Posts Tagged ‘Providence Associates’


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 my anxiety disorder. I was diagnosed with social and generalized anxiety disorder when I was 17 and living in foster care in Los Angeles County, California. It has been hard for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and trust God as I trust community.

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. Being around people causes me anxiety, but 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 desire community, but I am also afraid of it. I am afraid of being rejected for who I am. I have been rejected in my life and now I try to avoid situations where I might be rejected again. The fear of doing something that will cause me to be rejected leads me to avoiding community, as much as I desire community. 

I am sharing all this in my effort to share more about myself and to bring awareness of those who do suffer from anxiety. 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 anxiety. 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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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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Relationships can be hard. They cause you to be vulnerable. They cause you to trust that someone else will accept you imperfections and all. That they will be there, even when you blow it big time. That they will forgive you when you cause them pain. Relationships cause you to forgive when that someone else hurts you. Relationships cause you to open up your heart to the best and the worst in someone else and know that the relationship can withstand the tests of time. Relationships are not easy for me. I usually run before I can get to close. Other than my kids, grandkids, ex-husband and his wife, I have no other close relationships. I have no close friends, because I am afraid of opening myself up to that level of vulnerability. I am afraid of being judged. I am afraid of being rejected. I am afraid of being abandoned.

God is calling me into deeper relationship with the Sisters of Providence. I have tried to run from this relationship in the past, but God keeps me here. I have so much to learn from the Sisters and I have so much to give.

I do not make commitments lightly. For me, a commitment is a dedication of oneself to someone, a community or a cause. Honestly, I have made commitments and have backed out because of my fear of failure. I have made commitments and then have run because those commitments involve relationships.

In this process of becoming a Providence Associate, God is molding me and shaping me into something beautiful. It is sometimes painful though. During my time with God this morning, He spoke these words to my spirit, “Until you are fully committed, I cannot use you here.” These words broke me. To know that I am standing in the way of God using me fully breaks my heart. I have fought for so long to be away from this place that is called Terre Haute that it has become second nature. The grass is always greener in another city, or another place. God cannot use me until I become fully committed to being here in Terre Haute and to the Sisters of Providence. God also spoke to me through my daily Bible reading; Proverbs 12:11 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. There are times in our lives when God has to be real with us or we may never get it.

The questions I have to ask myself are: am I ready to fully commit myself to the Sisters of Providence as an Associate? Am I ready to fully open myself up to that vulnerability that comes with building close relationships? Am I ready to open up my heart and share myself, imperfections and all with these Sisters that I love? Am I ready to trust them with my heart?

YES! I am ready! Every day is a challenge. There are times when I feel that I have shared to much and I want to run. There are times when I don’t get the reaction that I was looking for and I take it as rejection, so I want to run. My challenge is to allow those times to draw me closer to the ONE who loves me UNCONDITIONALLY and allow Him to mold me as I learn to be vulnerable.

There was one other impression that God implanted on my spirit today. God wants me to quit trying to plan my life around the needs of other people or my need to want to be around certain people in my life. I am to put HIM first. I have to be fully committed to God first. I am guilty of this. Unintentionally, I have tried to shove God into my need to be closer to so and so. It doesn’t work that way. I have to be fully present and fully committed to God and what is in my life right now. I have to stop trying to run away and focus on those who are in my life right now. Okay, I’m listening God.

I am excited and scared to see what is around the corner as I fully commit myself to God and as I fully commit myself to this relationship with the Sisters of Providence. But, I am ready. The Sisters have opened up their hearts and their community to me and I am ready to trust them with who I am.

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love-mercy-justice                            pray-love-serve

Definition of Charism according to Merriam – Webster:

An extraordinary power (as of healing) given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church

The Charism of the Sisters of Providence is Love, Mercy, Justice. They live that out through ministries in different parts of the U.S. and Taiwan. Love, Mercy and Justice is part of everything they are involved in. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit given to the Sisters for the good of the church and the world.

I had to think of what my personal charism could be. I found it in the tag line of this blog. Pray, Love, Serve. This is me. This is who I am. This is the gift of the Holy Spirit to me for the good of the church. This is my gift to the world. When I link my personal charism to the charism of the Sisters, it becomes a unique gift from me to the church. It becomes a unique gift from me to the world in which I live.

As I was going through this unit in my Associate handbook, this passage caught my eye:

And we know too that the acceptance of grace itself is a gift, enabling all who receive it with open hearts, hands and minds to partake in the very life of God.

WOW! I found it hard to wrap my head around the concept that I can partake in the very life of God. According to dictionary.com the definition of grace is:

The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. 

