A history of Women of Providence in Collaboration

WPC Board Members: (back row from left) Fran Moore, CDP, Melbourne,KY; Karin Dufault, SP, Montreal, Quebec; Kathleen Popko, SP, Holyoke, MA; Judy Desmarais, SP, Renton, WA; (front row from left) Carmen Sanchez, MCDP, San Antonio, TX; Ann Petrus, CDP, San Antonio, TX; Barb McMullen, CDP, St. Louis, MO; Annette Noel, SP, Montreal, Quebec.

In the name of all that is, the Women of Providence in Collaboration gather to celebrate that the God of all that is, the God we name Providence, lured us into relationship with one another and we have called this relationship Women of Providence in Collaboration!

The two founding members began their dreaming in the late 1970s. Sisters of Providence Michelle Holland, from Spokane, Wa., and Ruth McGoldrick, from Holyoke, Ma., met at a National Sisters Vocation Conference. The dream was born. In 1978 Michelle Holland, SP contacted other religious communities with Providence in their titles to determine interest in exploring together the theology and spirituality of Providence. There was tremendous interest, and in 1980 the first Providence Event was held in Great Falls, Montana. That July about 60 Providence Sisters gathered and sixteen different congregations or provinces were represented. They agreed to meet again in two years.

In 1982 the group gathered at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN for their second Providence Event. A steering committee was established and the members were: Michelle Holland, SP of Spokane, Barbara Doherty, SP of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Kathleen Popko, SP from Holyoke, Mary Joan Coultas, CDP of Pittsburgh, and Anita Green, CDP of St. Louis.

In 1992 the presidents of the now 12-member organization established the national office of the Women of Providence in Collaboration and hired Mary Catherine Hunt, CDP from Melbourne, KY as its first executive Director. She served until September of 2000 when they hired Barbara McMullen, CDP from St. Louis as its second Executive Director. In 2007 Ann Margaret O’Hara, SP became the third Executive Director and served until 2012. In September of 2012, Sr. Barbara McMullen, CDP, once again became the Executive Director and serves as the fourth WPC leader.

Today the Women of Providence continue to be inspired by the founding mothers and that first steering committee. Time, commitment of resources, and the sharing of talents by the leadership of the various congregations continue to create this network of Providence communities. Today the WPC welcomes Associates from the various congregations as well.

In its history, the Women of Providence in Collaboration have held programs, brought formation leaders together, offered retreats and summer opportunities across congregations, and produced a number of books from certain gatherings. For a full listing, see our timeline of major events, a diagram of our member congregations from the founding of the organization through the present day.

Women of Providence in Collaboration continues to explore Providence theology and spirituality in our time. The story is not finished, but lives on as we continue to dream and work together. The magic and the mystery of this collaboration continues to feed, nurture, and energize our spirits. We gather in the name of all that is and we celebrate all that will be!