By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB
God looks down from heaven … to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Psalm 53
As we prayed this verse at Lauds recently, a question a friend had posed popped into my head. “Why have you made the choice to be a Catholic Sister when so few are doing so? Aren’t you afraid that your numbers are growing smaller?”
I’d be silly – and untruthful – to say it has never crossed my mind. But, then, there are a number of things I also think of.
For one thing, Catholic Sisters came to the U.S. in 2s, 3s, maybe 10s. Look at what they did! They built schools and hospitals. They cared for orphans and elders. They innovated ways to insure lumberjacks. They invented computer parts. They changed our world!
For another thing, when we compare our numbers today to the numbers of Sisters in the mid-1900s, we aren’t comparing apples and apples. That is, the time around 1950 represented an unusual spike in numbers of women entering Catholic communities. Many were entering to acquire a good education and profession … to have lives that were not as available to laywomen as to vowed women.
When the women’s movement gained steam a few years later – and women could go to college, apply for and get professional jobs, and not be expected to get married and have children immediately – fewer women turned to the convent for freedom from traditional expectations.
The numbers of women in religious life – artificially high, perhaps, to begin with – dropped. Those who entered were called; not fleeing a life they didn’t want.
Finally, I think of what Jesus said. “For where 2 or 3 have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
We are smaller today, yes. But God is still present. Jesus is with us, which makes us strong.
Another Bible story I think of is the Gideon story. This is were the Lord tells Gideon over and over he has too many soldiers for battle. Gideon starts with 22,000 men to take into battle, but God insists on fewer and fewer until Gideon has just 300 soldiers. With 300 soldiers, Gideon wins the battle.
The Lord says we don’t need large numbers. We need good and faithful servants. Are you called to become a good and faithful servant in a smaller but vigorous and vibrant community? Believe me, God is on our side. We can do anything because of it.
So, why did I make the choice? Because I was called … and said “Yes.” How about you?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk!