By: Sr. Clare Hunter
In God’s providence, I am spending National Catholic Sisters Week (March 9-16) in Lowell, Michigan, at the Franciscan Life Process Center. I am with a group of college students and staff from Marymount University on their Spring Break service trip. Hence a trip to snowy Michigan, where the low last night was negative one, to work and pray with 14 Sisters from my Community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.
The students have spent the week serving schools, nursing homes, and programs where the Sisters provide counseling, education and music therapy, amongst many other experiences. For many of the students, they have never met nor interacted with Sisters before.
The questions are abundant! This will become more common with the decline of Sisters in the nation. As the culture moves away from God-centered lives, it will become harder for men and women to hear God asking them to sacrifice marriage and family and to radically follow Jesus in poverty, chastity and obedience as Religious Sisters, Priests and Brothers. To be sure, the “vocation crisis” includes ALL vocations. In addition to a decrease in priests and Sisters, we have a decrease in practicing Catholics, sacramental marriage, and men and women rejecting parenthood. …Not to mention the increase in divorce, cohabitation and birth control.
In our nation, Sisters were the founding mothers of education, catechesis, healthcare, social services, and evangelization. Yes, they have been “successful” and done much. On Tuesday, I had the chance to visit with Sister Rita, who has been a Religious Sister for 82 years. As we visited, I marveled at this most accomplished woman, now blind and mostly deaf, now faithfully serving the Church in constant prayer and offering her suffering for others. Sister Rita is a woman — a mother, of prayer. Exactly what all Religious Sisters are called to be.
How many of our lives have been touched by Sisters? Personally, it was because of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist that my parents returned to the Catholic faith — something that saved their marriage and allowed them to provide a strong Catholic identity for their six children. While here at the Franciscan Life Process Center, I thought I would ask others how Sisters have affected their lives.
- Allison: “I had never met a Sister until I was in my 40s. Then, when my husband died unexpectedly last year, it was Sister Colleen Ann who came within 20 minutes of his death. She was the only one who could get through to my son. Truly, God had a plan for me to meet them.”
- Dottie: “My daughter went to preschool here, and she now has a family and is a wonderful mother. I know it was because of the Sisters. And I even have a grandson who wants to become a Priest.”
- The five Cole girls had a variety of reasons they love Sisters: Hannah, 7, and Monica, 4, like their veils. Alyssa, 12, is grateful that Sisters pray for people and help those in need. Olivia, 10, is happy they have helped her learn to play the piano, go camping and ice skating. Mikayla, 2, said they are nice. Their mother, Beth, finds that her daughters are more prayerful and strive to behave because of spending time with Sisters, adding that it would be alright with her if all five became Religious.
- Kim: “I’ve learned patience! The Sisters have taught me how to slow down and not to waste. I was always taught that Sisters were unapproachable. I sent my children to preschool here and they fell in love with the Sisters…and I did too.”
As we celebrate Religious Sisters, let us pray in gratitude for the many ways they have ministered through service and in prayer, and ask God to bestow the graces young women need to say “yes” to this supernatural calling.