Participants in the 2019 ALG conference. Photo courtesy of WPC.
BY VALERIE KELLY, PROVIDENCE ASSOCIATE
The five of us (Ann Boniferro, Regina Lannon, Barbara Baker, Carol Groten & Valerie Kelly) started our drive to Kentucky Monday, Sept. 16 with a prayer for safe travel to our Lady of the Highway. We arrived and settled into St. Anne’s Retreat Centre, once St. Anne’s Convent of the Sisters of Divine Mercy.
The convent, retreat center, and grounds were purchased from the Sisters of Divine Providence in early 2013 by the Diocese of Covington. The Sisters continue to own the Holy Family Infirmary, cemetery, and some other surrounding grounds and structures. The Sisters were also the former owners of the St. Anne Wetlands, a seasonal wetland conservation area purchased and maintained by the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund.
The WPC Associate Leadership Gathering (ALG) started on Sept. 17, 2019 with a history and orientation of the Women of Providence in Collaboration (WPC). We provided the opening prayer for the conference, inviting participants to bring a symbol representing what it means to be an Associate. The following day and a half conference, Providence Spirituality: Contemplative Dialogue and Listening, was facilitated by Sister Leslie Keener of the Sisters of Divine Providence of Kentucky. She outlined the key components of Contemplative Dialogue: listening, sharing, silence, and “we space.” Sister Leslie would say, “I’m not just going to talk about listening; you’re going to practice it!” The 22 of us formed circles of dialogue and listening.
Sister Leslie presented us with various reflection pieces as we processed through the five Circles: Listening with the Ear of our Heart, Speaking from the Heart, Silence, We Space [community], and the final circle bringing it all together.
We watched a most compelling TED Talk by Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability (2010). We relaxed in the evening playing cards or singing accompanied by Ann and her guitar. Over meals we learned of Associates who traveled to the Mexico-U.S. border to help in various ways and to share the stories of individuals held in the camps. On the third day of the conference we were guided through St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, KY. After, from Devou Park we overlooked the City of Cincinnati across the Ohio River and drove through Newport remembering the passage of the slave trade.
Our final day was dedicated to discussing “Hot Topics” out of which we learned of other Associates’ group processes, including the Associates from Seattle and Alaska who have become self-governing. However, following IRS directives as a “not-for-profit” proved to be challenging. Many Associate groups are experiencing financial challenges. Barbara shared our voting process, and the overall support we receive from the Sisters. We left knowing how very fortunate and blessed we are as Associates of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.