Some of you may have seen the Facebook post about the death of Barbara Doherty, SP this week.  She was a Sister of Providence from St. Mary-of-the-Woods, IN but even more, a giant among Providence Sisters everywhere.  She was one of a group of women who gathered in 1984 at the first Providence Colloquium where they began to explore this name: “Providence” for God.  They held the common opinion “that “Providence” is a countenance of the Mystery of God calling for articulation in a world given to improvidence as well as a name of God particularly suited to a world which often abandons foresight.”  But they also learned that two days was not enough time to ponder, pray, and write toward a common and expanded insight into this facet of God’s being.  For the most part, they agreed and interpreted the word into the present much like this:

“Providence is that divine power which designs and orders the rational course of the universe–albeit, we have added to the concept a certain benevolence.”  So they invited writers among communities of Providence to submit papers, and what transpired at this Colloquium’s sharing exceeded their fondest hopes. There were depths of meaning they had not calculated the word to reveal.  The papers were their efforts to speak to the questions of the day, the tumultuous times in which they lived.  They struggled to grasp the messages that their times revealed about the nature of God.  For them then, and for us now, we are drawn more deeply into mystery.  Providence fascinates and compels and we continue to plumb the depths of its meaning as the Women of Providence’s writings attest through all these years.   

They gathered all the papers from that Colloquium and published a book titled: Providence: God’s Face Toward the World.”  What Barbara wrote as an introduction to this book still holds true today.  She said:  “We delved into this mystery so that the love and freedom of God which Providence implies might manifest itself within our struggles to love and our struggles for freedom.  Providence contains the significance we need to address our times boldly as peacemakers.”  

Barbara continued to write and speak at various Women of Providence events, symposiums, and retreats over the years.  Her charm and quick wit always made listening to her presentations so enjoyable!  Though she suffered from dementia in her later years, the last time I saw her when visiting at the Woods, and mentioned the Women of Providence, her face lit up.  She said to me, “Keep up the good work!”  Because of her and that first Steering Committee the work has gone on for 40 years!  

I think that Barbara is now rejoicing with her Provident God in heaven and sending us her wisdom and grace to continue speaking boldly to the issues of our times.  She’s cheering on the idea of next year’s Providence Event theme:  Providence: Where Justice and Radical Hope Meet! 

Barbara Doherty, SP, a “woman who knows intimately the Providence of God and is to be praised.  Give her a reward of her labor and let her works praise her at the city gates!”  Rest in peace!

Barbara McMullen, CDP

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123, New Lenox, Chicago IL 60606

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