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Sister Michelle Holland receives Woman of Providence Award

WPC is open to congregations of women religious that use Providence in their congregation's name. The three-day Providence Event drew more than 220 participants from the United States and Canada. In addition to the presentations to the founding sisters, members of the first steering committee also were honored for carrying forth the dream and hopes of the group through its organizational years.

WPC, a little idea with big impact, was born in 1980. Sister Michelle, then provincial superior of the former Ignatius Province, and others became concerned that the dwindling number of Providence sisters demanded a coming together of communities with similar agendas and goals. At the end of 1980, there were 171 Providence sisters in the province east of the Cascade Mountains and 282 in the former Sacred Heart Province, west of the mountains. Today, in the Mother Joseph Province, formed by combining the two provinces in 2000, there are about 185 sisters.

It became clear back in 1980 that in the future it would be very important for sisters to reach out to other religious communities with a similar agenda. A combining of forces would bring the strength that the sisters' numbers alone could not provide. Sister Michelle wrote to every community with Providence in its name - men and women. Fourteen congregations expressed interest - all congregations of women, and Woman of Providence in Collaboration was born. The group's first gathering was held in Great Falls, Mont., in July 1980.

Because of the interest that was generated, the plan became to do the same every two years in gatherings in different locations so more sisters could attend. Those gatherings came to be known as Providence Events.

"Women of Providence has been more than a chance for sisters to get together," Sister Michelle says. "It was a good thing for the people dealing with formation because it was their first exposure to sisters of other communities who were their own age. It strengthened them and let them know there were other women religious their age. "Another example of the impacts of the collaboration was discussions on Providence caring for the world that led to the sisters' involvement in ecology movements and other initiatives," she adds.

At the Providence Event in June, the group took official stands against misuse of Earth's resources and against trafficking of women and children.

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