Today, March 8th, marks the beginning of National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW). Per the NCSW website, “NCSW is an annual celebration that takes place from March 8–14. Created to honor women religious, it is a series of events that instruct, enlighten, and bring greater focus to the lives of these incredible women. It’s our chance to recognize all they have done for us. It’s also our hope that as more young women learn about women religious, more will choose to follow their example.” http://www.nationalcatholicsistersweek.org/index.php
Two words from the description above stand out to me – incredible women. I happen to be blessed to share community life with incredible women and have worked alongside incredible women as well. Someone that views religious life from the outside does not always get the whole picture. Granted, these sisters work tirelessly to spread the Gospel through education, healthcare, parish ministry, and social justice, to name a few…some of these acts are done quietly and some are large scale. People can see what is being done. What isn’t always seen is our life together in community.
As I type this, we have four sisters who are preparing to enter eternal life. As part of our life in community we join in a “ministry of presence” each time a sister is nearing death. That is, we take turns sitting with and praying for the sister, in shifts, for twenty-four hours a day so she is not alone. I remember when I was a novice and went to pray with a dying sister for the first time…my prayers were kind of selfish because I prayed that the sister would NOT die when I was in the room with her.
That is not the case anymore. Last summer I was sitting with a sister and I prayed the rosary aloud…when I came to the words of the Hail Mary, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death” I realized, in a new way, that the hour of death was near and that sister would soon see the face of God. What a beautiful gift to accompany our sister in her last hours of earthly life to a new, glorious life in heaven.
This is only one example of the gift of community life for women religious. Just like any walk of life, there are difficult days and there are good days…I believe the good outweigh the bad. When I think about all the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph who came before me, many of them facing hardships on the journey, teaching one another to gather at the feet of Jesus, my heart is overwhelmed and I am happy to stand on the shoulders of these incredible, holy women, my sisters!
Pray that more women will hear and answer the call to religious life. Celebrate those who are faithfully living the call. If a Catholic Sister inspired you, share her name on social media or with others in your circle!