Sister Jessica Taylor, age 39, grew up in Burien, Wash., and made profession of perpetual vows in Seattle in June 2012. She currently is studying for a master’s degree in pastoral counseling at the School of Theology at Seattle University. She lives with four sisters in Seattle.
It has been a whirlwind since I made final profession on June 30. In the week after my vow ceremony, I managed to squeeze in a little time with family and friends before leaving for the three-week General Chapter in Montreal. This was my third time at that gathering of Sisters of Providence from around the world. I first attended as a novice, getting to know other young sisters in the congregation. Then I returned as an observer and this time I was a participant observer.
Evidence of progress
All that in a span of just 12 years! There has been so much progress in that time frame that it has been mind-boggling. The 3 Is that reflect our community’s makeup (international, intergenerational and intercultural) were not even thought about back then. We were just trying to be multicultural. I love that. The way to get better at it is to work at it, and the religious community continues to make progress.
Being part of the General Chapter is evidence of that progress, for me individually and for the religious community as a whole, because it brings young sisters into the process of governance of the congregation. That is significant for me because I see two tracks for my chosen ministry. The first is direct service to the poor as a licensed mental health practitioner. The day before professing perpetual vows I completed a two-week intensive pastoral counseling course at Seattle University.
Now I have two more years left in a master’s degree program and then will complete an assistanceship to receive my license. The second ministry track is leadership within the Sisters of Providence congregation. I have the skills that it requires because I am a good leader and a person to listen and get things done.
Giving Voice, a conversation about religious life
I am a member of Giving Voice, a group of sisters in their 20s to 50s who engage in discussions about religious life, now and into the future. It is a life that never has been easy, but then neither were the trials of our foundress Blessed Emilie Gamelin, whose first priority was care of the poor but who had to struggle to convince the bishop that it was her calling to be a sister.
Today I look to the future, with all the changes on the horizon, with hope. It is important to mourn the past but to know the present still has a lot to give. There will be change, which will be different and sometimes hard. Reflecting on the institutions that the Sisters of Providence have had to close through the years, I know that we will have to change, but we have always been called to change and grow.
Sisters do know how to honor those transitions. They try their best to give each a voice to what they feel. Change is never easy; it is never perfect. It is a part of religious life and it is a part of secular life, too.