Story and photos by David Martin
HOLYOKE – A new stained-glass window, dedicated Sunday by the Sisters of Providence in honor of their 140th anniversary, reflects their concern for the education and healing of the young and the poor. The dedication took place at 2 p.m. in the Providence Place Chapel.
Sister Kathleen Popko (pictured above with Bishop McDonnell), Sisters of Providence president, said the artist who created the window, Benedictine Brother Martin Erspamer, of St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Ind., visited Providence Place to walk the property, view the chapel and stained-glass windows there.
Brother Erspamer also met with the Sisters of Providence and took their history books home to study. Sister Popko said his first inspiration was based on the Gospel image of the Sower of the Seed. “Just as the sower scattered the word of God to take root wherever it could, so the ministries of the Sisters of Providence have spread the Good News throughout Massachusetts, North Carolina and beyond,” Sister Popko said.
“The gesture of the Sister of Providence with her arms extended, and seeds flowing from her hands, was so freeing it is almost as if she is dancing,” said Sister Popko. “I think people appreciate the delight that seems to be there.
“There are symbols representing our care of women and children and particularly those people who are poor,” she explained. “There are symbols that reflect our concern for the care of mind body and spirit and even the Connecticut River is represented because of the sisters’ care for all of God’s creation and for sustainability of the earth.”
Brother Erspamer was unable to attend the dedication ceremony which was preceded by a concert by cellist Peter C. Dzialo, and pianist Tamila Azadaliyeva that received a standing ovation from the 200 people attending the event.
The revealing and blessing of the stained-glass window was performed by Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, who said that the accomplishments of the Sisters of Providence during their 140 years in western Massachusetts could be described in these words: “flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty and adorned by the manifold gifts of the spirit.”
Bishop McDonnell said the words were spoken by Pope Benedict XVI when describing stained-glass windows at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York during a Mass there. Bishop McDonnell said the new stained-glass window at Providence Place would be a lasting reminder of the seeds that have been sown and flourished because of the work performed by the Sisters of Providence. He said the window pays tribute to “all who have gone before and all yet to come, all that has been and all that is and all that they pray will continue to be.
“That window pays tribute to the Sisters of Providence and to the works that they have done to build up the body of Christ. We thank you for it, we thank you for all you have been and all you are,” said Bishop McDonnell.
After the blessing of the window, the Sisters of Providence gathered around the window for photos with Bishop McDonnell. Sister of Providence Mary Caritas Geary, said the sisters’ gathering around the window reflected their past and present.
Sister Geary said their numbers may be small and not quite as young as they were, but they “have a lot of hope and continue to offer many ministries that respond to the times.”
Sister Caritas said her favorite part of the window is the depiction of two children standing behind the Sister of Providence. “If you can help to mold the character and the beliefs of a young child, I think that is the future, particularly the future of the church,” she said.
Sister Geary added that the blessing and dedication of the stained-glass window at Providence Place was the perfect way to culminate the two-year celebration of the Sisters of Providence 140th anniversary. A reception later took place in the Kingston Dining Room.