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Founder’s Day celebration marks 35th Anniversary of Association

Founder's Day prayer


Sisters of Providence and Associates gathered at Providence Place on Sunday, July 16, for the annual Founder’s Day celebration. The event is held traditionally on a Sunday close to July 19, the anniversary birthdate of the Congregation’s Foundress Mother Mary of Providence (Catherine Horan). This year’s observance opened with welcoming remarks by SP President Kathleen Popko where she explained that, in addition to honoring the Congregation’s Foundress, the event would celebrate the Associates’ 35th Anniversary.

The program opened with Associate Gail Furman coordinating the Associates’ reading of the afternoon’s Gathering Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving written for the occasion by Associate Frances Popko.

The prayer honored Mother Mary of Providence, “the blessings of her life, her works, her vision, her resilience and her counsel.” Referencing the Associates’ 35th Anniversary, the prayer acknowledged, too, the Sisters’ “foresight and initiative in establishing the Associate relationship and for encouraging Associates to live the charism of Providence in their own lives, families, and works.”

Key components on the day’s agenda included a PowerPoint slide presentation on “The History of Sisters of Providence Association” narrated by Associate Director Pat St. Amand, followed by a video titled “35 Years of Association with the Sisters of Providence,” by film producer Associate Elizabeth “Betty” Wilda.

Viewing special film

The slideshow traced the establishment and growth of the Associate Program from the Sisters’ late 1970s decision to welcome Associates and the program’s growth to the present day.

Included were partial results of a 2015 Associate Survey that asked Associates, “How do you live out the Sisters’ charism and mission?” One comment seemed to sum up the responses—“…by striving to be examples of the Sisters’ mission by ministering to family and friends in a ‘Providence Way.’”

Since the program’s inception, 91 women and men have made Associate commitments. “As with the Sisters,” noted Pat, “many of our Associates have now passed away, and others have found different callings for their lives.” Today the Congregation has 38 Associates.

Betty’s film began with her interview of Sister Elizabeth Oleksak, who served as Associate Director during the Associate Program’s first ten years. In it, Sister Elizabeth describes Associates as “people that are rich in their own lives who are thirsting to know more about God, who want to be able to speak of God more freely, and to know that God is in the midst of their lives.”

Associates in the film included Associates Emeritae Anne-marie and her husband - Ralph Ferraro, two of the five Associates in the Congregation’s 1982 inaugural Associate Class. Anne-marie feels being an Associate keeps her “grounded and cognizant of that area of my life.” She shared, “I feel that there are areas of the church where laypersons and women are not able to be involved and this is another way to fulfill that need in me. When there were challenges…in our life, the Sisters were right there walking that journey with us.”

Associates Gail Furman, Fran Popko, Ann McGaharn, Jim Clifford, and Patty McGovern, members of either the 1985, 1995, 2009, or 2012 Associate Classes, were also part of the film. Though each explained her/his thoughts about their Associate connection with the Sisters differently, each clearly held the common thread of their wanting to share in the Sisters’ charism, their spirit of being Providence, everyday, in a hurting world.

Following the film, other Associates had the opportunity to offer the Sisters their reflections on Association and Sister Kathleen facilitated the Sisters’ responses to the Associates’ sharing.

The program closed with Sister Kathleen saying to the Associates, “Thank you for sharing your lives with us as we share ours with you. We are grateful for the many tangible ways you support us, but especially for your treasuring our mission, charism and values of being Providence every day.”

Picnic by the pool

Prior to adjourning to Providence Place’s pool area for a picnic Sister Kathleen presented each Sister and Associate with the publication Providence & Compassion, a collection of personal reflections on Providence recently release by Women of Providence in Collaboration.

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