This week throughout the U.S. Catholic sisters will be honored for their commitment to Christ and the life of service they have chosen during National Catholic Sisters Week. With events scheduled across the country and the opportunity for those locally to share their stories, the goal of the weeklong focus on sisters is to connect young women with the nearly 50,000 Catholic sisters in the U.S. and to foster a deeper understanding of the relevance of their work today.
“National Catholic Sisters Week celebrates the commitment, compassion and influential work of women religious from pressing the frontlines of social change or praying in cloistered chapels,” said Sister Mary Soher, OP, co-executive director of the Hilton Sisters Project National Catholic Sisters Week. “We’re calling on people across the country to join our celebration – tell the story of a sister you admire, share a photo, visit a monastery, attend an NCSW event or host your own little gathering inspired by women religious.”
The national spotlight on women religious is an official component of Women’s History Month. Molly Murphy MacGregor, co-founder of the National Women’s History Project, was educated in the Catholic school system and claims to have been deeply influenced by Catholic sisters.
“Cultural myths about nuns are so persistent,” said co-executive director Molly Hazelton. “We have taken up the cause of myth busting, which is a big charge. We’ve found the key to success is to foster personal relationships with women religious. We hear daily from college women who have gotten to know a sister and rave about how inspiring they are. For students grappling with major life decisions and exploring their spirituality, there is great strength and wisdom to be drawn from Catholic sisters.”
A key strategy in the initiative, funded by a $3.3 million grant by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in 2013, is storytelling. In addition to chronicling through blog posts the individual stories of the many ways sisters have touched lives, organizers are flooding Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest with their campaign information.
“National Catholic Sisters Week is a celebration of relationships,” said Robert Cogswell, director of communications, Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. Cogswell encourages the community to reach out to sisters they have known via the organization’s website, http://csjorange.org/share-sister-story. He says they are happy to post “sister selfies” of photos people have taken with sisters on its Facebook page. Email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We invite people to support our mission, either through a contribution to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange (http://csjorange.org/make-a-gift/) or through other ministries that we have founded but now operate as their own non-profit, such as Mercy House (Bethany House), Taller San Jose, or any of the hospital foundations. All are doing great work to help the dear neighbor locally.”
- The Catholic population globally totals 1.2 billion (as of 2013)
- The number of Catholic sisters is 49,883 (as of 2014)
- Of the number of Catholic sisters across the globe, 7 percent are American
- Women who know a sister or have been invited by a sister to consider religious life are more likely to consider a vocation
- The age of 20 is the average age newly professed sisters say they first considered religious life
- The average age of entrance into religious life, through final vows is 41
- Annually, approximately 100 U.S. women enter religious life, through final vow