By Marian Julum-Weaver, Providence Associate
Two years ago, the Associates of the Greater Seattle Area took the opportunity to rise above the pandemic. After much thought and prayer, we decided to meet the challenge of the pandemic when we decided to meet monthly. Lana and Tim Pham gave their technical support by offering Zoom for our meetings or, for those without internet, a telephone connection. We were set.
With the booklet, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” a pastoral letter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and provided to us by the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center, we examined what racism is for us in the United States. We endeavored to become aware of our own personal responsibility and to shift to new levels of consciousness and to give hope for all humanity in our ministries.
We often think of racism in relation to African Americans, but the letter opened us to Native American experiences, as well as Hispanic, Asian and other ethnicities who face discrimination. These issues are before us as people of God, in the Church, in the United States, in the state of Washington, in the Providence Associates and in our individual families. Our five months of reflecting on racism opened and expanded our minds to what we must do and to recognize all people as God’s creations. God is asking us to accept His gifts, to reject racism and embrace all of humanity.
As Providence Associates, we also took time to reflect on Mother Emilie Gamelin’s spirituality. For seven monthly meetings, we walked with her and prayerfully studied the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother. Through the meditations on the Seven Dolors, we became aware of our own daily sorrows and weaknesses and learned how to accept our own frailty. From this experience, we gathered strength and grace for our personal ministries.
Each year, as Providence Associates, we renew our commitment. This year, after planning our ceremony, we invited other conferences to join us. Our solidarity is the deepening of Providence’s love. We knew many Associates were not able to attend because of personal health issues, age limitations, and distance but we recognize the power and the gift of prayer and unity in spirit. We have many “prayer” Providence Associates. We are one!
To boost our spiritual health, this year we also invited Sister Elizabeth Tiernan, a Notre Dame Sister, to lead us in a Day of Recollection. Sr. Liz’s theme was JOY. It awakened in us that gift which has been hidden for the past two years because of the dark veil of the pandemic. In her three sessions, she helped us recognizing our JOY (happiness), embrace our JOY and spread our JOY. WOW! What a joyous retreat.
C.S. Lewis wrote that the unexplained joy in our life is God’s presence. Sr. Liz encouraged us to continue carrying the flame of Providence into our personal ministries, our parishes, our neighborhoods and our families.
In this new year, we welcome Marijean Heutmaker as our new Regional Coordinator for the Greater Seattle Area. She has long been a daughter of Mother Emilie Gamelin. For four years at Holy Family, she was educated by the Sisters of Providence. She then attended and graduated from Providence Academy in Vancouver. Yes, she is truly a Providence woman! We wish her well. We are on the move!