Reflection for Closing Liturgy of Chapter 2023

At the Mass to celebrate the closing of Chapter, Providence Associates Director Barbara Baker shared the following reflection with the gathered Sisters and Associates in the Motherhouse Chapel. Included below is her reflection.

Many times, for community celebrations, we hear the story of how the original four Sisters of Providence arrived in Kingston from Montreal on a dark winter’s night in December 1861. We have heard how they opened their hearts and their home to the sick elderly and the orphans of the city. They visited people in prison and accepted food from their neighbours as well as the nearby farmers. As they dedicated their time and energy to serving the poor and marginalized their numbers grew. In the 162 years since then, there have been 517 women who have lived out their lives as Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul and have slowly diminished until today there are 43 Sisters left. It has been a wonderful and inspiring journey and today we celebrate the closing Chapter of all that has been.

My first encounter with the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul was in 1977 when my family settled in the Belleville area. I met Una, Kathryn and Joan through the schools where my children attended and Irene at the House of Prayer as a Spiritual Director. These women walked with me through the darkest days of my journey and helped me to see that God was with me even though I felt very alone. Later, on retreats here in the Motherhouse, I met Virginia and Perpetua. I began to see how you lived your charism of serving with compassion and trusting in a Provident God. Your hope encouraged me to believe that I was lovable and that God was with me.

Peggy once told me that where one sister ministers, all sisters are there. I began to reflect on the many thousands of people who have been touched by your tenderheartedness and concern for our wellbeing. People in parishes, schools, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, homes for boys and girls who were challenged. Your compassion and unconditional love have changed the lives of so many. Today we want you to know how much your dedication to your ministries has empowered the lives of many people. And we give thanks for each one of you.

God has guided you through a time of deep uncertainty and God will continue to journey with you through this time of transformation.

In John’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, “These things have I said to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Most High will send in my name, She will teach you all things and She will remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled nor let them fear”.

When I was a student at Queen’s, I met Frances, Gayle and Dianne. While living with them, I learned how to live in mutuality and respect. Through regular community meetings, on Sunday evenings, we learned to share our concerns and to support one another through trying times. Regularly we would meet with others in the Christian community to share our faith through prayer and reflection on the scriptures. At about this same time, I met Pauline whose passion for including lay people in a relationship with the Sisters inspired me to consider becoming a Providence Associate. We all grew together as the people of God and developed relationships that deepened over the years. We knew, as Marie often said, that life and liturgy cannot be separated. Our lives are sustained by liturgy and liturgy is enriched by our lives.

In the last few years you have established the Providence School of Transformative Leadership and Spirituality at St. Paul University in Ottawa. You have endowed the Providence Centre for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation to continue your mission. You have invested funds to ensure that your archives will be maintained in the new facility operated by the Archdiocese. You had a vision for your property at 1200 Princess Street and established Providence Village where non-profit organizations will become partners to create a neighbourhood of hope, belonging and wellbeing for the vulnerable populations of the city. Hospice Kingston and Providence Manor are in the preparation stages of their construction here. And when the time is right, with your support, the Providence Associates will carry your charism and spirituality to all those whose lives touch ours. We are so proud of all that you brought to our broken world and we will do our best to be a part of your legacy and live the words of our Manual, “In a society in which spirituality is under-valued, we strive to be liminal edge-walkers who do our part to move our planet and its people to wholeness.”

As you come to the conclusion of Chapter 2023 and wait to hear from Rome, Jeremiah reminds you of God’s promise to you, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call on me and come and pray to me, I will hear you”.

Thank you to all Sisters of Providence for all you have given. God bless.