Thankfully acknowledging that “His Providence Guides Us Still”

As we approach Thanksgiving, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a poem, written by our Sister Patricia Forrest, which chronicles our Congregation’s history with a real ‘attitude of gratitude.’

Picture1This poem was written in 1978.  The verse that serves as a refrain, “His Providence guides us still,” is actually stenciled at our facility in Hankinson in Providence Auditorium, whose names draws its inspiration from Sr. Patricia’s composition which I will share below.  

Let us give thanks to our Compassionate Father,
Recalling His gracious, guiding Presence
Shepherding our Congregation through seven centuries.

He has called us into existence in 1241,
In Dillingen-on-the-Danube in the land of Bavaria,
A small group of bare-footed women,
Pledged to His praise and greater glory
For the benefit of all who believe.
His Providence guides us still.

He has led us in 1303 to affiliate
With Order of Friars Minor,
Establishing us in His Church as Franciscans.
His Providence guides us still.

He has from Franciscan beginning
Given our Order the Blessed Virgin
As mother and model of contemplative love.
His Providence guides us still.

On Candlemas Day in 1438
He endures with us the trial of fire,
When our Bavarian motherhouse burns to the ground,
And shelters us through the benevolence of friends.

In 1550 He permits us to house His Son’s life-giving Presence:
The Blessed Sacrament to be kept in our convents forever.
His Providence guides us still.

When the storm clouds of the Reformation
Shatter the Alps, rocking Germany to its depths,
He keeps us faithful, hiding us among the rocks,
Binding us to prayer in strict enclosure,
Favoring us with the perfect poverty of owning nothing.
His Providence guides us still.

In the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War
Half of Germany’s inhabitants are destroyed.
While hunger rages, towns are burned,
And wolves prowl the empty streets.

Before the armies of Gustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the North,
We flee from Dillingen.
In Austria and in South Tyrol, the Lord receives us.

Five die in exile. We return, a remnant,
To a sole survivor in a ruined convent
Stalked by spectres of plague.
His Providence guides us still.

In the 18th century, He bids us build,
To renovate what has been destroyed.
To His praise we erect a pictured chapel,
A monument of baroque splendor.

But praise finds its home in human hearts;
In 1768, Clemens Wenceslaus, His Bishop,
Calls us to leave our cloister and teach.
His Providence guides us still.

In 1805 the scourge of secularization
Purifies our lives, even as it deprives us of all we own.
Bavaria confiscates our land and property,
And we are doomed by the State to extinction.

For twenty years we carry to the convent crypt
One after the other of those who have died,
Until only five remain.
His Providence guides us still.

Then in our old age and illness, with depleted numbers,
Ludwig and Theresia come to the throne,
Moved by God to grant a Decree of Restoration.

Like a phoenix springing from feathery ashes,
The Lord restores our youth.
Within a century, He increases our number forty-fold.

His Providence guides us still.
As a community of over two thousand,
He missions us forth, in the image of His Son:

To help the deaf to hear and the mute to speak;
To care for the crippled; to nurse the sick;
To teach children the joy of His praise.

When the wars of mankind extend to the world,
He scatters us over oceans like winged seed:
To Minnesota, to North Dakota, and later to Brazil.
His Providence guides us still.

In a world collapsed to a cosmic village,
He bids us move our center to Rome,
To look toward India and the East
As new lands of promise.
His Providence guides us still.

And now we are growing fewer in number,
Dying seed in winter earth.
Yet your Spirit breathes over the darkened land,
As we await the moment of promise: an abandoned tomb.

Be with us, Compassionate Father,
That our hope may spring forth radiant as dawn
In childlike hearts alleluiaing praise,
A leaven of love in a world come of age.

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