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An Ecology of New Life

2021-10-13 | Liz Walz, ASP - Executive Director

Category: Blog


Sister Elizabeth pausing in the hallway outside my office door caught my attention as I stood, talking on the phone with I don’t remember who about I don’t remember what. Silently, speaking with our eyes, we agreed I would find her in the Convent when I was free. A few moments later, I discovered her with Annette, Deb, and Trisha outside in the courtyard between the Convent and the Guest Wing, circling a fallen tree. The old, knotted apple full of character with still upraised arms had died a couple years ago and was now resting, held aloft by an elbow branch, the roots that had kept it fast over the years now rotted and gone. The suet feeder managed to make the adjustment and hung suspended from another branch, waiting to welcome and nourish the birds (and a few determined and acrobatic squirrels).

We voiced a range of perspectives, seeing simply a dead tree, seeing deeper beauty, the inevitable passing of time, the closing of a chapter; change comes naturally although it is not always welcome. As we gazed, the fallen tree became an icon – a window revealing the invisible, the sacred. Thomas Merton said, “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree.” Even in death. Of all the trees that have ever lived on Earth, no two are exactly alike. Such abundant diversity granted generously by our Creator God is paradoxically awe-inspiring and humbling. In this simple, single, fallen tree is the entire Paschal Mystery, which is also happening all around us, all the time – the suffering, dying, and rising of new life brought into existence by the will of the One Who Calls.

This past Saturday, in the Carriage House, the Sisters of Providence Ministry Corporation (SPMC) held its inaugural all ministries gathering. Executive Directors with Trustees from the Boards of Providence Ministries for the Needy, Providence Place and Mary’s Meadow, and Genesis gathered with the Board members of the SPMC for a day of inspiration, history and legacy-sharing, and storytelling. To a person, we marveled at the history of the Sisters of Providence of Holyoke, the array of ministries over the past 146 years that were established, grew to fruition, and brought to a close or transitioned to new leadership in their own time, making way for the next iteration of Providence.

Sr. Kathleen and Sr. Caritas told us, the Sisters always paid attention to the needs of the community in determining their priorities and projects, trusting the funding would work itself out. Allowing Providence to move through them, the Sisters of Providence attended to neglected and forgotten populations, manifesting hope and healing in areas that no one else was addressing. The needs of the community, and of Earth Community, will continue to focus the attention of the laity who will carry forward the work when the Sisters are gone. Gratefully, we graft ourselves onto the guiding charism of the twenty-two Sisters of Providence still with us, soaking in their determination, vision, compassion, and Gospel values.

Let us never rest in the review of what we may have done, but rather press forward to what remains still to be accomplished.” - Mother Mary of Providence

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding: in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
- Proverbs 3:5-6