Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake,
to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Just read a great article about Catholic sisters and nuns in the Diocese of Erie. Here are some quotes from the article and some commentary by yours truly:
Though their numbers are down and their populations aging, these nuns continue to serve in traditional ways and in new roles as needs arise.
“As long as we keep changing, we can keep being alive and vital,” Sister Mary Francis Becker said.
Catholic nuns today aren’t the stereotypical figures in black and white reigning over schools and hospitals.
Sisters continue to educate and nurture, but also work as administrators, environmentalists, chaplains, artists, census takers, missionaries, counselors, dietitians, social workers, writers, doctors, financial assistants, secretaries, graphic designers, reflexologists and massage therapists.
Sister Rose Anne Fedorko even worked for the FBI, retiring after a career at the Department of Justice that included helping with records in the fingerprinting division.
“As times change, they grow and adapt,” said Sister Mary Rita Kuhn, the Catholic Diocese of Erie’s vicar for religious.
A nun worked for the FBI? How awesome is that! In so many ways, these sisters shatter the “one-size-fits-all” image of women religious, the image that we all have the same look, the same schedule, the same theology, and the same ministry. If we all were exactly the same, how could we answer the diverse ways that God calls us to be in the world and church?
Even when membership is low, the women put their trust in God and accomplish much, giving hope for the future. In the 1800s, 35 Sisters of St. Joseph ran Saint Vincent Hospital, St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s homes, and taught in eight schools, said Sister Leonie Shanley, who wrote about their history.
Yup, you read that right. THIRTY-FIVE sisters ran 11 institutions. So this business about declining numbers and small communities? Catholic sisters and nuns have always THRIVED even when it seemed like they were against all odds. You would be amazed to know what a faith-filled, ingenuitive nun can do with what seems like nothing.
“Serving God is tough.” But worth it. “I feel it’s a call from God,” she said. “If you ignore it, you have a really miserable life.”
It’s funny, you think that doing something tough for God is what is going to make you miserable. Yet, as the quote from Sister Jacinta Conklin, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Elk County, points out, what is really miserable is tuning out God, not being open to God’s call in our life. I have found that when I am finally able to put aside my fears, distractions, and busy-ness and truly open myself to God’s call, I am surprised, renewed, energized for whatever God is calling me to.
So if you think becoming a Catholic sister or nun is just not adventurous enough or radical enough. Think again. You’ve got to be compassionate, courageous, daring, faith-filled, and creative beyond your wildest dreams!
Check out the whole article Catholic nuns in Erie region adapt to changing world by Dana Massing for the Erie Times-News (May 23, 2010). Kudos to the author of the article for a fine job.
Read and respond! What do you think?