Be part of the story

On Sunday morning I went to mass at St. James Parish in Kansas City, Mo. With the Feast of St. James falling on the calendar this week (May 3), the parish was celebrating not only their patron saint but also their spring festival. In combining both the Gospel passage about the road to Emmaus and the life of St. James, an apostle of Jesus, the pastor, Fr. Garry, talked about the life of the early Christian community, especially touching on gathering to tell stories and to share a meal as we do today as Eucharist. He then skillfully used his homily as an opportunity to invite the community to the festival by means of inviting them to come and be a part of the story of St. James and the story of the parish, something that resonated with me in light of working on Global Sisters Report for the past five months.

Last August I came to Kansas City from Montana to live with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kan., and work at National Catholic Reporter. In discerning religious life I was able to read stories of sisters who worked to build church ministries and to hear stories about community life. Prior to coming I knew that I would not be able to fully discern whether religious life was the right call for me, just as Fr. Garry (Richmeier) said, unless I came to be a part of the story.

What I have found is sisters have no shortage of stories to tell. Stories about formation and relationships, stories about how things were prior to the Second Vatican Council and the challenges that came with change, about ministries they created to meet needs and left when new needs arose. Being a part of this project has helped me also to see the vast ways in which women work for justice, teach faith and take risks world-wide. Both at home and at work I am continually inspired by the stories of sisters who often face adversity but are strong and courageous women of faith dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others and hoping for more than the status-quo in the world we live in. I am also inspired by the way these women have humbly and faithfully shaped the face of the Catholic church around the world.

Global Sisters Report is an exciting project because the purpose is to tell these stories – stories that sisters will not seek to tell themselves outside of their community walls because of the very nature of who they are, humble women focused on working to meet the needs of the time and make life better for others.

In offering full disclosure, during the course of the year I have discerned that religious life is not my call, but I still feel very blessed to have been a part of the story. Even though I will not remain with the community, the invitation is clear through the sisters that even by coming for a short time I am a part of their story. My life will be different because of the experience. I hope that the readers of Global Sisters Report will also experience this same profoundness by reading and becoming a part of these stories.

[Colleen Dunne is an NCR Bertelsen intern in editorial and marketing and a primary contributor to Global Sisters Report.]

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