that I am worthy of love. I have come a long way in the 6 1/2 years of employment with the Sisters, but I find myself still reserved. I am still not sure that anyone could love me just for who I am, imperfections and all. I am learning. I am growing. I think, maybe this is why God has placed me here, to be able to feel the unconditional love of these women. It is a safe, healing place. I feel like a butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis. I have been locked up in this self imposed cocoon and I am ready to break free and fly into my God given purpose.

 

I am trembling at the prospect of completely baring my soul and letting these loving women know my heart, but I trust in the Providence that brought me here and I know that I am in a safe place.

Below is my Commitment Statement:

Providence Associate Commitment

I, Patti Burris, as an associate with the Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, commit myself to be faithful to the spirit of the Congregation for one year. Through this relationship, I will strive to the best of my ability to support and further the mission of Providence.

I understand that as a Providence Associate, I am responding to an invitation from God to unite with you, my sisters and associates, to more fully live the vision of Providence in the world. In God’s presence and with God’s grace, I choose to make a commitment that will honor Divine Providence and further God’s loving plans through works of love, mercy and justice in service among God’s people. I choose to this in the following ways:

*Pray daily the Litany of Non-Violence.
*Participate in community celebrations, gatherings, enrichment programs and retreats as feasible.
*Give mutual support to one another, sisters, and associates in times of celebration and grief.
*Meet together with associates and sisters in local areas for prayer, reflection, socially and for peace and justice activities.
*Keep informed of Congregation news and information through communications and publications.
*Live the mission and charism of Providence in my daily life, work and ministry.
*Delve more deeply into the charism and mission of the Sisters of Providence through reading, reflection, prayer, conversation and participation.
*Participate in works, ministries, social justice activities and volunteer service with the Sisters of Providence.
*Pray on a regular basis for Sisters and Associates.

I am embarking on a great journey and I am excited to see what God is up to!

 

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I emailed my letter of intent, stating that I want to continue in my journey of becoming a Providence Associate. The picture above is a beautiful path that can be found right outside the door of my workplace. It is the path I often take, at the end of a long day, to get to my car. I never fail to feel the stress of the day wash away as the peace of this magical place fills my heart and revives my soul. Along this path is where I have contemplated my purpose in becoming a Providence Associate. I have named it my Path of Intentions.

What are my intentions? I have thought and prayed about this. I know that my intentions are to grow closer in prayer, ministry and personal relationships to these women that I have grown to love. I don’t know yet how that will play out. I don’t know how God will interweave my life into the fabric that is the history and legacy of a congregation of women who are strong, courageous, intelligent, and filled with faith, love, mercy and justice. I don’t know how God will use me as an Associate. I don’t even know if I am worthy of the role. I do know one thing:

 

This journey must lead me closer to Jesus. Just as this statue of my Savior is found at the end of my Path of Intentions, this journey with the Sisters of Providence must lead me closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I am looking forward to serving the Sisters and others with love, mercy and justice.

 

 

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I love this picture of myself and my companion, Sister Kay. I am honored that this is the picture on the Associate poster with the caption: stronger together. As Sister Kay and I have walked through the 6 integration units together, I have learned so much about myself, the Sisters, and providence. We have become friends and I cherish the time we have spent together.

Stronger together. As the Sisters grow older and gradually come home to “The Woods,” we, as associates, have the job of being providence in the world around us. It is our job to live out the charism of the Sisters of Providence by bringing love, mercy and justice into our sphere of influence. We can not do it alone. We need the support, prayers, encouragement and love of the Sisters to keep us going. We need to come back to the motherhouse to connect and strengthen each other so that we all may have the courage to continue the journey that our dear Saint Mother Theodore started those many many years ago. We need each other. I am blessed to be included in this community of Sisters and associates. I am excited to see where this journey will lead. I am somewhat anxious as I step out of my comfort zone, but I will eagerly embrace the challenge, as I walk arm in arm with the Sisters and fellow associates. We are indeed, stronger together.

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Deep within us

Is the power to change our lives

Heal the broken

Loose the bound

Live welcoming to all

(author unknown)

The congregation logo for the Sisters of Providence is, “Breaking boundaries, creating hope.” Throughout His ministry, Jesus was about the business of breaking boundaries and creating hope in the lives of the hopeless and oppressed all around Him. The above poem is a beautiful representation of how Jesus lived those last years in His ministry. He broke the boundaries of what was culturally correct in His day to create hope for those who so desperately needed hope in their lives.

What is hope? 

Instead of giving you the standard dictionary definition, I am going to give you my definition.

Hope is the unwavering certainty that no matter what chaos is playing itself out in the world or in our own personal circumstances, God is at work in the midst of it. He is in control and there is nothing and no one that can stand between us and His will for us. He works for the good of those who love Him and He always will. 

There are so many people who live without hope in their lives. They don’t know the hope that a relationship with Jesus brings. How can we bring hope to those that we come across on a daily basis?

Luke 19:10 tells us that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. This was the basis for His ministry. Jesus did that through healing the broken, loosing the bound, and welcoming the poor in spirit. This unit challenged me to think of life as ministry. I was challenged to open my eyes and my heart to the ministry opportunities in my daily life. Life is a ministry. A wise Sister told me a few months ago that my job in the food service dept. with the Sisters of Providence was a ministry. She wanted me to see that I make a difference in the lives of the Sisters and their guests simply by my willingness to be present. It has not been easy for me to see my job as a ministry. In my mind I didn’t see ministry as serving these women of God who do so much to serve others. because of the words of this wise Sister, I have started to see that my presence, my smile (even when I’m tired), my prayers, are indeed a ministry and I can think of no better way to serve these beautiful women. I have spent so much time frustrated because God would not place me in a “full-time ministry” position, when I have been in one all along.

When we open our hearts and our eyes to the pain in the world around us, God will give us opportunities to heal the broken, loose the bound and welcome the poor in spirit. I have found my ministry. I am to stand with the Sisters, fight injustice, love my neighbor and have mercy on all. I am to live as Jesus lived: life as ministry.

 

 

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