For us, the vowed life is a witness to our confidence that God is re-creating
the world and that, in God's providence, we are among its co-creators.
(CDP Constitution, #33)
In the process of becoming perpetually professed Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence (CDP), women profess and live the vows for a year at a time, renewing their temporary vows in the midst of the Congregation. Each year, the Sisters prepare for their renewal and then are formally presented to the Superior General in the presence of the Congregation and during a Eucharistic Liturgy. The Superior ritually questions the formation directors and the local communities with whom the Sisters have been living, about their readiness to renew their vows. Then all the Sisters join those renewing their vows in bowing and singing the Suscipe: “Receive me, O Lord, according to your word and I shall live; I will not be disappointed in my expectations.” Following the Suscipe, the Sisters profess their vows for one year, according to the Constitution of the Sisters of Divine Providence.
The Liturgy and Rite of Profession is frequently bilingual, with Sisters from Mexico and the United States each professing in her own language.
“Con la bendición de la Santísima Trinidad y unida a toda la Iglésia, yo libremente hago votos de pobreza, casitda, y obediencia …”
“… I vow poverty because I wish to care for God’s creation and to share with those in need. I vow celibacy that I may be free to love all persons with a warm, human, Christian love. I vow obedience because I want to listen attentively to God’s Word and act in union with the Church as a Sister of Divine Providence.”
The Sisters ask the Superior General to receive the vows in the name of the Congregation. They pray, “I humbly ask our provident God to grant me the grace to remain always faithful to my vows.” Following their profession, these Sisters each sign papers, documenting their commitment.
On June 16, 2011, at Our Lady of the Lake Convent in San Antonio, Texas, four women renewed their temporary vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience. After bowing and singing the Suscipe as described above, Hermana Mariela Gil of Mexico City, Mexico, and Sisters Marjorie (Marjie) Filler, Joyce Detzel, and My-Hanh Tran, all of San Antonio, professed to live the vows according to the Constitution of the Sisters of Divine Providence.
Sister Jane Ann Slater, in the last days of her term as Superior General of the Congregation, received the vows in the name of the Congregation. Hermana Estela Solis, Regional Superior of the Región de Mexico, and Sister Rosalie Karstedt, General Councilor, served as witnesses to the vows. Father Art Flores, OMI and friend of the Congregation, presided at the Eucharistic Liturgy.
By renewing these vows for another year, these Sisters are progressing toward the day they will profess perpetual vows as Sisters of Divine Providence.
Growing up, I was surrounded by family who took seriously all aspects of prayer. We knelt in the living room and took turns leading the decades of the Rosary each evening after dishes were washed and put away. It was privilege – not a duty.
Mom always seemed to have some interesting Catholic papers for us to read and discuss. One year, my Aunt Kate decided to give me a year’s subscription to the Messenger of the Sacred Heart. I was seven years old and felt so “grown up” to have my very own magazine to read. One issue had a lovely picture of the Little Flower on the cover. I asked Mom who this beautiful lady was. She explained. I was deeply touched and felt that she was piercing my heart every time I saw her lovely face. This feeling never left me. I remember feeling strongly that one day I wanted to imitate her, though at seven years old, I wasn’t exactly certain what that meant.
My Mother’s only sister decided to become a Sister of Divine Providence. She chose to complete her studies at Our Lady of the Lake and than to enter as a postulant. We children weren’t sure what this meant. However, we knew it was important.
When it came time to enter the next step as a novice, she was given the name of Sister Margaret Rose. I liked the name, but it never touched me in the same way as the piercing gaze of the Little Flower. It seemed to me that wherever I turned, she was there with a special message – conveying it with her eyes. I was always deeply moved. I kept wondering exactly what the message was!
After graduation with honors from Nazareth Academy in Victoria, Texas, I moved onward to become a student at Our Lady of the Lake. I quickly discovered a small group of other girls who were trying to discern their future. We met after the evening meal to share and to laugh. It was a special time for me.
