Catholic Sisters Week: Sisters share their favorite saint, part of the calling and ‘nun movie’

| March 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

To celebrate National Catholic Sisters Week March 8-14, The Catholic Spirit reached out to sisters in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Below they share a glimpse of their calling — from the most rewarding part of religious life to their favorite “nun movie.”

St. Paul’s Monastery/John Doman

Sister Linda Soler, OSB, a member of St. Paul’s Monastery who works in campus ministry at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, receives a scarf from Hill-Murray girls state hockey champions at a March 2 reception hosted by the Benedictine sisters. At the beginning of the hockey season, the team passed the scarf to the Most Valuable Player from each game. They gave the scarf to Sister Linda as the “MVP Sister” because she prayed with them before and during the hockey tournament. Each player received a Benedictine medal that they skated with during the state tournaments. “Not once did we pray for a win,” Sister Linda said. “We prayed for ‘thy will be done.’ They put their Hill-Murray and Christian values to the ice, and I asked they play for someone who was influential in their life. The medal was for a safe game for both teams.” Hill-Murray is a 6-12 Benedictine school located on the campus of St. Paul’s Monastery. Photo courtesy St. Paul’s Monastery/John Doman

Sister Marian Walstrom, Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Q. What do you find to be the most personally rewarding part of religious life?

A. The most rewarding part of being a sister for me has been that I have been surrounded by women who also are committed to the Gospel values of Jesus Christ. I have been supported, encouraged and challenged by them to live those shared values of justice, mercy, compassion and forgiveness in a spirit of joy and peace.

Sister Marian Walstrom

Sister Marian Walstrom

Another great blessing of being a sister has been the ability to love so many people. There is a freedom. I am not limited to focusing my loving on a few, but can be “out there,” and I have been incredibly blessed in turn, by all those I have loved.

Q. What saint do you look to as a model for Catholic sisters and why?

A. The model for me is Mary. She was the life bearer of Jesus Christ in the world. That is what each of us is trying to do — to bring the presence of Christ and his mercy and compassion to all whom we meet. She is also a model of trust and hope.

Q. What do you wish everyone understood about Catholic sisters?

A. I would want people to realize that we are ordinary women who are trying to live the Gospel of Jesus. We are not perfect, but we are striving to treat ourselves and others with compassion.

Sister Theresa, Missionary Sister of St. Peter Claver

Q. What do you find to be the most personally rewarding part of religious life?

A. Daring to say yes with Mary. As we live out our vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, we become free to serve God in the way he chooses. At first it might seem difficult, restrictive, or even impossible. In reality, doing God’s will “gives us wings” to fly high and to open wide the doors of our hearts to all.

Q. What saint do you look to as a model for Catholic sisters and why?

A. I look to Blessed Mary Theresa Ledóchowska. In spite of her frail health, she had an unquenchable thirst to bring the message of God’s love to the African peoples. Through her great trust in and total reliance on God, no obstacle was too great to overcome in order to cooperate in the salvation of souls.

Q. What do you think Catholic sisters learn from non-professed women?

A. Women, especially married women, give us a beautiful witness of fidelity as they accept the everyday challenges and responsibilities of raising a family. Often times their personal ambitions and desires are set aside for the good of the family. Or should I say, their desires are transformed into something greater than personal achievement.

Q. What can married and single (non-religious) women learn from sisters?

A. I believe they can learn the joy that comes from living a life of simplicity; a life focused on who we are as persons seeking an ever deeper relationship with God rather than on material possessions or personal success.

Q. What is your favorite “nun movie” and why?

A. In the film “A Nun’s Story,” a talented young girl, with a strong personal desire to use her talents as a nurse in Congo, enters the religious life. Soon her work becomes her primary focus and she begins to neglect her prayers and other small aspects of their religious life. Eventually, she loses her vocation. The film highlights the importance of keeping our priorities straight.

Sister Mary Juliana Cox, Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia

Q. What do you find to be the most personally rewarding part of religious life?

Sister Mary Juliana Cox

Sister Mary Juliana Cox

A. The most personally rewarding part of religious life is the gift of being a bride of Christ. Entering into a loving relationship with Jesus is something all of the faithful are called to do by their baptisms, but to be united to Jesus as his spouse is a gift beyond expression.

Q. What saint do you look to as a model for Catholic sisters and why?

A. Our Dominican sister, St. Catherine of Siena, I believe is a beautiful model of Catholic sisters. Her holy audacity and desire to preach the Word is something each sister should aspire to.

Q. What do you think Catholic sisters learn from non-professed women?

A. I have learned very much from many moms and wives. I believe our vocations complement each other beautifully as both are vocations to motherhood, either spiritual or physical motherhood. I have been reminded of my own need for intimacy with Jesus and the importance of fostering that relationship as I talk with women about their marriages. I am reminded also of the reality of spiritual motherhood as I watch moms at Mass showing their little ones Jesus present on the altar. I ask myself if I am pointing out Jesus to the children in our school [St. Croix Catholic School in Stillwater] by the way I live my life.

