Providence Associates are caring women and men who desire to share the mission and spirituality of Providence. They recognize themselves as drawn by the same spirit and charism as the Sisters of Providence.
Today, there are more than 1,000 Providence Associates worldwide – about equal to the number of Sisters of Providence. Providence Associates are women and men, single, married, widowed or divorced, who live all over the world and come from various ethnic, educational and faith traditions. Mother Joseph Province has about 265 Providence Associates, in Alaska, California, Central America, Georgia, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
What is the role of Providence Associates?
Providence Associates and Sisters of Providence come together in community to enrich each others’ lives and deepen our personal spiritual growth. Associates meet regularly for mutual faith-sharing, prayer and reflection, workshops, retreats, community gatherings and as co-workers in ministry. They support and challenge one another in living the mission of Jesus Christ.
Many ways to serve
Depending upon the individual’s gifts, family, health, job commitments and other factors, there are a variety of ways to participate in mission and ministry. Providence Associates share their gifts and talents in many ministries:
- Providing meals for the homeless
- Working in shelter, hospice and housing centers
- Volunteering in schools, jails, nursing homes, hospitals and social agencies
- Providing spiritual retreats
- Donating food, clothing and gifts to the hungry and the needy
- Actively serving in peace and social justice organizations
- Working in eco-centered organizations
- Raising funds to support youth scholarships in developing countries
- Interfacing with churches and community organizations
How does one become a Providence Associate?
Many individuals connect with a Sister of Providence or a Providence Associate through work, church, family or ministry. Each person interested in partnering with the Sisters of Providence in an associate relationship participates in an orientation that consists of mutual sharing and reflection on the topics of Providence heritage: charism, mission, prayer, ministry, community and discernment. A sponsor is selected as a mentor to accompany the candidate on this journey.
After a time of evaluation and discernment, each person chooses to formalize this association with the Providence community by making a commitment which challenges her or him to live out the Providence spirit of prayer, service and hospitality to the poor.
The initial process culminates with a formal covenant ceremony is shared with the Providence Associates and the Sisters of Providence. Providence Associates continue their covenant commitments by deepening their relationships, building community with each other and with the sisters, and engaging with each other in prayer and ministerial activities.
Other types of associations
Sisters of Providence have other types of associations with lay women who are former Sisters of Providence. A former Sister of Providence is defined as a woman who entered the Sisters of Providence in Mother Joseph Province, the former Sacred Heart Province or the former St. Ignatius Province, and who left at any stage.
Many women who were once Sisters of Providence have maintained informal relationships with friends within the congregation since their departure. Others have re-established relationships with congregation members after a period of time away.
During the April 2006 reunion of Providence Women in Issaquah, Wash., some former sisters explained that they continued to feel a part of Providence after they left the religious community, even teaching their children the community’s prayers. They described a desire to develop a closer and more formal relationship with the Sisters of Providence than simply continued friendships with individuals.
The result is the creation of Providence Companions. JoAnn R. Kelly, of Arizona, the former Sister Virginia Rose, FCSP, became Mother Joseph Province’s first Providence Companion in 2009.
As a Providence Companion, neither JoAnn nor the community is financially obligated to the other. The relationship gives JoAnn a sense of support in her ministries and her spiritual life. The community is enriched by JoAnn’s perspectives and her prayers.
“Seeing who the sisters are and what they do … I was drawn to how they live. Their commitment is so incredible to others and to their own religious community. I love people who are committed.”
“It means so very much to me; the closeness and the bonding I feel with the Providence family. We have learned so much from each other and we keep growing and strengthening our faith.”