Clearly, the Little Flower was working, guiding my heart. I have never, even for one minute, regretted my decision. Praise God.
Marie Elise Van Dijk
My desire to become a Sister started when I was in the first grade at St. Ann’s School in The Netherlands. I was taught by Sisters from kindergarten – grade six. In the Netherlands (Holland), all schools were subsidized by the government and the Sisters received the same salaries as the lay teachers, so nobody had to pay tuition.
The Sisters had missions in the Dutch Indies, which at that time was a colony of The Netherlands. They often told stories about the missionary Sisters and showed us pictures of their surroundings. I made up my mind that I would be a missionary Sister, teaching children under banana trees! I had no idea that it would be a while for me to enter the congregation. WWII disrupted the life I was accustomed to. German occupation, scarcity of food, fuel and other necessities, plus the constant fear of German and English planes crossing the Dutch skies at night became the norm of life for several years.
But freedom came on May 5, 1945. By that time I had finished the three year high school program and was enrolled at the Normal School (College for teachers). I taught elementary classes for six years before coming to the United States as a CCD coordinator. It was then that I met the CDPs in Lafayette, Louisiana. Their hospitality was an incentive to me to finally answer God’s call, which had been latent all those years. Sisters Marie del Cantal Doebel, Ann Caroline, Cleopha, Evelyn Lehman and Romaine helped me tremendously in finding my true place. How the hand of Providence works in strange ways.
As a CDP my ministry has been in Catholic elementary education as a teacher or principal, except for 10 years at Edgewood Junior High Public School. I have enjoyed teaching children from a variety of cultural backgrounds: African Americans, Mexican Americans and Anglo’s from Polish and German descent. It was exciting to see students meet with success and feel so much better about themselves. I have always been edified by the generosity and self sacrificing of so many parents, who value Catholic education for their children. The blessing and opening of the Brady Building for the 3k and 4k children at St. Louis school in Castroville, Texas on August 15, 2004 was a dream come true after five years of wishing and planning. Providence never forsakes us!
Sister Helen Marie Miksch
Yes, the vow of poverty is livable. For me, poverty means, first of all, living simply, as free as possible from preoccupation with goods and security. This is not easy in our consumer society, but it is something we can try to do as we focus our lives on Jesus and the life he lived.
The commitment to poverty is not about economic poverty or about living in destitution. It has more to do with holding all things in common; all I have is at the disposal of the community. It is a commitment to sharing, not only what I have, but my time and my personal talents. It means being available to be attentive to others and their needs.
Poverty leads to a freedom of spirit that receives everything in wonder as God’s gracious gift but holds on to nothing. We never live this vow perfectly, but we have a lifetime to model ourselves on Jesus who shared totally the gift of himself with us.
Sister Blandina Paul
(1927 - 2010)
During my sophomore year in high school I began to toy with the idea that God might be calling me to serve Him in the Religious Life. However, my family was very much opposed to such an idea. Through the wonderful close association with the Sisters of Divine Providence at St. Francis Xavier School whom I admired very much, I felt more drawn to follow their way of life. I loved the regular community life with much time for prayer and working with the poor in the area. They always seemed so happy!
Finally, when I turned eighteen years of age the Sisters helped me get ready to enter. I finished my high school education at the high school run by the Sisters. I began college work that summer.
My years of formation—as a candidate, postulant and novice—brought many new experiences and challenges for me. There were many milestones during these years as we anticipated each next step in becoming full-fledged “Sisters.”
I remember “Cape Day”- December 8th- when we received the first piece of the religious habit- we were called Postulants. Six months later we entered the Novitiate…we had a beautiful ceremony and we were called “Brides of Christ”… this was our Investiture on June 21st. It was then that I received the name Sister Blandina. We received the complete habit and wore a white veil. This novitiate year was very special. We concentrated on the development of our spiritual and religious life, which would help us prepare for a life of a Religious Sister serving God in the Church.
The next step was making a public profession of first vows. On June 22 we pronounced our vows in a special Mass and received the black veil. We were then assigned to our first mission. For me this was teaching.