The acceptance of grace is accepting the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. I do not deserve God’s love, but He loves me anyway. I do not deserve His favor and blessing, but He gives it anyway. Will I accept His grace in order to partake in the very life of God? Absolutely!!! The idea that the God of the universe is extending an invitation to ME to live life with Him is mind blowing. He is inviting me to partner with Him in His mission to the world. What exactly does that look like for someone like me?

That brings me to another passage that really spoke to me:

From this common understanding of mission comes our common call: to be Providence in the world today.

To be Providence in the world. What does that look like? How can this 46 year-old single mom with anxiety issues be Providence in the world? I keep going back to what a sister told me, “this is your ministry.” She knew that I needed a ministry and was reminding me that my job in the food service dept. IS a ministry. Initially, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. A ministry is feeding the hungry, fighting for the oppressed, being a voice for the voiceless, or showing love, mercy and justice to the sisters who have given their lives showing love, mercy and justice to those who need it the most. In the months since this interaction, I have reflected on her words and she is right. Serving the sisters IS a ministry. The sisters are human, they deal with discouragement, pain and sadness just the same as we all do. Being able to pray with and for the sisters is a ministry. Feeding the sisters and their guests is a ministry. Joining with them in their cause is a ministry. Maybe I’ve been looking at it all wrong. Maybe I’ve had the wrong perspective. My job in food services can be stressful and overwhelming. It isn’t what I thought ministry looked like, but maybe it is. Maybe instead of hating it and fighting against it, I need to love the fact that I get to do something for the sisters who do so much for other people. I need to do it for God.

My challenge is to look at it as a ministry and not just a job. I need to see it as a service to the sisters, even on bad days when I am ready to run for the door. I need to change my perspective. I never tire of showing the sisters how much I respect them and love them, so I need to hang on to that, when the job itself becomes almost too much to deal with.

Using my personal charism of pray, love, serve and joining it with love, mercy and justice in serving the sisters is my ministry for now. This is how I get to Be Providence in the world and I am okay with that.

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It was a beautiful day for the Associate’s orientation. It was a day of prayer. It was a day of sharing our stories. Each person with a different story of how Providence brought them to this place of belonging. It was a day of reflection. It was a day of discomfort.

As an introvert with anxiety issues and social phobias, sharing my story with a group of 60 or so people was terrifying. I was shaking in my shoes as I stood there and held the microphone. I had rehearsed some of what I wanted to say, but it came out so much better than I had hoped. I’m sure they all heard the trembling in my voice and I did tear up once (What can I say, I’m emotional!). This was just the beginning of God pushing me out of my comfort zone on this journey. My companion, Sister Kay, has her work cut out for her. Since Saturday, I have been reflecting on why I want to be an associate and what my expectations are for this candidacy year and going forward.

I want to be an associate, because I want to be a reflection of love, mercy and justice in my sphere of influence. I want to join the Sisters in fighting for justice in the world. The Sisters are living examples of love in action. In many of our stories, we each shared a sense of belonging or being home. This isn’t a coincidence. The Sisters embody a spirit of hospitality and compassion. This campus has become a refuge for many of us. A place of peace in the midst of chaos. A shelter in the storm. We feel the loving presence of our Foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and we know that in this place, we are safe.

I think the key word for this next year is GROW. I want to grow in my relationship with God. I want to grow in my relationship with the sisters. I want to grow in my prayer life. I want to grow as a christian. I want to grow as a writer.  I want to take the time to discern God’s will for my life as an associate. My kids are getting to the age where they don’t need me as much and I have more freedom to see where the Holy Spirit is leading me. This will definitely be a year of reflection and discernment.

I want to be able to transition from working in the food service dept. to working with the sisters on social justice issues. This is where my heart is. I have a passion to see justice for the oppressed, the abused, the lost. Oppression has many faces. There are so many people around the world who suffer in silence. They live lives of silent desperation and cry out in their pain. Is anyone listening? I have such a burning desire to join in the fight for these precious souls full-time, that at times, I cry out in frustration because I have bills to pay and money is a necessary evil. For now, I will do my best where God has placed me and trust in His Providence to work out a way that I may have my heart’s desire.

Psalm 37:4 

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

This is my prayer.

These are some of the things that have been on my mind since the orientation. God is molding my character. I feel it in my spirit. It can be a painful process, but so rewarding. I am a mess, but God is molding me into a vessel that He can use. That is what this process of becoming a Providence Associate is to me. It is the molding process that is needed to make me a scarred, but beautiful vessel that God can use to do His will on this earth. As I said in the orientation, I am where I belong.


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