Twenty-eight women, who are Associate leaders or potential Associate leaders in Congregations belonging to the Women of Providence in Collaboration (WPC), gathered in Westfield at Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center from September 18-20 to attend WPC’s 2017 Associate Leadership Group (ALG) Conference.
Sister Pauline Lally, a Sister of Providence of Saint Vincent de Paul in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, was the main speaker. Her three-part talk on “Providence Spirituality and the Call to Justice” grounded participants’ subsequent roundtable discussions as they considered the future of the Associate movement in the Church, and some possible answers to the questions—“Who are we and where are we going?” posed by the Conference theme.
Sister Pauline examined four areas of importance to the leaders’ dialogue: The Call to becoming a Providence Associate; The Associate Call to Justice; Cling-ing to God and Righting the World; and Mystics and Prophets. Emphasizing that Association is “a call from God and of God,” she said “Associates are initially drawn to the Providence charism or spirit of their respective Congregations because they are already living the charism in their daily lives.”
In her presentation she reminded all present that “You cannot define Providence but you can describe Providence from your lived experience.” Commenting on vocations, she believes there is not a shortage of vocations but rather that God is calling the Church “to something new” and that something new includes the strong emergence of Associates, particularly in North America.
Another presenter, Associate Barbara Baker, also from Kingston, noted the key role Directional Statements play in determining any organization’s future, and outlined a step-by-step process Associate leaders may consider using if their respective Congregations do not have Directional Statements specific to their Associates.
Sister Jo Ann Showalter, a Sister of Providence from Mother Joseph Province in Washington, followed by reviewing the 2015 CARA Report (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) on the tremendous growth of the Associate movement, particularly in North America. She told the Sisters and Associates present, “You are the dream of God—the presence of love which brings transformation and life.” And, asked, “How are we called to live God’s dream now and into the future? Are we allowing ourselves to look for, and live into, the rhythmic patterns of fruitfulness? Remember,” she cautioned, “we have been called to a specific time and place. It is up to each of us to reflect, welcome and proclaim that dream by how we love. What we do,” she emphasized, “says more than what we say.”
Sister Jo Ann proposed that the ALG dialogue on “How can Associates be more mindfully and intentionally formed to recognize that they are God’s dream? What are some new and innovative ways we can begin inviting younger Associates?”
Sisters of Providence of Holyoke participants included: Associate Pat St. Amand, Director of the Associate Program and chair for the event; Sisters Julie Crane, Mary Martin de Porres, Geraldine Noonan; Associates Connie Canata, Gail Furman, Patty McGovern, Fran Popko; and Associate Candidates Louise Cooper and Liz Walz.