For the next five years we ministered at our assigned missions and each year we renewed our vows publicly. Each year we grew in our understanding of what it meant to give our lives to God as Sisters of Divine Providence. We did this to discern whether to take perpetual vows. After five years I made the decision that this was the life for me. I made my vows for life to God. I have never regretted this.
I have celebrated almost 60 years as a Sister of Divine Providence. I have been very very happy. I have lived in small, medium and large communities of Sisters in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. I have served the people of God in rural, urban, and suburban areas. I have loved God’s people in my capacity as a teacher ( 1st -12th grades), as a parish worker in Catholic schools and Religious Education Programs, as a librarian, counselor, principal, and Parish Administrator.
I am always eager to learn new things. Even in my retirement I am learning about computers and learning to crochet. I do encourage women to think about becoming a Sister. It is a wonderful life. As for me, I will continue to serve the Lord to my delight until I am called home.
Sister Cathy Parent
I live the vow of poverty today by trying to share the gifts I possess as well as my limitedness, by saying by my life that God is a Provident God who cares for each of us and for all of creation. Nothing I have is more important than how I share what I have.
Our congregation uses a centralized form of budgeting. In other words, the compensation I receive from my particular ministry is sent directly to our Treasurer. Each sister or community of Sisters then budgets for what she needs. This budgeted amount is then sent monthly to the Sister or community for her/their needs. There is a freedom in this type of budgeting and also a responsibility. The responsibility lies in only budgeting for my needs, and in recognizing that I belong to a community of persons with needs. Therefore I need to recognize when I can do without something in order that another Sister can receive what she needs.
For me personally, whatever I have, both the innate gifts God gave me as well as the material resources, need to be used in ways that witness God’s love and Providence. For example, I have a Master’s degree in Social Work. I try to use that degree to empower people to have a quality of life, whether through direct services or administration. Whatever agency I work with, my hope is to witness to God’s love and Providence. If I used the degree to promote my own self-interests or to have power over other people or situations, I would not be living my vow of poverty.
I find the vow of poverty challenges me to live in a continual trust that our Providential God does provide for me and for all of creation. My response is to use whatever gifts I possess or whatever material resources I have for the sake of Jesus’ mission.
Sister Ann Petrus
Religious life suits me. A simple lifestyle is what I want and what satisfies me. It's not a big sacrifice, nor do I have a sense of living without things or people I wish were in my life. I belong to a group of women with whom I share common values and whom I really like. My work is meaningful and I think it contributes to the welfare of the planet.
God and my relationship with God are a constant, a given in my life. Being in that relationship would not be a question regardless of what lifestyle I am in. Nonetheless, religious life nourishes the relationship and that's a reason to keep choosing it.
I feel very blessed that Providence led me to a kind of life and a group of companions that are very fulfilling. If I had it to do over again, I'd make the same choices!
Sister Therese Pousson
July 21, 1907 - March 30, 2006
Yes, I am happy – happier every day that I am where I am. I thank God daily for helping me, as a teenager, to make the right decision. What gives me joy in religious life? I thank God again as I look at my companions – elderlies, as I am. It is a real joy to see others and myself visit our Lord in chapel, thanking Him for his love and care, for the time He gives us to love Him back – and to show that love by loving others – our Sisters, employees, and especially poor people who appear occasionally.
Sister Sister Annalee Prather
My community life began in 1953 on my first mission which was a community of eight very different members of cultural backgrounds. It was a wonderful experience of growth and much laughter—and yes, a few tears, too. The following fifty years took me to membership communities of 3, 12, 16, 2, and as many as 150. In all of these experiences, God’s grace and loving providential care made it possible for us to be a cohesive group in spite of personality differences. I really believe that our personal call to give our lives over to God as vowed members of the CDP Congregation sustained us. People bonded and supported each other as though living in a family situation. Outsiders could say, “See how they love one another.” Difficult or painful family losses closed gaps that were open. The more we knew each other’s personal stories, the more we became “one.” I love my life as a CDP.
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