BY SISTER IRENE WILSON
When the opportunity came to share our dreams during the August, 2010 meeting in preparation for Chapter 2011, without a thought or plan, I readily presented what had always been in my heart. I was also aware that I had another dream that would tie in with this: offering support for those who could least afford it.
Fourteen Sisters presented themselves as being interested in the same dream. We gradually came to the following as our purpose: Being a listening Providence Presence in the Marketplace for the bereaved, elderly, inmates, the poor, the stressed, the lonely, the young, etc.
Our first step was to gather a list of insights and reflections and to talk about a possible location.
Our next step was to meet to write a Purpose Statement. Through prayer and reflection we adopted the following : Impelled to continue the original dream of compassionate care of the poor, we, a group of Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, aspire to respond joyfully and with courage, in collaboration with others. We hope to support and inspire one another in fulfilling the call of this dream. The focus of our ministry is to be a spiritual, supportive presence in the market place.
After receiving an agreement from Sister Pauline Lally and her council to meet with them for approval, as well as an assurance about the commitment of the members of the group, I received affirmation from the leadership to proceed as well as to approach Friar David Collins to ask if he would be interested in our coming to St. John’s Parish.
The contributions that different Sisters felt able to make were to visit the sick, do spiritual direction, facilitate a weekly prayer group and/or be a listening presence. Seven Sisters were willing to commit some time.
Friar David met with Sister Marilyn Kearns and me. He was very open and excited by the possibility but needed to receive the approval of the parish council. This was readily given and I was invited to introduce the idea to the parishioners through a homily on the second week-end of Lent. At the same time, we had questionnaires for the parishioners to fill out and return to us, expressing both our suggestions and their hopes.
A summary of the responses was: (1) A retreat twice a year (2) telephone ministry (3) prayer group (4) a confidential listening presence (5) Bible study in the fall.
The Sisters who volunteered their time and service were: Sisters Sheila Brady, Josephine Doiron, Peggy Flanagan, Jean Higgins, Marilyn Kearns, Judith Anne Murphy, Susan Pye and Irene Wilson.
In June, 2011, we offered a day of retreat in the parish hall. There was a good response.
Input on the theme: Spring: A Time to Grow in the Spirit, time for personal reflection. Small and large group sharing took place. Everyone seemed pleased with the day.
A prayer group was begun with a reasonable group in attendance; however, only two more were held as the numbers went down drastically. We were available to be a listening presence many times but the response was minimal.
Early in the Fall of 2011, we met together with Friar David. He offered suggestions which were outside of what we could do in the parish. I offered to facilitate a five-part series on Gospel-Centred Prayer in the evening; most of us were interested in visiting the homes and/or doing phone ministry. However, before we could go to the homes, we needed to obtain a police check as required by the diocesan policy.
None of our efforts panned out very well. Few people, including some who came from other parishes, attended the prayer series; the elderly find it difficult to share their prayer life and the younger people are busy with their family and work. The names of most of the people that were given did not wish to have home visiting or were away. There was a similar response to the phone ministry.
At our final meeting with the group, we made the decision to let go of this dream. Sister Susan and I met with Friar David. He wished us to do some spiritual ministry to the residents at Rideaucrest Home. This is the conclusion of our service and we were able to let go with thanks to God, Friar David and each other for the ongoing support.