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Sister of Providence to profess final vows in Great Falls

Karen S. Hawkins, SP, will make final profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of Providence at a 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday, August 8, at St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, 410 22nd Avenue NE, in Great Falls, Mont.

Mass will be celebrated by the Rev. Patrick Zabrocki.

A brunch in honor of Sister Karen will follow.

By taking these perpetual vows, Sister Karen renews her commitment as one of 185 sisters in Mother Joseph Province who embrace the charism and mission of the Sisters of Providence.

"I feel I am living out that mission currently as an addiction counselor for Gateway Treatment Center," she explains. Part of her work is with clients who have been involved in the criminal justice system and with women dealing with the trauma of having their children removed from the home as a result of their addiction.

Born in Indiana, Sister Karen is a single mother with an adult son in Long Island, N.Y. "I was surprised by God - shocked, really - to have had life as a single mother and then be called to religious life."

Sister Karen says her spiritual journey with the Providence community began in 1991, when she met the Sisters of Providence while working as a client advocate and financial manager at one of their sponsored ministries, Sojourner Place, a haven for women in transition in Seattle. She had been considering entry into another religious community, but then she heard about Providence Associates, lay people who share the mission and spirituality of Providence without seeking vowed membership. She became a Providence Associate in the summer of 1993.

"I loved the faith sharing and learning about the sisters and their foundress through the orientation process," she recalls. Relationships with the Providence Associates and the women in the programs developed at a very deep level," she explains, but eventually, she realized that she was called to an even deeper level.

In the summer of 1996 she was invited to a "women in ministry experience" to spend time getting to know and pray with Providence sisters in Yakima. he became a candidate for entry into the religious community in 1997, entered the novitiate in 1998, and professed first vows in 2000.

When she made first vows, Sister Karen recalls, she felt that she was making a commitment for the rest of her life. "But I am realizing anew what it means to make vows in our day and age. I'm thankful that living the vows is a process and that God gives us the grace to live into those vows."

Preparation for these final vows has included a month long retreat, "a real gift to be able to reflect and pray about what God is saying to me now," she says. Part of the gifts of being a Sister of Providence are living in community, praying together and sharing faith, Sister Karen adds. "I am part of a group that is bringing about the kingdom and reign of God. The community gives me the freedom that I can be about that."

Part of her journey as a Sister of Providence involved working at Tekakwitha National Conference Center in Great Falls. "My appreciation of the Native peoples deepened as I was exposed to their spirituality, respect and care for the earth," she explains. "I was allowed to be present with them as they continue to integrate who they are as Native with who they are as Catholics."

Sister Karen has a bachelor's degree in human services from the University of Great Falls with a minor in addiction counseling. She formerly worked for 20 years as a financial analyst in New York and as a certified nurse's aide at Providence Elder Place in Portland.

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