This article was first published in the July 23, 2023 edition of the State Journal-Register. In the above photo we see Sister Mila Diaz Solano, center, celebrating her 25th profession anniversary with family and friends.
Last weekend (July 16, 2023) we had a glorious celebration at Sacred Heart Convent for the anniversaries of eleven sisters who made their profession of vows, 25, 50, 60, and 75 years ago. These annual rituals are something we sisters look forward to. Like every other celebration of its type, this one did not disappoint.
As we have for many years now, we honor the celebrants by posting their photos and brief summaries of their lives of ministry on our website, then we share those in our social media accounts. This year the out pouring of well-wishes has been remarkable.
Sister Edwina Finnegan’s nephew wrote: “You have always been a great role model for me and so many other family members and friends. I’ve never been in one of your classes but you have certainly taught me a lot just by your example of leading a life so devoted to God, while also being so much fun!” (Truth! Sister Edwina is a ton of fun.)
A friend of Sister M. Alberta’s wrote: “You have NO idea how you have transformed my life! You hired a very young, innocent but determined me way back in 1977…and you have been central to my life ever since! You taught me how to be a leader, how to trust myself, how to focus on goals, and how to be the best me I could. Then you went and found me, my husband!”
Dying to know the rest of THAT story!
What matters is the “world wide web” of relationships woven through our sisters’ lives. That impact is immeasurable, but real.
Sister Mary Lou Owens, who is leaving her ministry to the Catholic community in Logan County after 16 years, was referred to by a well-wisher as “a beacon of faith” for the community. What a nice compliment.
And I love this comment on Sister Karen Freund’s post from a student she must have taught at Sacred Heart Academy back in the day: “I hated diagramming [sentences] but I have at least 20 students who owe you for state medals in headline writing since that made me good at [teaching] them.”
Our social media strategy has been a great success, apparently! Though I shouldn’t admit this, I care much less-almost not at all-about those digital analytics. What matters is the “world wide web” of relationships woven through our sisters’ lives. That impact is immeasurable, but real.
It’s no secret fewer women in the United States are choosing consecrated religious life than did so during the height of the post-WWII baby boom. We may never again see large numbers of women making profession of vows as we did then. But Catholic sisters aren’t dead yet. According to a Catholic research organization, about 200 women a year still choose religious life. In Lima our sisters have received our first candidate from our mission in the rural Andes. By all accounts, she is thriving in the community and on fire with a desire to be consecrated to God and to the mission of accompanying the people of Peru.
And, as I peck this out in the dark hours of a weekday morning, sleeping in the next room is a young woman who is just beginning to discern her own call to religious life. She is with us for a few days as she begins to tease out the answer to a question beautifully posed by the poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”
Though religious life today looks much different than it did in the 1950s and 1960s, that’s not a bad thing. We have a different, but no less important role to play in shaping the future of life on Earth. Those who understand that will continue to be attracted to the narrow path that leads to a rich life, wild and precious.
Sister Beth Murphy, OP, is the communications director for the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Ill. Learn more about God’s call at https://springfieldop.org/vocations.