Religious sisters: numbers smaller, impact still great

| February 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

Gone are the days when young Catholics and their families interacted with numerous religious sisters in classrooms, hospitals and parishes.

While the number of women religious may be smaller than in decades past, their presence and influence is still widely experienced and appreciated. Sisters from more than 40 different religious communities serve in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“The recently completed Year of Consecrated Life called for by Pope Francis and the upcoming National Catholic Sisters Week . . . have helped to raise awareness of the gifts that sisters continue to offer to the Church and society in general,” said Sister Mary Soher, an Adrian Dominican Sister and co-executive director of National Catholic Sisters Week, now in its third year.

“This awareness has led to connections between young adults and sisters,” she said. “New friendships have developed, and existing relationships have deepened into mentoring opportunities, particularly with college-age women.”

At St. Catherine University in St. Paul, where Sister Mary works, two student-initiated groups — the CSJ Alliance and the Catholic Katies — provide opportunities for Sisters of St. Joseph, the founders and sponsors of the university, and others to connect with the women both formally and informally at events and activities offered by each group.

Celebrating sistersNational Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14, features events honoring women religious. For local events, visit

Recently, the CSJ Alliance invited students and sisters to make valentines for the women at Sarah’s . . . an Oasis for Women. It was an opportunity for the women to learn about this ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph that welcomes women from all over the world who are without resources and have survived violence, abuse, torture, war, discrimination and trauma, and empowers them to begin new and productive lives.

“I am aware of all the people who took time to guide me and form me in my faith,” commented Sister Charlotte Berres, CSJ. “Joining the [college] women at prayer, in conversation at meals, especially listening to their concerns about school, family or boyfriends and working side by side on projects is my way of being present. And in building relationships with them, I hope to support them in their faith development with the same generosity that I experienced as a young adult.”

Personally, I am inspired by the students’ sincerity, their desire to deepen their faith and their willingness to dedicate time to this effort in the midst of the challenges of classes, projects and other responsibilities. Getting to know these women is enriching for me. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Spending time with them also challenges me to express my own Catholic faith and values as a sister in ways that are meaningful for their generation.

As religious sisters, we agree that the smiles, welcoming hugs and the sincere thank yous the women offer let us know that our presence is appreciated.

National Catholic Sisters Week is funded by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton foundation, headquartered at St. Catherine University. For more information, including suggestions on how to create connections between individuals, or groups and religious communities, visit

Sister Carolyn, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is the delegate for religious in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: Commentary