Sister Act: Seton Hall nuns called to service
For more than 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has been run by men. But religious women have always played an important role and that is one reason young women are still becoming nuns.
Campus ministers, Sister Francesca Therese and Sr. Ange Marie, Apostolic Sisters of St. John, said the Church could not actually run without the help of women.
“Men and women alike have to find our special grace and gifts and learn to work together,” Sr. Francesca Therese said. “That’s how we can be truly effective – in our complementarity.”
Sr. Francesca Therese said she was sent to the Philippines for her first mission. She worked to improve the lives of the poor by helping run scholarship programs, tutorial programs and religious education for the children.
Sr. Ange Marie leans on the extraordinary work that religious sisters have done in terms of education, schools and helping the sick and outsiders.
“If I want to make a difference, I wish to follow the way taken by these strong women who were so dedicated to those in need with such a maternal heart,” Sr. Ange Marie said.
At SHU, the sisters have campus ministry staff meetings, planning meetings with the brothers for various events or sometimes they even chat with students or other people who pass by.
Sr. Francesca Therese didn’t grow up knowing about nuns. She knew as much as the general public does and her initial knowledge about it came from movies like “The Sound of Music” and “Sister Act.”
She attended the Steubenville youth conference at Franciscan University as a high school senior and prayed about what to do with her future. After, she thought she was called to be a sister and immediately thought, “anything but that!”
When she attended school in Florida, she was incredibly influenced by the sisters there, she said.
“What struck me most about them was their joy,” Sr. Francesca Therese said. “When you live in a world that supposedly offers you so much, I wondered how these women could give all that up and still be happier than most people I knew.”
She started opening her mind to the possibility of a religious life and little by little the path became clearer, just as it would with declaring a major for some people, she added.
“I don’t know how else to describe it except to say that my heart was made for something more,” Sr. Francesca Therese added. “Trust me not only can we make a difference, but we already are.”
In some different orders, sisters are permitted to wear certain clothing as symbolic of something bigger. For instance, Sr. Francesca Therese and Sr. Ange Marie said their gray habits show who they are on the deepest level, which is a child of God and a woman who has given herself completely to him.
Instead of looking at the habit as being restrictive and taking away from expressing oneself through clothing, the garments are ultimately expressive for them, the sisters said.
For Sr. Ange Marie, her favorite part of being a sister is being able to actually go out and meet people, connect and learn more about their cultures.
They can do normal things like run and play sports, even though Sr. Francesca Therese isn’t that skilled at them.
They are busy organizing mission trips, offering counseling, taking walks on campus and engaging in conversation with students.
These women say they are taking the Church and passing it around to all.
“The Church cannot run effectively without the engagement of all the baptized people, men or women,” Sr. Ange Marie said. “We are all active participants of the civilization of love that God is calling us to build together.”
Siobhan McGirl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org