50 years: Teresa White, SP

Sister Mary Jeanine

Sister Teresa was born in Santa Barbara, Calif., where her dad was stationed as a Marine at the end of World War II. She grew up in Los Angeles with her four younger brothers, John, David, William and Richard, until her family moved to North Hollywood, Calif., when she was 9. She went to Providence High School in Burbank, Calif.

“I am grateful for the education I received there from the Sisters of Providence, as well as for having been touched deeply by their loving, caring ways.”

Sister Teresa loves reading, good movies, singing, time with family and friends, swimming, being at the ocean, and the beauty in nature. She always has found special joy in being with God in prayer and liturgy, and now in ministry.

Family active in parish life

As the only daughter, she delighted in caring for the family as a partner with her mom. She remembers her dad going weekly to serve the poor in their parish and, after retirement, working in the parish’s social service. Her parents were in the first group of Providence Associates in Burbank. They were and are a great source of inspiration and encouragement to her, as were the Sisters of Providence and all who have made a difference in her life and the lives of others.

Teresa joined the Sisters of Providence in 1962. She graduated as an RN at Seattle University in 1968 and then nursed for three years at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank. Next, she nursed the elderly sisters in the infirmary at St. Joseph Residence (SJR), Seattle, until 1974, when she transferred to Providence St. Elizabeth Hospital in Yakima, Wash., for eight years. In 1985, she completed graduate training at the University of California in San Francisco, with an eye on how best to care for elders and their caregivers.

She nursed at Providence Hospital-Oakland for four years, including work in the Adult Day Health Care. She transferred to Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank in 1989 to work on the cancer/AIDS unit and in Home Health/Hospice. She helped care for her dad and the family as he struggled with terminal cancer and died in 1992.

Mexican retreat informs her understanding of poverty

In 1995, Sister Teresa began six years of welcoming, educating and mentoring new members of the Sisters of Providence in Spokane, Wash., after formation ministry training at St. Louis University, Mo. She benefitted greatly from living with deeply committed Sisters of Providence, including those on the formation and the leadership teams, and formation personnel of other communities through Women of Providence in Collaboration. While in Spokane, she was a member of an advisory board for the Sisters of the Holy Names infirm and retired sisters and became a spiritual director in the Ignatian Retreat in Everyday Life program at St. Aloysius Parish.

In 1997, she made a 10-day retreat in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with the Benedictine Sisters of Guadalupe, who sponsor retreats for North Americans to introduce them to how oppressive poverty is and to encourage participants to be transformed by service for and with the poor. This retreat helped Sister Teresa to understand intercultural and international realities beyond any reading she had done before. Her formation ministry years held lots of meaning and renewal for her through the fall of 2002.

After completing formation work, Sister Teresa spent several months on sabbatical, including a memorable trip with her mother and some social justice workshops and activities. In January 2003, she spent time in the Philippines with the sisters there and got to know firsthand their work with the poor and their life in community.

Begins pastoral studies

In May 2003, Sister Teresa recuperated from renal cancer surgery at Mount St. Joseph, in Spokane. In the fall, she began pastoral studies graduate training at Seattle University and a year of chaplaincy preparation in clinical pastoral education (CPE) at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tacoma, Wash. The ministerial portion of CPE was on the mental health unit and six months at the Franciscan Hospice in Tacoma.

In June of 2007, she moved to Burbank to care for her mother while working as a part-time certified chaplain at Providence Holy Cross Hospital. She continues to enjoy chaplaincy and being a part of the interdisciplinary team there, caring for patients and family as well as the staff and volunteers. She coordinates the spiritual care volunteers. “God saved chaplaincy ministry for me as the best gift yet,” she said.

After her mother, Jean White, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May 2012, Sister Teresa took a leave of absence to move in with her mother and her brother Dave to help care for her mother until she died July 20, 2012. It was a painful but precious time with her mother, her brothers and other family members, including preparing their mother’s home for sale.

“I am grateful for God’s fidelity to me over the last 50 years, as well as for the support and challenge of the wonderful Providence women and others with whom I have lived and served. I also am grateful for those for whom I have ministered,” she said. “I trust that Providence is always with us, leading us to deeper commitment to God’s people, especially the poor.”