A Reflection: Making Friends midst building a 150th Anniversary Float

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photo of sisters and students from westfield technical academy.

Sisters and students celebrating winning 2nd Place Religious Theme.

A Reflection: Making Friends midst building a 150th Anniversary Float

By Sister Kathleen Popko, SP

As the Sisters of Providence worked on the 150th Anniversary St. Patrick’s Day Float, we soon realized “it takes a village” to get such a project accomplished. Though we had developed the concept and theme for the float, we welcomed the support of the St. Patrick’s Day Committee in the person of Bill Quesnel, who was in charge of the parade floats. With his wealth of experience, he led us through the application process and introduced us to the Polish National Credit Union whose President, Jim Kelly, offered – to our surprise – to sponsor the float. He also generously provided his Marketing Director Shane Hall to assist us in the process. It was an informed, experienced, and well-connected group that helped us find a flatbed truck, a towing company, and the Westfield Technical Academy to help build the float!

Others heard about our efforts including Cooper’s Gifts of Agawam, Mass. whose owner presented throw blankets to the six Sisters of Providence who would be riding on a float in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

SP Ministry Corporation Board member Margaret Lenihan had shared news of the Sisters’ 150th Anniversary with her friend Kate Gourde, the owner of Cooper’s Gifts, who immediately wanted to be involved. Kate commented, “When we learned of the plans for the commemorative float in the parade, we knew that the Sisters needed to stay warm and wanted them to have a keepsake from their special day. It is an honor to give them these blankets.” Made in the USA, the blankets were locally embroidered with each of the Sisters’ names.

Kate made the presentation at Providence Place at Ingleside on a warm and sunny day in early March. She was prescient in anticipating the subzero temperatures and blustery winds that the Sisters would face on March 19th at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! (Read related article.)

We made some younger friends as well. The essential group that brought the float into being were the staff and students at the Westfield Technical Academy who took our design and used their skills and creativity to bring the 150th Anniversary float into reality. There were moments, one week before the deadline drew near, that our anxiety rose but Matthew Gomes, their instructor, assured us that the job would be completed and we would be happy! Indeed, we were.

As a small thank you for their collective efforts, the Sisters of Providence hosted a pizza party at the Academy for 25 students and 5 instructors together with the Sisters who rode on the float. At the event, Sister Kathleen Popko, SP President, presented a framed photograph of the float with an inserted message of gratitude for their fine work. Also presented to the delight of the students was the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee’s second prize trophy in the religious theme category that recognized their accomplishments. Making friends while building a float together…. what better way to celebrate 150 years of ministry!