Jubilee 2021 – Mary Kaye Nealen – 60th

Mary Kay Nealen, SP – 60th

Providence life began for me in Wallace, Idaho, from where I heard many stories of the Providence Sisters’ kindness to my widowed grandmother and her family.

Favorite outings from hometown Spokane, Wash., were visits to my mother’s sister Josephine, Sister Lawrence of Jesus, at her missions. As vocation director, she invited me to weekend retreats where I connected with the Providence virtues of humility, simplicity and charity,

I became a postulant in 1960 at Mount St. Vincent, Seattle. A year later, a move to the new Providence Heights College in Issaquah, Wash., provided four years of formation and college education.

St. Raphael’s School in Glasgow, Mont., was my first ministry. An upbeat end to this arduous year was the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) English Institute at the College of Great Falls with my first trip to Glacier National Park.

Later assignments included St. Rita’s in Kellogg, Idaho; DeSales High School in Walla Walla, Wash., and Sacred Heart Academy in Missoula, Montana.

After a few privileged months helping Dad care for Mother until her death, I began a master’s degree at Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque, Iowa. Graduation led to service in a new permanent deacon program in the diocese of eastern Montana, together with pastoral ministry. Diocesan changes led to ministry at the (then) College of Great Falls in Student Services with part-time teaching.

I undertook doctoral studies in theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Research on author Juan Luis Segundo took me to Uruguay; then I spent several months in Bernarda Morin Province in Chile before graduating and returning to the College of Great Falls.

The five years that followed in Montreal as general councilor provided the opportunity to know and love Sisters of Providence worldwide. At the conclusion, I returned to the (then) University of Great Falls as a full-time faculty member in theology. I also contributed to the Women of Providence in Collaboration, which led to an invitation to serve as keynote speaker for several Congregations of Divine Providence in France in 2012.

My favorite ministry? The common thread: helping to create new things, especially an education and formation program for far-flung deacon candidates and their wives, and a distance-delivery RN-to-BSN program for Providence nurses.

Election in 2012 to a new term as general councilor coincided with retirement from the faculty of the (now) University of Providence. An additional eight months in Montreal helped to bring our revised Constitutions and Rules to completion and to Vatican approval in 2018.

Embracing all the people, experiences, and learning of the past 60 years, I sing with joy the refrain learned as a candidate: “How can I repay God for this goodness to me? I will raise the cup of salvation; I will call on God’s name.” (Psalm 116)