Sisters of Providence postulant Mary Truong, left, stands with Srs. Mae Valdez, Germaine Chalifoux and Elizabeth Kaczmarczyk. Photo by Thandiwe Konguavi

A heart that leapt, providence leads sister to her vocation

By  Thandiwe Konguavi, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 11, 2015

EDMONTON - When Mary Truong first met the Sisters of Providence, her heart leapt.

After seven years of teaching, travelling the world and acquiring her own house, a car, great friends and family, Truong, now 33, wished she was called to the single life.

But having struggled with discernment as far back as her first call to be a sister as a child, she mustered up the courage to take the first step to explore religious life.

She had seen different communities, Googled congregation web sites and even tried a vocation match web site in her discernment. The Sisters of Providence did not come up in her match results. Truong had not knocked on their door, stumbled upon their web site or even heard about the Canadian religious congregation before. Yet when she first encountered the order, the connection was almost mystical.

Truong had never set eyes on a Sister of Providence until a vocations retreat in Calgary last year. Yet, in this crowded room filled with women, some in habits, representing at least 10 congregations, she remembers a distinct feeling. Truong describes it as being like that of the apostles, after Jesus rose from the dead, when they saw Him again.

“Their hearts just leapt — or they had this reaction in their hearts — way before they knew that was Jesus, right,” said Truong. “It was kind of a similar thing (with me). My heart reacted even though I didn’t know who they were or what this thing was called.”

Truong walked straight across the room and said, “Hi, my name is Mary, and I don’t know who you are,” she recalls, laughing.

Sr. Mae Valdez remembers the exact date. It was June 1, 2014, and it was the first vocations event the new Filipino vocations director had organized. To say she was praying for the event to be a success is an understatement.

“For me, I was really begging God because I really love my community,” said Valdez. “Not because I am a Sister of Providence, but it’s the way that we do things.

“I’m really convinced we have to get vocations because I really believe in the ministries and how we do things. So I said, ‘God, you are the number one vocation promoter’ — and I really believe that God is the one who calls vocations so I could be His instrument. It’s really a stroke of providence how I met Mary.”

In June, Truong entered the Sisters of Providence as a postulant, joining the 531 professed sisters in the entire congregation, including nine candidates and three novices.

Edmonton-based Sr. Elizabeth Kaczmarczyk, known as Sr. Betty K, said the women have always relied on the providence of God. The congregation was officially founded in 1843 in Montreal as the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor.

“However, the people the sisters served could not have cared less and nicknamed us Sisters of Providence because we were a group of women who relied on the providence of God to provide for the poor,” said Kaczmarczyk.

“Also, through our resources, talents and gifts, we were a providence for the people, and eventually, that became our name.”

Foundress Emilie Tavernier Gamelin was born in Montreal on Feb. 19, 1800 and married to Jean- Baptiste Gamelin in 1823. She had three children, who all died at an early age. Then, when Gamelin was 28, her husband died, leaving her a childless widow. As she was grieving, her spiritual director gave her a picture of Our Mother of Sorrows. The director instructed Gamelin to pray to Mary who understands what it’s like to lose a child or loved one. Comforted and strengthened by Our Mother of Sorrows, Gamelin developed a great devotion to Mary which carries on in the congregation today.

Gamelin devoted her life as a lay woman to serving the poor and caring for the aged, the sick, immigrants, orphans and the handicapped.

Sr. Germaine Chalifoux of Edmonton said the sisters today, compelled by the love of Christ, pursue the same goals as Gamelin in their apostolate.

The congregation extended from the motherhouse in Montreal to become an international, multicultural, inter-generational community of religious women. They minister across Canada, the United States, Chile, El Salvador, Argentina, Haiti, Cameroon, Philippines and Egypt.

(Western Catholic Reporter)

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