NATIONAL CATHOLIC SISTERS WEEK
Last week, I ‘got mail’ – a notice in my inbox that there’s going to be a National Catholic Sisters Week. It’s announced for March 8 – 14, 2014. Nothing could surprise me more. We Catholic Sisters are greatly unaccustomed to this kind of attention, and yet we welcome the idea and the chance to let our lights shine! This is happening because of a large grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation seeking to let people know of the vocation and ministries of Catholic Sisters in the U.S.A. This grant will support lots of efforts going forward in the next few years. But the time is short and there’s not a lot of time to get our act together for National Catholic Sisters Week! So, we’ll just have to punt. And we’re pretty good at that because of past experiences. Maybe at the outset, it’s good to make an important distinction: the difference between ‘Sisters’ and ‘nuns.’ This is clearly not a distinction people make or even care about, but I decided to go after it in the interest of clarifying just who is being celebrated during the upcoming March week for ‘Sisters.’ It will be the ‘Sisters’ and not the ‘nuns.’ Quite simply, ‘Sisters’ are members of Religious Congregations across the country who live the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and live an active lifestyle. These women go out into the marketplace to do their ministry—healthcare, social work, education, parish-based leadership. They pool their resources and live in community when possible. They follow the charism of their founder and the Holy Rule — Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican, or other more contemporary format. The ‘nuns’ are contemplatives by definition, living in an enclosure and keeping Prayer at the center of their days. Many live in monastic communities and go out only when necessity demands. Often their chapels are open to the public who join them for worship services. The monasteries of nuns often have some specific work they do to earn a living and maintain themselves – making altar breads; selling religious goods; baking bread & rolls, or some other craft. A good way to celebrate this upcoming week honoring ‘Sisters’ might be to write to someone who once taught you, and include a picture of yourself and your family to let ‘Sister’ know how your life has unfolded. Or you could tell your children some of the stories from your growing up days that included ‘Sisters’ at the parish. You could also get familiar with ‘Sisters’ in the media today and see what they are currently up to … or find a way to get involved in some activity that ‘Sisters’ are promoting. Onward!