Sisters of Providence 150th Anniversary Float featured in St. Patrick’s Day Parade

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photo of Sisters of Providence 15oth Anniversary float from above.

Sisters of Providence 150th Anniversary Float featured in St. Patrick’s Day Parade

It was a very cold and blustery day with temperatures dipping into to the 20s with the wind chill but the Sisters and their colleagues were ready to brave the elements and to have a good time with their float in the Holyoke St Patrick Day Parade!

The Sisters of Providence (1873 – 2023) are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of their arrival and the beginning of their ministries in Holyoke, Mass. Through the years, the Sisters’ primary focus has been on bringing hope to persons in need through ministries of healing.

Two events in honor this 150th Anniversary were planned: participation with a float in the City of Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 19, 2023; and a celebratory Liturgy of Thanksgiving and reception to be held in June 2023. This Holyoke 2.6 mile St. Patrick’s Parade brings thousands of marchers and hundreds of thousands parade watchers to the event. Of note, the City of Holyoke is celebrating its 150th Anniversary as well.

Preparing a Sisters of Providence float for the St. Patrick’s Day parade has taken several months of working with the parade committee, designing the float, finding flatbed truck and contractors to build the float, decorating the float, to mention a few key tasks. In the process, an organization offered to sponsor the float and arrangements were made with the Westfield Technical Academy students to build the float. (Read related article.)

The SP float highlights their 150th Anniversary focusing on the array of good works that the Sisters have carried on over many years in Western and Central Massachusetts, in North Carolina, and in a mission in Chile. The base of the tree depicts the names of these diverse good works, including several hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, behavioral health services, child welfare and adoption programs, spiritual life center, healthcare for the homeless, affordable elder housing, sober living housing, and many programs for those in need offering food, clothing and shelter. In addition, names of some of the Sisters of Providence facilities and programs appear on banners on both sides of the float. The floats theme is “150 years of compassionate care.”

The Sisters on the 150th Anniversary float were representative of the over 780 Sisters of Providence who carried on various healing ministries over the past 150 years. The Sisters were situated on the float along a path that leads to The Tree of Hope. The lives of the Sister of Providence riding on the float reflect many of these good works were 1. Sister Kathleen Popko, SP, President of the Sisters of Providence and former President of the Sisters of Providence Health System; 2. Sister Mary Caritas, SP, 16 years as President of Mercy Medical Center and Past President of the Sisters of Providence; 3. Sister Senga Fulton, SP, founder in 1985 of Open Door Social Service that is now serving homeless people throughout Hampden County; 4. Sister Elizabeth Oleksak, SP, founder in 1976 of Genesis Spiritual Life Center and Conference Center, Westfield, MA; 5. Sister Julie Crane, SP — founder in 1983 of Health Care for the Homeless, serving people throughout Western MA;  6. Sister Geraldine Noonan, SP, former administrator of St. Luke’s Home and the former SP Retirement Coordinator.

A contingent of Associates, colleagues from the SP ministries, wearing matching green scarfs, walked behind the float and responded to the cheering crowd.

Fifty years earlier, on the Sisters’ 1973 Centennial Float, a live “Tree of Life” was featured. Planted after the event, the tree is now 50 years old. Keeping with that image, the Sisters used the “tree” symbol on the 150th Anniversary float calling it “The Tree of Hope,” that embodies our charism of bringing hope and healing to others. A sesquicentennial tree will be planted in the spring in honor of this 150th Anniversary.

Click on the photos below to view larger images.

photo of sisters of providence waving from their 150th anniversary float at the 2023 holyoke saint patrick's day parade.