Thanking God for the Sisters, Now and Always
You talk to me about Pope Francis; you tell me about your parish and your priests; and you especially so often lovingly and gratefully talk to me about the sisters!
How we Catholics love the nuns! How we agree with the Holy Father, “It would be impossible to think of the church without the sisters!”
No wonder Pope Francis has designated 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life, as we thank God for the gift of our sisters, brothers, and priests in religious orders.
I’m now just finishing Father Theodore Maynard’s classic life of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and earlier had completed a re-reading of Annabelle Melville’s life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Here alone are two sisters, both of whom we New Yorkers especially claim and venerate, who still have a hold on our prayers and imaginations.
As do the nuns who were—and are!—part of the Church’s life. It is rare that I will visit one of the nearly hundred agencies associated with Catholic Charities here in the archdiocese without hearing how that ministry was begun by the sisters. It might be housing, care for children, a hospital, a home for our elders, a center for immigrants—you name it, the sisters started it.
And, of course, I can’t visit one of our 161 grade schools, or 50 high schools, or even six of our nine Catholic colleges, without realizing that the sisters started them.
Scholars who study Catholic education, health care, and charitable agencies conclude that the main reason we find ourselves now in a challenging situation is because, for the most part, we no longer have the large numbers of religious women and men we had fifty years ago, and are still reeling from their gradual disappearance. They were the heart, mind, and muscle of so much of our work.
Yes, especially this year, we recall them with immense reverence and gratitude, and rejoice in the devoted sisters we still have.
Yes, they are still with us, their apostolates as valuable and timely as ever, as they continue to respond to the needs of God’s people now, as they brilliantly and creatively did in the past.
Yes, there is an army of retired sisters who still remain active, and whose prayers and community life continue to lift us up.
Yes, there are still, thank God, our contemplative communities, whose lives of solitude and prayer boost us in unseen ways.
Yes, there are immigrant orders, like Mother Cabrini’s original sisters were, who come from Africa and Latin America to be with their people, and the whole Church, here in America.
Yes, there are new orders of religious women rising up, just as Mother Seton started her own “from scratch” two hundred and five years ago.
So, yes, it’s good to thank God for who these sisters were, but not to forget praising God for who they are. From the time of Jesus, women have consecrated themselves to Him, and then to His Church, and carried on His teaching, serving, and sanctifying with radiant effectiveness.
It’s not over yet!
A blessed Year of Consecrated Life!