Q. What can married and single (non-religious) women learn from sisters?

A. Since our vocations are complementary, lay women can be reminded from religious sisters of the importance for a strong prayer life to sustain all the activities in which we find ourselves engaged. Religious live a more structured prayer life — our life frees us for times of prayer on purpose. Moms are not called to the same atmosphere of prayer to which religious are called, but can certainly foster a life of prayer in their families appropriate to their schedules (in the car, at the dinner table, etc.).

Q. What do you wish everyone understood about Catholic sisters?

A. I would love for people to understand that religious women are first and foremost given to Jesus and they belong to him, not to the world. This understanding helps everyone, including the religious, to remember that we are not rejecting things in this world because they are bad (marriage, children of our own, fancy cars, etc.), but precisely because they are good! We look at two “goods” and we realize that our hearts as religious were made to be fulfilled only by the greater of the two goods. We renounce our ties with this world in order to live for heaven even now.

Q. What is your favorite “nun movie” and why?

A. I enjoyed the movie “Trouble with Angels” because I could see myself in the young girl who entered the convent. She was pretty clueless about religious life, but the Lord broke through that ignorance and formed her himself!

Q. What’s the funniest question you get as a sister? How do you answer?

A. While not the funniest, it is likely the most common: Do you still carry rulers? (as they show their knuckles). I used to carry a very small ruler in my pocket just for those opportunities. You should have seen their faces when I pulled it out! I generally respond with a laugh and let them know that my dad was often rapped on the knuckles by his teacher, but he never attended a Catholic school. So much of that methodology was due to the philosophy of the time. Thank goodness we don’t do that anymore!

Sister Midge Breiter, School Sister of Notre Dame

Q. What do you find to be the most personally rewarding part of religious life?

A. For me, the most rewarding part of religious life is living in community with other women like-minded in heart and soul.

Q. What do you think Catholic sisters learn from non-professed women? And vice versa?

A. For years, women religious kept to themselves and related very minimally to lay women. Today, we are addressing many issues in our world with other women. For example, we work in partnership with other women and men who focus on trafficking in Minnesota. Together we work with agencies that tackle homelessness and hunger. We are right alongside lay women and men as we study Scripture. From lay women, we learn to make better connections with the corporate world, better ways to facilitate groups and make ourselves more visible.

Q. What do you wish everyone understood about Catholic sisters?

A. Sometimes I wish more people would understand that it is what is in the heart of a religious that makes her a religious. I still hear people express that they wish we wore a habit. With or without a habit, we are called and sent to bring unity and peace to all God’s people. Today, we do that with our lay sisters and brothers.

Q. What is your favorite “nun movie” and why?

A. Sometimes I feel offended by how we are portrayed in movies and on greeting cards. I guess we can consider it free advertising and go on from there. We have a story to tell by the way we live, and if it is portrayed in a movie like “Sister Act” or “The Sound of Music,” so be it. People did enjoy these movies, as did I.

Sister Barbara Thomalla, Servants of Mary

Sister Barbara Thomalla

Sister Barbara Thomalla

Q. What do you find to be the most personally rewarding part of religious life?

A. Opportunities for retreats and spiritual direction, and daily quiet prayer.

Q. What do you wish everyone understood about Catholic sisters?

A. Many sisters live in houses and apartments with one or two other sisters or non-sisters; all sisters do not live in convents. Sisters are financially supported by an order of sisters; sisters are not paid or financially supported by a Catholic parish.

Mother Marie-Andre Wilson, Sisters of Charity of Our Lady, Mother of the Church

Q. What saint do you look to as a model for Catholic sisters and why?

A. Our Lady, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, is the prime model for Catholic sisters. Mary’s devotion to God’s will, prayer and charity, most closely modeled our Lord’s life. Whether contemplative or active-contemplative, the mysteries of Mary’s strength and sweetness add those same qualities to the lives of us sisters.

Q. What do you think Catholic sisters learn from non-professed women?

A. We learn heroic devotion to family and to Church within the world. Perseverance in the struggle to keep one’s self, family and friends faithful to God and his Church is a daunting task, which these prayerful and hard-working women witness to a world that seeks to shut God out.

Q. What can married and single (non-religious) women learn from sisters?

Mother Marie-Andre Wilson

Mother Marie-Andre Wilson

A. Prayers and religious practices I have shared with married and single women, I have learned as a Sister of Charity. Those who can’t duplicate our religious horarium of daily prayer, due to their obligations, can be strengthened by the same virtues of trust and obedience along their journey.

Q. What do you wish everyone understood about Catholic sisters?

A. I wish everyone understood that each sister is unique; we are not ready-made saints.

Q. What is your favorite “nun movie” and why?

A. Sidney Poitier’s “Lilies of the Field” shows the essential lay-religious collaboration that documents following Vatican II have underscored, and the strength of character of the leading nun reminds me of St. Teresa of Avila’s dynamic determination, as she was instituting her reform of the Carmels.

Q. What’s the funniest question you get as a sister?

A. The funniest questions relate to basic everyday things: Do you wear pajamas? (delightful); Do you eat sugar/a cupcake? Do you wear your habit to bed? Perhaps it’s a good sign that people understand our fundamental separation from the world, even as we sometimes sustain our bodies with cupcakes.

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Category: Featured, Year of Consecrated Life