Random Nun Clips

What's in a charism?

Podcast Recorded: August 16, 2023
a girl looks perplexed

As a laywoman, Susan Flansburg had a unique perspective on the different charisms of the women's religious communities she encountered -- one of the reasons she chose to write about discerning a religious vocation.

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Show Notes

Feels Like Home: A Single Catholic Woman’s Guide to Religious Life in the U.S. by Susan Flansburg - CatholicSisterGuide.com


Listen to the full episode of In Good Faith podcast here: https://anunslife.org/podcasts/in-good-faith/igf063-susan-flansburg


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Transcript (Click for More)+

Sister Rejane  
This Random Nun Clip is brought to you by one of our sponsors, the Sisters of the Holy Cross. How does someone like you, who's not a religious sister herself, come to be inspired to write a book about religious vocations?

Susan Flansburg  
We'll say it's part of my call. And that came to me very gradually as well. At one point, fairly early in my ministry with the Benedictines, Phyllis said to me, this is your ministry. And I thought, wow, she's right. It really is. Working with Catholic Sisters has been the most profoundly affecting thing I've done over time in my life. It has changed everything for me. I always say -- and it sounds like a joke, but I mean it -- that I was formed by the Benedictines. I was. I love men religious too. I've done some work with them as well, but nothing like with Catholic Sisters. They are the rock stars as far as I'm concerned. There is no job that is ever beneath a Catholic sister. If something needs to be done, it gets done. And  that's not the PR person in me. That's the reality. That said, their spirituality and their ability to articulate their spirituality is just extraordinary. It's extraordinary. So not only have I been really educated and moved by Catholic Sisters, and I'm in touch with Catholic Sisters from every walk of religious life -- but because my gift is writing, I've been compelled to tell their stories. This is what I do. And how could having been involved in Catholic Sisters' vocation communications -- how could I not take that and try to make it available more broadly than to the very thin slice of people who would read the newsletter that I used to author for the Benedictines. I had to, I was compelled to do it. Anyone who has been really aware of their call will understand what I'm saying. You don't have a choice. You just you just keep getting nagged until you say okay. [laughter] The Spirit does not give up.

Sister Rejane  
No, that's true. Well, and it sounds like you really had a sense that this call to religious life was bigger than just the particular Benedictine community you were working for.

Susan Flansburg  
That came slowly. I did not know that at first. I don't know if you've heard of the group Sisters United News, but it's a consortium of religious communities that are within about an hour and a half drive of one another along the Upper Mississippi River Valley. So it goes from the southern point -- Rock Island, Illinois -- and the northern point is Lacrosse, Wisconsin, which is where the FSPAs are, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. And then it moves out on either side just a little bit, not too far from the river. In fact, the Sinsinawa Dominicans might be the farthest away and I think they're a 15-minute drive from the river. So that was a consortium of communicators for our religious communities. It included the Trappistines, the Carmelites, a number of different apostolics like the Dominicans, Franciscans, Humilities. And then we were the only monastic, the Benedictines. And what I learned over the course of 17 years of involvement with that group -- we would meet in each other's motherhouses, for instance. Well, you don't spend time in somebody's motherhouse and not begin to get an idea of the flavor of that Institute. You do. You start to understand that the BVMs are this kind of -- I don't want to use the word charism, because -- In fact, NRVC posted a meme today or yesterday about the word charism, and I shared it on the Feels Like Home Facebook page. And I said, "I think I would use the word personality, maybe, as as a synonym for charism." Because it's the hard thing to understand. Even if you're not just starting out, it's still hard to explain. Right? Especially in lay terms, but the personalities became very apparent. They're very apparent when you spend time with them. So I came out of those meetings knowing that I knew something other people didn't know. I knew something inquirers didn't know. I knew something vocation directors didn't know. Because as a communicator, I was paying attention to things that they weren't paying attention to. And they were meeting other sisters about whatever -- you know, some social justice project or initiative or something. I was paying attention to the people, and who are these people? And so that led me to propose to create -- and Stefanie McDonald, the vocation director for the Benedictines, jumped right on and said, "Let's do it" -- a Come and See retreat that had a panel of sisters from all of this consortium, from all of the communities in it. Not all of them participated, but most of them did. So we would have a cloistered nun, in full habit. We had apostolics. We had obviously the monastic. So we had this panel in which all of these women explained something about their Institute -- kind of gave an introduction. And then the enquirers were able to ask very particular questions of all of the different women who were in there.

Sister Rejane  
To hear full episodes of A Nun's Life podcasts, visit the podcast page at anunslife.org/podcasts.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

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