By Sr. Marie-Thérèse Gnamazo, SP
It has already been two years since I made my first vows as a Sister of Providence. So I come today to express my gratitude to those who are journeying with me since then.
On November 13 (2021), I renewed my vows with the Liturgy of Eucharist, at Erskine house. This next step in my formation is for me the moment where I call to move more and more with full of hope, inspiration, and trust in God, especially in the world, where our lives become uncertain and confused.
Truly living my vows today enables me to focus my entire being on God and His people, the people I’m called to serve. It gives me the freedom to follow Christ who was by choice, poor, chaste and obedient.
I know that I’m called to be a sister whose life can bring hope and joy to others, and I’m sure that God wants to be involved in every area of my life as a Christian and as a woman religious.
God is giving me this renewal of vows, so we can rejoice in God’s grace.
To begin, I say thank you to God and to our Mother of Sorrows who were my rock following deaths in my family. Thank you also to the sisters I live with for all their support, especially for being my sisters.
As we all know, this year wasn’t easy for anyone because of the pandemic. I thank God for protecting all of us in each community, and people we love and serve. Regarding my spiritual life, I think that, for me, spiritual growth is a long process of learning to remain in the presence of God. It is through my daily life in the community, or in my ministry, that I’m called to experience God’s presence. For example, during this time of COVID, I deepened my personal relationship with God by taking more time for personal prayers and celebrating Eucharist.
At this difficult time the many losses in my family along with the pandemic, reinforced my relationship with God, who had been the priority in my life. When you feel vulnerable in certain situations you can’t understand, spending time with God, practicing His presence, and involving Him in everything in my thoughts brought me comfort.
As a Sister of Providence, I would like to become more and more the face of Providence to every human being, no matter their religious confession, and to those I’m called to serve, who are the poor.
This year, because of COVID, I made some virtual retreats with some groups from Guadalupe parish where I minister, thanks to the technology which allowed us to meet, share prayers, scriptures, and reflections on Zoom.
Being a member of the vocation team of the Archdiocese of Seattle and working with sisters from different communities was an enriching experience. I am learning a lot from other members of the group.
I enjoyed also meeting on Zoom, sharing prayers and reflection time with women in process of discernment for religious life. The fact that some women came from different countries to the retreat was a great source of encouragement for us. The reaction of some of them was positive, and it was good that they had the opportunity to learn what religious life is like and to meet some of the sisters. It was a great and an enriching experience. In this new world, and after this experience, I can say there is no specific place to discern our vocations.
For two years, I was a member of the planning committee of the International Initial Formation Gathering, which was to take place in July 2020 in Montreal. This was another wonderful experience. Unfortunately, we couldn’t travel last year nor this year.
So, we finally held the gathering on Zoom for two weeks this past July. The time I spent with sisters in the Initial Formation Gathering was such a beautiful experience. The prayers, conferences and sharing were very rich. I learned a lot from the other participants. This time allowed me to get to know more of the sisters in formation around the congregation, and I had a chance to work with some. I met and shared with other formators from other provinces for the first time.
It was a great experience on Zoom, even though I really prefer meeting in person, but it was beautiful.
All these experiences help me to deepen and refresh my faith and living God’s presence.
Regarding the community life, I would like to say thank you to the sisters, for all their support. I really appreciated the prayers and thoughts you brought to me and to my family during this time of sorrows. I feel Sister Irene Charron blessed to have all of you in the community.
I think that we really have community life, praying, celebrating, and playing cards together. For me it is the most important. Some differences such as verbal misunderstanding, ways of doing things, expectations or cultural background are part of the challenges we can have in community.
In the community living, we need to practice a contemplative listening, which is key to healthy, positive, and open communication in the community.
For my ministry, I really enjoyed working in vocation ministry. I’m learning a lot and that is contributing to my formation too. I continue to trust and hope that this pandemic will be over, so we can start to welcome women who are discerning with us at this time.
I continue also to work with the group of Immigration and Peace and Justice, St Vincent de Paul at Guadalupe Parish. COVID-19 did not stop us to support people in great need. I’m grateful to have a nice group of people with whom I work. I did not join the choir yet, but I hope we will start very soon.
I was happy also I could visit the Sisters at Caritas Court, since the Saint Joseph Residence is still under quarantine.
To finish, I would like to thank you again for who you are. I’m grateful to learn a lot from you about your life experience, and our community, and to be your sister.
My question today is how do we learn to further express who we are as people of God and as Sisters of Providence during this particular time?