A church without nuns? Unthinkable!

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

Pope Francis recently heralded the great value that nuns bring to the Church.

“What would happen,” he asked, “if there were no nuns? No nuns in hospitals, in missions, in charitable institutions, in schools? Can you even imagine a Church without nuns…? No, it is unthinkable!”

I have been asked if Catholic Sisters are needed in the same way they once were.

The same way? Maybe not. Catholic Sisters started the schools and hospitals our society relies on today … and then educated the people to run them. Those institutions are doing well today with fewer Sisters (although many of us still work in them – Sister Janet and I both teach here in Illinois, while Sisters Sheila, Marilyn and Paula serve in a hospital).

But are Catholic Sisters needed as much as they once were? Oh, yes they are!

Today’s Catholic Sisters stand with, work for, pray for and minister to the people who need us most. Indeed, I believe those people – the people who are marginalized, the people who are on the wrong side of the growing class divide – need us now more than ever.

And being a part of a community – a community of loving, committed and caring Sisters – supports us as we go out to do that work.

Speaking for myself, I can only devote the kind of energy and time that I do to promoting Catholic education and teaching because of the support of my community. That is, when I walk in at night, drop off my backpack and go directly into the chapel for Vespers, dinner’s waiting downstairs. After dinner, my Sisters are willing to help cut out, laminate and organize my materials for tomorrow.

That’s just me, in Rock Island, Illinois. Think of the nationally recognized Catholic Sisters who are lifting their voices for those who have been beaten down and no longer have the strength to speak up for themselves (Sister Simone Campbell, SSS and her Nuns on the Bus). Think of Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, walking with those who are facing state-sponsored execution. Think of Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, challenging the very systems that create our underserved and suffering sisters and brothers the world over.

Sisters Simone, Helen, Joan and I have the freedom to act with such single-minded dedication because our communities support us. We can continue to serve in food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other places of suffering because our communities stand beside us.

Pope Francis has it right. Catholic Sisters may not be out there in the same numbers as 50 years ago, but we are needed now more than ever.

Want to explore it more? Email me at smacdonald@smmsisters.org and let’s get the conversation started.

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