The Providence Spirituality Centre main entrance.
BY SISTER LUCY BETHEL
It was with a mixed sense of ‘sadness and gratitude’ that the Sisters of Providence of Saint Vincent de Paul announced the closure of Providence Spirituality Centre (PSC), September 6, 2022. The Centre will no longer be hosting external groups.
Sadness, because it means saying farewell to a spirituality ministry that has flourished, and nurtured countless hearts and souls for over 45 years. Even in a pre-pandemic world a significant decline in registration numbers in all PSC Programming was noted. This decline was in part due to the aging and decrease in numbers of women and men religious whose congregations have, in many ways, been the pillars/foundations of retreat/spirituality centres and the programs offered therein. It became quite clear however, that the decline in program registrations was more widespread than men and women religious. The drop in program registrations across PSC clientele was being paralleled in another group, that is, the faith-filled men and women who have supported and enriched our lives by their attendance/presence in all PSC programs. The Congregation of the Sisters of Providence sensed a new call, an invitation to listen to possible partners in mission that the Spirit was sending our way.
Thus, we experience a sense of ‘gratitude’, as the closing of PSC is ‘one more step in paving the way’ for the unfolding of the Vision of Providence Village Inc, the non-profit organization created by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Vincent de Paul and designed to carry out the legacy of the Sisters into the future. ‘Gratitude’ that we are fostering/nurturing the creation of “a neighbourhood of people helping people, inspiring hope, fulfillment and care of the earth”.
As I reflected on the closure of Providence Spirituality Centre (PSC) and the 45 years of ministry to which so many persons – Sisters of Providence/spiritual directors/retreat directors/ presenters/ Providence Motherhouse Staff/volunteers et. al – have contributed and, in and through which so many have been blessed, these words from Ecclesiastes surfaced in me:
Everything Has Its Time
~Ecclesiastes Chapter 3: 1-8 (in part)
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
This text seems to provide a synopsis of experiences lived, and witnessed, by those of us who have worked at PSC. For me it captures experiences in which, PSC staff, presenters, clientele, and all those who have been associated with us, have shared over the past 45 years as we served and ministered in this sacred space. So many people from all walks of life, from many faith traditions, from around the globe, have shared life with us in this sacred environment. Recently someone made the comment, “If these walls could speak what a rich story they would have to tell!” The task of sharing the story is left to us, and words fail to capture all there is to share. We will have to settle for the reminder held in this Scripture text,
“Everything has its time!”
Early entrance leading to the ‘Providence Centre’ when it was located near McKinley Hall.
Providence Spirituality Centre has indeed had its time! From early 1977 – December 31, 2022. Presence and prayer energy of the many visitors we have welcomed continues to permeate this space. I doubt Archbishop Wilhelm could have imagined where his invitation in 1977, to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Vincent de Paul, to open part of their Motherhouse as a retreat centre, would lead. The agreement of the Sisters to his request was indeed a response to ‘the needs of the times’, something for which the Sisters of Providence are known. On October 15, 1977, the centre was officially opened as ‘The Heathfield Retreat Centre’. The large hall (McKinley Hall) with the adjacent rooms below the chapel, as well as the third floor of the Marian wing of the Motherhouse was set aside for this purpose. “The rest is history!” And a rich one at that!
Since its inception the Centre has continued to evolve… in response to ‘The needs of the times’. In 1981 the name was changed to ‘Providence Centre’ when Sister Irene Wilson, SP was named the first director for this ministry. In 1999 the name of the centre was changed to Providence Spirituality Centre. And, in 2000 Providence Spirituality Centre moved to its ‘new space’, that is, the location currently being vacated. The new space was blessed, and the team missioned in the fall of 2000. We might say, “We never looked back!”
Keeping the focus of the PSC ministry on the mission of the Sisters of Providence and God’s compassionate care for the world and all of creation, a new vision statement was developed in 2004. This is the Vision to which PSC staff has remained committed these past 18 years:
“Open to the Spirit moving within each person, we desire to be instruments of God’s love. We welcome all to this sacred space. We trust that serving with compassion we will all experience a deeper fullness of life and will strengthen one another to participate more responsibly in creating a just and peaceful world. Glory be to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. (Eph 3:20) Providence Spirituality Centre shares in the mission of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.”
Sisters and staff participating in the 30th anniversary celebration of the Providence Spirituality Centre.
The ministry of Providence Spirituality Centre has been focused on welcoming people to our sacred space and offering an environment of quiet and peace. A peace that has permeated not only our beings but the very environment within which we have lived and ministered. We have strived to offer high quality and assured diversity in programming including retreats, days of reflection, social justice programs & retreats, ecology programs, reflexology, reiki, spirituality programs and other services facilitating spiritual/personal growth.
PSC has attracted and hosted many diverse groups. The PSC staff over these many years has included priests, religious and laity. Our lives, and the lives, of our PSC clientele have been enriched by many guest facilitators & directors from across Canada and around the globe who have blessed us with their time and presence. We do believe that by our commitment to, and presence in the PSC ministry we have indeed contributed to the creation of a just and peaceful world.
“Everything has its time!”
What a blessed and privileged time the past 45 years have been for us all!
The time has come to bid farewell to Providence Spirituality Centre, a sacred space, a privileged ministry! As we pause…we wish to take this opportunity to:
…thank everyone, staff/presenters/facilitators/directors/who have contributed in anyway to
the ministry of PSC.
…thank every person who has blessed us by their presence as a participant at the many programs/retreats offered throughout the years.
…thank all groups participants and their facilitators who have been a blessing for us all.
…express our gratitude for all that the ministry of Providence Spirituality Centre has been.
As we bid farewell to Providence Spirituality Centre, we are happy to announce that something new has been created, “Providence Presence Ministry” through which the staff will continue a ministry of ongoing spiritual direction, as well, an online ministry of personal spiritual direction and retreats. Providence Presence Ministry offices are located on the second floor, front hall of Providence Motherhouse. Directors will welcome individuals, to this ‘new’ space, for personal spiritual direction meetings. Please check our website for additional information and updates regarding future programming.