Sister Catherine Hartman Spiritual Companionship Program

January 22nd, 2010 | SMWC

Breaking Boundaries - Creating Hope

Sister Catherine Hartman Spiritual Companionship Program

Some may wonder if a woman or man serving or having served in a branch of U.S. military and a Catholic sister would have anything in common. The Sisters of Providence don't wonder about that at all.

Six Sisters of Providence arrived from France at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in October 1840. They found themselves in the middle of a forest, with no house or school in sight. Yet by the next July, these six brave women, led by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, had received women into the community and had opened St. Mary's Academy, forerunner of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. They overcame the boundaries of language, culture and religious prejudice to tend to the needs of their time.

Twenty years later, during the War Between the State, eleven Sisters of Providence ministered in U.S. military hospitals in Vincennes and Indianapolis, Indiana. Serving those in their care as hospital director, as nurses or "in household duties that contributed to the smooth running of the hospital" the Sisters cared for their patients' physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Before becoming Sisters of Providence, three of our members knew active duty. Sister Francis de Lourdes Reilly (RIP) worked as a World War I Army nurse. Sister Catherine Hartman (RIP), for whom this program is named, served as a lieutenant in the Women's Reserve, U. S. Marine Corps during World War II. Another sister, Sister Patricia Linehan, saw duty as a Navy Nurse aboard the naval ship Repose during the Vietnam conflict. Obviously, these sisters' future life and ministry was profoundly influenced by the relationships they formed during their years of active duty.

Today, like all in our country, most Sisters of Providence have family or friends or children of friends serving in all branches of the military. We see the TV images of wars being waged, hear and read the stories of those serving and pray daily for all involved in the areas of conflict.

We are proud of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for reaching out in a special way to military personnel to make a quality liberal arts education available.

We Sisters of Providence would like to partner with SMWC by offering spiritual companionship to any veteran who enrolls in an academic program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Our idea is simple. We are happy to continue our mission of hope and healing by being available for spiritual companionship. We can offer on-going visits with a Sister of Providence companion at the time a student may be on campus as well as on-going visits via email or letters.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods itself, the place, is a site of extraordinary beauty and peace. We can offer many places to pray, to contemplate the beauty of God's creation, to be alone in a place of quiet and harmony.

Should a student value working in a garden, working with our alpaca herd to come closer to the rhythms and healing power of nature, we can arrange volunteer opportunities.

In these simple ways, the Sisters of Providence would welcome being part of students' education as global citizens, as whole persons who appreciate the many ways Holy Mystery draws us as a community into peace and unity.

For more information contact: 

Denise Wilkinson, SP
1 Sisters of Providence
Owens Hall
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN
dwilkins@spsmw.org